Key Point: One of the best principles I’ve ever learned is the following: Everything is a process and a process is everything. Anyone who understands this principle appreciates that process and personal judgment go hand in hand. Process is never intended to be mind-numbing bureaucracy. Actually a checklist is usually a reliable method and best-known way of doing something. It is a good thing. One would think that this principle would be comprehensively endorsed and adopted by ALL industries, especially medical practitioners. Apparently this is not the case. Dr. Atul Gawande‘s book and New York Times best seller, The Checklist Manifesto, is about process and checklists. Gawande, a surgeon and author, notes that 93 percent of physicians surveyed wanted checklists used if they were on the operating table, while 20 percent question their value when operating themselves. What’s surprising to me is that process control, according to a number of studies, appears to be at the clinician’s discretion. Yikes… This is like every commercial pilot having their own take off approach protocol, or none at all. I don’t know about you, but I like to see those pilots going through their standard, industry defined safety checks as I board a plane. It actually matters to all on the plane if we take off and land safely.
One of the most distressing points the book makes is regarding simple hand washing. Almost two hundred years after it was statistically proven that hand washing saves countless lives, clinicians are still struggling with compliance (in fact, a May 2010 study indicates that clinicians complied with hand washing guidelines less than half of the time). According to Gawande, this lack of discipline extends into the Operating Room, where he describes complex tasks that must be highly choreographed between many professionals in order to produce positive outcomes that have no script or checkpoints. Geez… If I ever need an operation, I’m going to pin an infection prevention checklist to my chest!
Why do people in most organizations that don’t have strict regulatory guidelines, resist the discipline of checklists? Well apparently part of the reason is the role of our “ego.” We apparently don’t need checklists but others do. My view is that this arrogance can get us in serious trouble regardless of what work we do. Another barrier to checklist application is inertia. It is simply easier to not follow a protocol.
- What do you do that requires or would greatly benefit from a checklist and/or reliable process? What do you do to ensure consistent attention to following and improving on these? Be self-accountable and define them.
- Does your ego or inertia get in the way of applying and/or inviting others to help you apply these checklists? Processes? Why? What will you do about it? Be respectful and listen to others. Be open to feedback regarding reliable methods you govern.
- Do you recognize that a checklist/process/standard method actually can lead to more creativity and mastery? If not you might benefit from exploring this paradox further.
Checklists in The Triangle,
Conflict is a normal part of work. How did you and I handle it this week?
Ok, you came to work every day in this new year with a smile and growth mind set. You’ve been reading my blogs and you are committed to living the Character Triangle. Then it happened. It set you and me off. What was it and what did we do about it?
The very first thing to remember is that every thing is a process. Most times conflict at work happens because of a process break down. Rarely do people do things intentionally to screw us over. (If that is their intention, they usually need counseling.) So the first thing to do is to observe and describe the process that failed, and outline the consequences of the failure. If we can unemotionally and objectively do that we can usually have a constructive dialogue with those that are part of the process. We learn to attack the process and not each other. We learn to have what I describe in earlier blogs as being capable of having a crucial conversation.
So what did we do this week, when IT happened? Did we document the process problem? Did we positively engage our team members in addressing the situation? Or did we get mad and stew? Complain to others who have no influence? Whine to our boss? Avoided it all together?
- Action: Let’s chose to act as leaders and use conflict as an opportunity for process improvement and personal growth. Let’s minimize the amount of time we avoid or allow conflict to boil. Let’s learn from the conflict that happened this week and apply lessons through the rest of the year. So conflict can lead to constructive might rather than the shortcomings of flight or fight.
Might in the Triangle,
What does attacking Muslims have to do with work? The short answer is… a lot. Nicholas Kristof’s article in last Sunday’s New York Times, raises the question, “Is this America?”, partly on the observation of the recent attack rhetoric aimed at Muslims. He cites a blog post in The New Republic magazine where the editor in chief asserts, “… frankly Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.” Kristof questions the personal venom in this New Republic article and then goes on to commend Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders for denouncing the anti-Islam discourse overall.
It is perfectly acceptable, perhaps even desirable, to question the shortcomings of Islam and any other religion. “Attacking” ideas, processes, and/or situations is appropriate. Attacking people or groups of people is generally not. (Self defense from physical harm most believe is an acceptable exception.)
In the workplace, obviously on a much smaller stage, the same guidelines exist. Attacking the process, ideas, behavior, or situations can lead to learning and continuous improvement. Attacking each other verbally is counter productive. Think about how often personal or department criticism happens in a week in your workplace. Why? What good does it do anyone?
If we set the example on the smaller stage perhaps we can demand the same character from those on the big stage. We can change this in our work environment right now by what we expect from ourselves and our team mates.
Let’s do it. We can. Respect belongs to all of us.