Category: Can We Talk

Are your team’s goals driving better results? Maybe we need a SMARTer approach.

If you’ve worked in any large organization during the past 30 years, there is a very high probability that someone recommended that you try setting SMART goals. This easy-to-remember acronym was originally introduced in a 1981 issue of Management Review by authors George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham. If one of their goals was to develop a memorable model that would stick in management practice, then they’ve been extremely successful. When I speak to large groups and ask, “Has anyone heard of “SMART” goals?”, almost every hand in the room goes up. Despite its memorability and simplicity, setting SMART goals has limitations. As suggested in the authors’ original article title – “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives” – the focus

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hawkeye graphic from stamp & chase

America’s favorite doctor offers remarkable insight into how to improve communication

Enlightening perspective on how to improve the care experience for patients sometimes comes from unexpected places. It might not surprise you to learn that one of America’s best-known, most-beloved doctors has authored a book that provides great insights into how to make communication in health care better – until you learn that that doctor is Hawkeye Pierce. Since he retired as the head surgeon in the 4077th M*A*S*H unit on the iconic 70s television series, Alan Alda has devoted his time and intellectual energy to more than just acting and directing. During the 11 years he spent interviewing scientists for the documentary series Scientific American Frontiers, he became fascinated with how people communicate effectively. The results of his subsequent research are shared in his new

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Powerful Advice for True Patient Advocates: “Thou Shall Not Stand Idly By”

During this year’s graduation season, my alma mater Washington University in St. Louis published a brief but compelling article titled, “A decade of lasting lessons.” Recalling meaningful advice from commencement speakers and honorees over the past ten years, the article offered counsel from personalities ranging from retired Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa to “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert (who sadly passed away just one year after his speech to Washington U. graduates). While all of the quotes were powerful in different ways, the life advice of two courageous speakers struck me as especially important for those of us who profess to be patient advocates and say we are committed to improving the patient experience. From Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in 2011: My commandment is,

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Medical employee holding patients hand

The Ultimate Compliment for Healthcare Providers

It was almost nine o’clock in the evening when I finally arrived at my hotel in Indianapolis from a long day of meetings and travel in preparation for the full-day workshop I would lead the next day. I was tired, but I was also hungry. I asked the front-desk clerk as I checked in if there was a place nearby where I could still get a quick bite. She pointed across the lobby and said, “I think Joan over in the bar can still get you something to eat.” The bar at the suburban hotel where I was staying was not exactly a hot spot on a Monday night. There were only two other people at a small table talking when I walked in and

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spinning plates graphic from stamp & chase

In patient experience work, there’s no “Silver Bullet.” But are you trying to keep too many plates spinning?

In a recent blog post, I argued that the problem of searching for a single, easy-to-implement patient engagement tactic goes beyond the fact that one doesn’t exist. Believing that a simple silver bullet strategy is out there actually stymies continuous improvement, innovation and effective implementation. So if there is no single silver bullet, one might reasonably jump to the conclusion that a shotgun approach – implementing multiple solutions simultaneously – would produce better results. But that strategy has real flaws, as well. When I was working closely with the Experience Team at Ascension Health several years ago, we termed it “initiative fatigue.” In other words, teams were trying to launch and sustain so many different initiatives to improve care that they lost focus. It felt like

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medical staff in a team meeting with stamp & chase

Three Messages Your Staff Want and Need to Hear Most

Whether you are a senior executive, middle manager or frontline staff member, health care seems to get more complicated every day. Endless regulations, increasing financial challenges, pressures to guarantee quality and safety. And now, the uncertainty of health care reform. But while the issues become increasingly complex, the communication frontline health care professionals need most from managers arguably becomes more straightforward, focused and— perhaps counterintuitively— basic as times get more complicated. Think about frontline employees’ most fundamental concerns. Do you appreciate my work, especially in light of the stress I’m often under? Have you helped me understand important issues and our responses to them? Do you care about my feelings on subjects and circumstances that really matter to me? Staff members understand that times are

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executive interviewing woman graphic from stamp & chase

Are exit interviews a waste of time?

Several months ago in a conversation with a senior human resources executive from a very large, international corporation, he made a provocative statement that initially surprised me. “We’ve stopped doing exit interviews because we’ve found they’re a waste of time,” he said matter-of-factly. His rationale, backed up by conversations with individuals who had left his firm and many others, is that no one wants to burn bridges. They insist that they are leaving because the new opportunity is simply too good to pass up and that it has nothing to do with their experience with the company or their manager. In other words, it is a version of the classic break-up strategy which asserts that, “this is all about me, not about you.” As I

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US army man with dog on leash

“Loyalty is everything!”

Loyalty. Such a noble trait that we seek and deeply value in our closest friends, family members and colleagues at work. When used in a business context, it is usually preceded by “customer” and is a primary goal of the marketing strategist. But it wasn’t a marketing strategist who proclaimed “loyalty is everything” for health care providers earlier this year at the Executive Dialogue sponsored by the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development. Michael Modic, MD, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, passionately left participants with this advice at the close of the two-day program focused on breakthrough ideas to transform health care. Loyalty is an interesting concept to consider when thinking about the relationship between a patient and his or her

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silver bullet from stamp & chase

The dangers of pursuing the “silver bullet”

Occasionally we update and repost a favorite commentary from the past. This post originally appeared in 2012. In her remarks at the ninth annual World Congress on Health Care, Shari M. Ling, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wisely pointed out that there is “no silver bullet” to achieve better value. Dr. Ling emphasized, “When we start to talk about value, that discussion is really formulated on the foundation of quality.” Given the daunting challenges and demands health care leadership teams face to increase quality while reducing costs, it is easy to see why looking for the “silver bullet” is so tempting. I still get asked by some accomplished, experienced health care leaders, “Isn’t there something simple we can

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Making it personal

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with diverse healthcare organizations across the country is the opportunity to learn from so many talented, dedicated professionals. The insights and inspirations I witness are personally gratifying – and enormously beneficial to the other client organizations I work with. Recently I had the good fortune to meet and learn from Pedro Ceniza, RN, a dedicated assistant director of nursing at Jacobi Medical Center in The Bronx. I was rounding with Mr. Ceniza during the evening/night shift to identify and better understand some of the unique struggles and opportunities to improve the patient experience on the third “tour.” The best practice I observed had nothing to do with the night tour specifically. As we rounded on the seven

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