When my team and I are working with organizations, our ears prick up when we hear things like, “We had a patient experience program and it didn’t work.” Or, “We did a customer service program, but it didn’t stick.” These are just two statements that, when made by leaders, cast a bright light on both the leadership style and the culture. It says to me that their approach was a task that could be checked off. Usually when I ask more probing questions about the “program,” I find that it usually hones in on a specific training, often a single event offered years ago. The one-and-done approach. Nothing had been done to weave the concepts throughout the fabric of the culture.
Program vs Journey
The concept of a “program vs a journey” can be compared to diabetic education. Let’s say you have an insulin-dependent diabetic. This is a chronic condition of a life-threatening magnitude. You teach him how to do his insulin injections. That is a task. But that single task alone will not ensure that he is managing his diabetes. In order to achieve long term success, you develop a strong and trusting partnership, centered on a more holistic approach.
You help him understand that in order to live a long and healthy existence with a good quality of life, he must engage for the long haul. Your guidance helps him to see his diabetes in context of his daily life. How he eats, his activity level and his ongoing commitment to testing his blood sugar regularly and keeping an eye on signs of disease progression are all necessary for a long and healthy existence. You also periodically review (and observe) the insulin injection procedure to ensure he maintains best practice. All of these efforts help your patient to acknowledge that diabetes care will be a lifelong journey if he is to remain healthy.
A customer service or patient experience “program” is short term like the single insulin injection training. A journey is the holistic approach that will focus on the long haul and on the culture of the organization. Of course you will have times when you focus on skill-building and training, but it’s the ongoing observation, validation, coaching and connection to mission, vision and values that will make the training part of the culture. Do you have a program or are you on a journey?