How can we get back to having room to do our actual job?
In the red and faced with ever higher insurance requirements and the dynamics of the changes in healthcare, a large rehab organization in the south of the country was in dire straits. The director wondered how he would ever get his organization back on track to provide proper rehab.
So where had it all gone wrong? This was the question that we discussed with people throughout the organization. The overwhelming consensus: the organization’s purpose and sense of oneness had been continually pushed into the background. Healthcare professionals felt the straitjacket of all sorts of systems and regulations as they lost sight of why they got into healthcare in the first place. Moreover, it seemed that they, the management, and support staff had different objectives: healthcare professionals were there for the customers, support staff for the system, and managers for policy. It was as if each department had become its own independent island, which stood in the way of improvement and transparency. And last but not least, the control systems were not up to snuff. Financial information was never on time, and once it was received, employees had no idea how to interpret it.
Getting back to giving customers sustainable, proper care, with energetic teams: that was the aim of the project. An organization with a holistic view and where customers come first, where employees are intrinsically motivated and proud, and where people enjoy their work and working with each other as they aim to make a difference in the lives of others: back to basics.
The management translated the aims of the organization into measurable actions for each team. What do we seek to achieve, how are we going to do that, and which actions are expected of you and your team? And are you comfortable with that? It is this call for commitment that is vital to achieve lasting change.
Systematic teamwork to achieve a goal is down to the people on that team. Which is why we have developed a team barometer. This gives teams quick insight into their mutual aims, progress, and coordinated efforts. In addition, the barometer helps to bring focus. We have also developed and introduced different dashboards where teams can track their own performance. To ensure that they actually do something with that information, we have established a meeting structure with the employees for continuous improvement.
One of the first steps was to give the teams more responsibility in the process. That started with the assignment of team roles. An energetic team plays multiple roles. First of all, there’s the role of HR: people who are occupied with the working environment, absence due to sickness, and leave (holiday and otherwise). Then there’s the role of operations management: budgets, production, and registration. The third role is that of quality assurance: care standards, effectiveness of care, and direct time. And finally, there’s the role of customer focus: intake, waiting times, and satisfaction.
Once the aims, tools, and the teams were in place, all that remained was to take action. Employees were given time to get accustomed to the new tools and make them work. In cases where they ran into problems, we were there to find a solution. People from their own organization led the teams, with our help. This ensured that the energetic teams had the organization’s support from the outset.
Working in energetic teams brought swift, positive change: the organization was back in the black, waiting times were reduced, the allotted time for care services increased by 15 percentage points, administrative expenses dropped by 40 per cent, and it was the first time in years that the production targets were met. And – just as important – the organization got back its positive energy. Employees are now proud, and there is a culture of professional accountability based on facts: not just in the area of operations management but also in customer satisfaction and quality. In fact, the team leaders, people with team roles, and the teams in general can no longer imagine working without the tools or ‘new vocabulary’ for achieving continuous improvement.