Are Issues and Barriers Bogging You Down? Embrace them!

By: Susan Boydell

“Learning from mistakes and constantly improving products is a key in all successful companies.” — Bill Gates

“I would love to use you, but you just make it too difficult.” I’m guessing that all of you have heard that at least once, and some of you may have heard it all too often.  Is it possible to turn a problem into an opportunity?  Absolutely.  In fact, I would recommend you embrace the chance to turn a negative situation around.  Every time a physician takes the time to share what’s not working and why, it’s a gift of insight that can help you improve operations.  Now you know what they need and how you can meet that need — even if it means you need to make changes.  The key to benefitting from that “gift” is to present the information in a way that gets internal buy-in and initiates the necessary change.

Here are some ideas to consider when presenting issues and barriers to your internal stakeholders:

Stick to the facts.  Steer clear of generalizations. Leaders will be less likely to consider the issue if they sense any exaggeration. So remember to keep your emotions in check.  Start by understanding the specifics of the physician’s issue.  For example, if a physician complains that OR start times are never on time, get the facts (when, what and how often, etc.).

Quantify the opportunity. In addition to quantifying the details of an issue, it’s also important to quantify the potential benefit of “fixing” the problem.  Quantifying the opportunity is hard work but can often yield the greatest results.  Sometimes the “fix” is as simple as asking the physician how much more he might use you if you were to make it easier.  To affect positive change, help leadership see what is possible (vs. what is wrong).

Formalize communication.  Rather than share feedback from physicians in a quick hallway conversation with a leader or in a brief email about an individual incident, take the time to formulate your thoughts. Consider scheduling a dedicated time to talk through the “opportunities” you’ve identified.  By packaging your message in a positive light (instead of delivering a bunch of complaints), you can help leadership see the big picture and gain their support.

Get and share feedback.  Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for most issues, but don’t let that slow you down. Throughout the improvement process, share details about the progress you’re making and feedback you’re getting from physicians. This way, physicians can see their input is appreciated and the organization can demonstrate they’re listening and taking action.

Celebrate wins. When the internal team makes improvements that result in a happy physician and a growing service line, celebrate the win. Recognize their achievements and ask your leadership to acknowledge their great teamwork.  Celebrating wins is a great way to reinforce and strengthen internal buy-in

How we choose to look at issues can make all the difference in the world.  Barriers will always be a part of our jobs, but just think about how boring our jobs would be if everything worked perfectly.  Challenges are opportunities to improve and, let’s face it, we all want to learn and grow.  When you hear your next complaint, think of it as a gift and see what greatness can come from it.