Two Most Dangerous Words in Healthcare

Several months ago, we did a full day workshop with a team of healthcare leaders on “Creating an Engaged Workforce”. It’s always inspiring for me to be able to work with leaders at the front line. This is where real change happens. They are truly the conduit between the vision and the delivery. Their leadership shapes the entire healthcare experience. 

This particular organization had a solid framework for leadership practices in place, but as we went through the day, the leaders became painfully aware of the gaps. While drilling down into the patient experience, I’d ask a question about leadership practices and consistently got the response, “It depends.”  How are you dealing with disengaged employees? “It depends”. How are you monitoring staff adherence to standards? “It depends”.  What are your coaching practices? “It depends”.  It became comical after awhile. 

High reliability organizations don’t tolerate an “It depends,” approach to quality and safety. Why then, should it be tolerated when addressing leadership and service behaviors. “It depends” are the two most dangerous words in healthcare. For greater consistency, we must set expectation and standards to eliminate variability. 

The big takeaway for the group was that consistency is key to a predictably positive patient experience. Middle managers have some of the toughest jobs in healthcare. To create consistency, they must keep a relentless eye on operations in order to maintain unwavering quality.

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