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  • Writer's picturePaul DeChant MD, MBA

Regaining Control through Huddles

Updated: May 13

Lack of Control is the second driver of burnout. There are many ways in which physicians experience lack of control. Many of these are outside of a front-line physician’s span of control, such as regulatory requirements, choice of EHR, etc.

There are also a number of “little” frustrations physicians deal with every day. How many of these little problems do you put up with each day simply because it’s easier to put up with them than to try to fix them?

You know what I’m talking about. The form that was not correctly filled out, the supplies that are not where they should be, the pen that runs out of ink, or the patient that got scheduled incorrectly.

Each of these is a relatively minor annoyance. I like to describe them individually as a “pebble in your shoe.” One pebble can be a minor annoyance, slowing you down but not keeping you from achieving your goals.

When there are a lot of these pebbles in your shoes, it’s hard to get around at all. The cumulative effect of many minor issues with lack of control steadily wear you down.

What do you do about these pebbles?

How to Respond to Lack Of Control

  • Do these problems rise to the level that would make you “stop the line” – to use a Lean term meaning no work gets done until the problem is solved? Not likely.

  • Do you have the energy at the end of a busy day to follow up and fix them? Also not likely, especially if you are additionally stressed by the cumulative effect of many such “little” problems.

  • Do you simply accept them as a “cost of doing business”?

Imagine the impact on how you feel at the end of the day, and on your sense of control, if you could fix them. Especially as you are able, over time, to steadily fix one after another.

There is a better alternative by incorporating simple problem-solving into a daily huddle. (By now almost everyone is aware that a huddle is a brief, stand-up meeting of the team working together in an office or on a unit.)

Why Problem-solving is a Key Component of Effective Huddles

The problems that are addressed in the huddle are there because someone on the team identified the problem, and rather than simply putting up with it, they put it on the huddle board to be reviewed the next day.

During the huddle, whoever is leading the huddle reviews that board. Any new problem on the board is reviewed for clarification, and then someone is assigned to work on a solution, with an agreed upon date for follow up in a subsequent huddle.

If the team does not have the resources or authority to solve the problem on their own, they escalate the problem to those who do.

This is a simple and effective way to change one of the drivers of burnout – low levels of control over your work.

  • When we simply “put up with a problem” that makes our work harder, we are giving up control.

  • When we “put the problem up on the board”, we regain control. If we do so consistently, our work life improves slowly but surely, which will also improve another burnout driver – work overload.

How many little problems do you “put up with” each day?

Have you experienced the benefits of “putting them up on the board” instead?

Try it. I bet you’ll like it!

I’d love to hear what works for you. Please share your ideas with a Reply below.

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