Go to Gemba to Show You Care

Monthly Archives: April 2017

Go to Gemba to Show You Care

As a health care leader, you need to Go to Gemba!  Why? Because 82% of your physicians think that their leaders don’t care about their problems.  (It’s not just healthcare, in pretty much every industry 80-85% of front line workers think that those in the C-suite don’t care enough to offer help to the people who actually do the work.)

How can it help to Go to Gemba?

In my last post I talked about the need for health care leaders to get activated to truly do something to help prevent physician burnout. To get angry about the fact that half their doctors are burned out.  To get passionate to address this major public health crisis as recently described by 11 CEOs of major health care systems in the US.

Leaders are facing their own crisis of burnout. They daily are tasked with balancing the goals of ensuring safety for patients and staff, improving quality and service, keeping the organization financially solvent so all patients get cared for and employees get paid, and protecting their organization from a negative social media campaign.

With all of that to deal with, it’s easy to let concern for front line workers and operations fall off their to-do list as a priority. But we can’t let that happen.  The front lines are where the most important work is done.  Let’s face it, the most important person in your health care system is the patient. Without a patient, the system has no reason to exist.

The most important thing we do for that most important person is to take care of them through a series of healing interactions.  These healing interactions aren’t done by supervisors, managers, directors, or the C-suite.  They are done by doctors, nurses, therapists, receptionists, and EVS staff – anyone who comes into contact with the patient can do this.  The most important job for leaders is to ensure that those people on the front lines have what they need to provide those healing interactions as well as possible.

Undercover Boss

How can you, as a leader, know how to help?  The easiest and best way is to Go to Gemba to see how the work is currently done.  You need to go with respect for those caring for patients, go humbly, with the intention of learning:

  • how they do their jobs,
  • what their challenges are,
  • what they think could be changed to make things better.

This means shadowing someone on the front lines, just follow them around to

  • see how hard their job is,
  • see all the barriers and frustrations they deal with, or
  • ask them to teach you how to do the job.

This approach is not for the faint of heart.  It is scary stepping out of your comfort zone.  It’s best to wear scrubs when you do this.  If you show up in a suit, you will be labelled a “suit” and you won’t get the same experience.

Once you see the challenges your people face, you will have a new respect for them and you will change your approach.

When Dr. John Toussaint did this as CEO of Thedacare, he stopped and reconfigured a $50M capital investment to ensure the ICU redesign was incorporated into the project.  When I did this, I committed to redesign our entire management structure to ensure the right people were in the manager and supervisor roles.

What will happen when you do this?  I’d love to hear about it.

Physician Leaders Need to Get Angry

I’m on my way home from the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Physician Leadership in New York.  Three hundred physician leaders came together from across the nation to share their challenges and learn from great keynote speakers and from each other. Among the 35 breakout sessions were five on physician burnout, including a… Continue Reading

Start Your Lean Journey With a Sprint!

“A Lean journey is a marathon, not a sprint.” That’s what our Simpler Sensei reminded us of more than once back in 2010 when we embarked on our Lean journey with the 300 physicians of the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation. (Actually, done right, it’s more like a multi-year trek into the wilderness searching for enlightenment. … Continue Reading