This past Tuesday was a particularly good session where one of our employees raised the issue of hospital acquired infections and our ability to protect the patients. The employee demonstrated how there is always room for improvement in any department, explaining that when patients come to radiology for a study, for example, they often come in on a stretcher with their belongings (often jewelry) laying on top of them. So, when it's time for the study, the technicians must remove the belongings off of the stretcher and place them on some surface in the radiology area, now potentially contaminating that surface with germs. After the study is completed, they pick the belongings up again and put them back on the patient when they leave, potentially transporting not just the patient, but more germs. This very hard working, caring employee lamented the fact that this was not a process design that would help us reduce hosptial infections. I agreed with her wholeheartedly.
So why doesn't this employee feel empowered enough to present a solution to this potential problem to his or her manager? This employee and his or her colleagues can redesign the system for transporting patient belongings and they need to feel that they have the wherewithal to devise a solution and put it into action.
This is the difference between an empowered workforce and one that is not quite there yet. At Toyota, for example, when the workers find a prolem, they resolve to fix it; they're not waiting for a boss to fix it or a supervisor to give them permission to solve the issue. We need to move beyond just identifying the problem to getting in action to prove it, and fix it. If it was your daughter, you wouldn't want her to get an infection. Our staff should feel empowered to make positive changes.
So, my messagge to all or our employees is this - when you see a potential issue and have a good solution, let your supervisor know. And, my message to all of our line managers is - encourage your staff to bring these types of ideas to you so they feel empowered to enact positive changes in the workplace.
By encouraging an open exchange of ideas by the employees who are actually doing the work and witnessing any issues, we're ultimately moving our organization to a continuous quality improvement model, and this is where we need to be. This model first focuses on the person being served (the patient), then recognizes that you get to oustanding performance by designing systems, then emphasizes measurement, teamwork and finally employee empowerment.
What do you need to feel empowered to make positive change? Do you believe you have the support to bring ideas for improvement to your managers? I welcome your feedback on this very important topic.
Finally, this is a week of religious reflection and celebration and I wish our Jewish and Christian staff members a peaceful and happy Passover and Easter.