Walking the Talk: Avoid the High Cost of Failure Work to Your Medical Group

On factory floors and in managers’ cubicles, they call it “failure work,” the wasteful effort that must be devoted to fixing something that wasn’t made or done properly the first time. It’s a significant drain on resources.

You can think about this in medical terms, for example, the cost of malpractice.

But it’s important that medical group leaders also think about this concept in another, more everyday way, one not particularly focused on your team’s medical practice skills, but rather, on their behavior and interpersonal performance, whether directed towards other members of the team, patients, hospital administrators, and so on.

Many groups have policies pertaining to, for example, harassment and the like, written from the perspective of what’s prohibited. Some, but fewer, also have policies written from an affirmative viewpoint, on how to do or approach a certain thing, such as on the elements that must be included in greeting a patient or in transmitting a report to a referring physician.

It’s one thing to set policy, even well polished, grammatically correct pronouncements that are printed out, placed in the policy manual, and acknowledged in writing. But it’s something entirely different for a medical group’s leadership and senior members to demonstrate, through their own behavior, the embodiment of those policies.

Years ago, I stood in a long line at a Bank of America branch, waiting for a teller. Of the dozen or so teller windows, only three or four were staffed. I waited and waited and waited.

On the wall behind the tellers, in large gold metal lettering, was something to the effect of “Customer Service Is Our Priority.” Yet, between the tellers and the wall, managers of some sort sat at their desks doing what sure looked like nothing. They weren’t demonstrating customer service, they were only mouthing it.

Walking the talk of what’s expected is a far better lesson for your medical group’s physicians and other staff in what’s expected than simply putting what’s expected on the wall or on the shelf.

In a world in which patient satisfaction surveys and medical staff surveys can be used against you as bludgeons (and can be used by you as tools), in a world in which errors in human judgment and interpersonal behavior can cost a group a $100 million relationship, the damage caused by the failure to live and act policies can be fatal to your medical group’s business future.

Note that this is not merely defensive, for example, designed to stop suits by patients for inappropriate behavior by one of your physicians. It has an affirmative business purpose as well in terms of managing contractual and interpersonal relationships that enure to your and your medical group’s financial benefit.

Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Mark F. Weiss



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