I’ve been in the healthcare field all of my professional life. Whether this is your situation, or you have joined us lately, perhaps you’ve noticed the same thing I have. We all know what to do to make things better in our hospitals and facilities. It’s true… just ask anyone. Solve ER overcrowding? Reduce room turnover between OR cases? Fix lab turn-around time? Reduce errors in medication dispensing? Everyone you ask will have the answer. (Usually, of course, it’s someone else’s fault and someone else’s problem to fix.)

And, it’s always “so simple.” EvenHenry Ford said, “You just put the work in front of the men, and they do it.” People should know what to do! Customer service: smile and greet patients like they are welcome in our facilities. How hard is that? We shouldn’t need to hire million-dollar consultants for that, should we? High-quality health care: follow standard operating procedure. It’s right there in the manual, referenced from a dozen national quality organizations! On-time OR case starts: just make sure everyone, including the surgeon, knows to come in 15 minutes early. Easy!

And yet, and yet… When you ask the magic question, “How do you make things better?” what responses to you get? “Well, that is a tough question.” “You’re right, that’s the hard part.” “Well, it’s difficult, alright.” “That’s the $24-million dollar question, isn’t it?” “We’ve hired consultants to help us with that.”

When I read books and articles on management, healthcare, and Six Sigma, there are lots of people with lots of advice about “what to do.” 1. Get leadership commitment. 2. Hire the right Black Belts. 3. Develop a strong infrastructure. 4. Design a good recognition and rewards program. Not too many people come up with the “how to do it.” Granted, each of us is in a unique environment and culture. But, even when we use lean and Six Sigma tools, there can be tremendous difficulty in getting people to agree to “do the right things right at the right time.” And we’re all looking for the simple – miracle – answer, aren’t we?

When we come across someone who has a “simple” answer, rather than just nodding our heads, we should ask – “Just how do you do that?” (Followed by, of course, “What data do you have to back that up?”) And we should not accept “It’s so simple!” for an answer, especially if we’re paying someone to answer the question.

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