The Fear of Productivity?
Any healthcare consultant that focuses on productivity will tell you the unfortunate look received when sharing that your job is to improve performance. There is the obligatory head nod paired with the uncomfortable question “so, you fire people?” At that very instant, your body tenses, and you feel the need to defend the work that you do and the value that increased efficiency brings to hospitals and health systems. But why do we fear the word productivity and/or the reaction to it?
Historically speaking, productivity was synonymously linked to a reduction in force, otherwise known as a layoff. However, if we refer back to actual definitions, these two words or actions could not be further from the same. We are all familiar with the age-old process of a consulting firm being engaged to review the financials of a hospital, making recommendations, executing a reduction, and then vanishing in the dust of an Airbus 737. The executive team and managers are left to implement what are often unattainable recommendations, and worse yet, identify ways to sustain them.
It is no wonder that just the word “productivity” sends panic across organizations, especially if previous experiences have left staff feeling lost, defeated, and defensive. I have worked with countless hospitals that continue to hold onto the bad memories of productivity engagements past, struggling to move forward and trust in a new method. Leaders recount the details of how awful and traumatic the experience was. This experience makes it even more difficult to gain confidence and buy-in on any future performance improvement initiatives.
Having been on the receiving end of a convoluted 300-page productivity assessment report myself, I can relate to the negative opinions surrounding the entire theory of workforce optimization. That is what drove me to take those past experiences and turn them into a completely different approach, one that marries the human aspect with the numbers. After all, we are in the business of delivering care, so shouldn’t we design operating improvements with compassion for the challenges, barriers, and emotions felt by the staff each day?
I take pride in the fact that our firm spends the time to understand what makes each organization unique. This could be something as detailed as to how often trash is collected to something as significant as cultural issues. We allow the leaders to share their stories. How can we expect to influence change if we know nothing about those who are charged with implementing it? The numbers are only part of the story, and numbers alone cannot make a difference; it is the people that make the impact. When productivity is based around a partnership, consultants and healthcare leaders sharing common goals and supporting each other, it is then that the fear dissipates and benefits are fully realized.
To learn more about the ALTIUS process and how we can help your organization, contact us today!