Line of Sight, from Objective to Outcome

By: Mike Harristhal, MBA  |  mharristhal@barlowmccarthy.com

“If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up.  What he needs is education to turn him around.” -Jim Rohn

I was trying to make an appointment with a physician last week. During my attempt, the receptionist pointed out to me in schoolmarm fashion that since I was not already a patient of this doctor, I needed to send their office my medical records, a primary care referral, images, and my insurance information. After the doctor reviewed all of my information and determined how quickly he thought I needed to be seen, the office would call me with an appointment day and time. (I thought she might also encourage me to say a Rosary, too!)

Is this the way to build a practice, not to mention assure satisfaction and instill loyalty? How could this provider of customer service have so substantially lost their way? Rather than enthusiastically welcoming me as a new patient, the not so subtle message was: “If you can clear all these hurdles, we will deign to see you.”

Reflecting on my many years in the healthcare service industry, I have come to realize that rarely, if ever, do our colleagues wake up in the morning and think: “I intend to do a lousy job today.”  Quite the opposite. All of our staff tries, and many try hard, to do a good job.  So, why do we find that the results of our performance are so sub-optimal?

In our complex world and challenging industry, leadership and management need to bring clarity and focus. This starts by creating and articulating the line of sight from our mission, goals, and objectives to the outcomes we seek, including help to define the pathway for each member of our team, given the role they play in the organization. Most fundamentally, that means:

  1. Being clear about what our organization is trying to accomplish
  2. Citing the role each team member has in achieving the goal
  3. Working with the team member to be sure they know their role and therefore what to do and how to do it
  4. Assuring the resources (collaborators, equipment, systems, supplies) are, when effectively deployed, adequate for successful execution

As leaders, we owe our team members this clarity. And, this is very pragmatic. If we are not getting the performance we want, we can unpack the problem to determine where we got off course. Do our folks know what the institutional outcome is that we are pursuing? Do they know their role? Do they know what to do? Do they know how to do it? Do they have the resources to get the job done?

Going back to my physician appointment experience, perhaps the physician schedules are very full for the near-term. And, I can well imagine the practice has drilled the team members on the necessity to secure all the preparatory documentation. The receptionist was very utilitarian and perhaps even productive in a pound-wise, penny-foolish way. However, while it is important that policies and procedures be followed, it can be quite off-putting to the consumer who gets the sense that those policies take precedent over engaging, compassionate interpersonal communications. I would hope that the leadership of this practice would reorient the receptionist, as well as all of their talented staff, with the primary focus on an excellent customer experience. In the long-run, with widespread clinical excellence in most markets, it is customer service sensitivity that makes for an outstanding experience that will assure a substantial and perpetual consumer demand for service. We need to be sure all of our team members have that clear line of sight, wherever they may be.