I clearly recall sitting down with a senior manager during one of our regular catch ups. As I started talking about the significant behaviour change we’d seen as a result of the work we’d accomplished with some of his staff and how the language had changed from, “I’m so busy” to, “I’m 20% below my target for the day, can I help?”, he smiled and asked me a question.
“I don’t understand Muhammad. What’s happened to our teams, that some of our staff are not able to even think about quantifying things?”
I empathize. One of the reasons I loved being in Operations was seeing with my own two eyes and listening with my own two ears the change in the way people behave and the way people talk. Language is so important, and having the ability to change this through our workshops, coaching, and the installation of controls and systems, is something I am incredibly proud of.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was…
Project Day 1. Week 1.
Start counting things. If you’re in an outpatient clinic, count the number of patients waiting per hour. Count the number of DNAs. Count the number of staff. Count the number of people seen by each clinician. Count the amount of time being used in each room.
In this highly technologically advanced world, the desire to install expensive systems to do the above is tempting. But this not only comes at the cost of money. It comes at the cost of not having an emotional attachment to the performance of a department (I think occasionally, manually collecting data at the front line can be incredibly rewarding) and of course, the time it takes to put such expensive systems in place.
Something really simple that you can do right now?
Start using five bar gates, or as others may call them, tally charts. Have them on display in staff rooms. Start to build a culture of counting things, and change the language that your staff speak.
It’s an incredible easy task that you can do right now, in advance of a world post Covid-19 where the pressure on resources will be phenomenal, and the need to be even more robust with demand and capacity will be greater.