Barlow/McCarthy Blog

Taking on the Tough Operational Challenges

May 20, 2015

Taking on Tough Operational ChallengesBy: Betsy Finkelmeier, RN, MBA

[box]There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. -Colin Powell[/box]

There is no question that health care organizations have becoming increasingly complex.  System affiliations have multiplied the number of providers, services and facilities that need to function as a coordinated entity.  Sometimes the complexity of today’s health care environment makes the myriad operational challenges seem so complex and multifactorial as to be insurmountable.  How can you step outside the pressing daily issues to concomitantly manage successful process improvement initiatives?  Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Pick a manageable component of the problem which you can successfully impact: Don’t be defeated by the seeming size or the many dimensions of the problem.  The more you begin to peel away the layers of complexity, the more interrelated components you will expose.  Don’t allow progress to become derailed by scope creep that transforms a manageable project into an unwieldy and entangled collection of issues that seems insurmountable. Let your project scope be your compass to keep the team on track.
  • Keep your eye on the goal line.  As Powell’s quote reminds us, success is less about introducing a great new idea and more about methodically defining the problem and identifying measurable deliverables that will indicate improvement.  Then engage the team in the heavy lifting of incrementally moving the ball forward.
  • Spend time with the naysayers as well as the champions in your environment.  Both are important.  As we all know, it takes far less energy to tolerate the status quo; some of your coworkers will focus on the numerous reasons why change can’t occur.  Challenge them to think beyond their experiences but also listen carefully as they usually can provide valuable insights to identify potential landmines.  Once you incorporate their feedback, identify the creative thinkers in your environment who can envision what improvement might look like and who want to work with you to make it happen.  Engage them in moving the project forward.
  • Start small.  When introducing big changes, a pilot project can be a great way to work out the kinks in the process and demonstrate success.  Showcase incremental milestones that show your progress.
  • Share the victory.  Engage coworkers from all the areas that will be impacted by the process so that they can be part of the solution.  Be generous with praise for their efforts, including letting their managers know of their contributions.

Process improvement is heavy lifting.  Progress occurs slowly and is incremental.  Don’t be defeated by the seeming size and complexity of the issues in your environment.  Pick a manageable element of the problem and give it focused and continued attention.  If there isn’t enough time in your day, identify activities you can put to the side during the duration of the project.  With a sound project plan, determination and steady effort, you can create positive change in your work environment.