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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Don't Just do Something, Sit There

Published May 5, 2012 4:09 PM by Glen McDaniel

John Storm, a business innovation strategist, believes that most companies fear change. Consequently they will do things the same way repeatedly-or with just miniscule changes- even if they are not satisfied with the outcome. We all know what the common definition of insanity is: doing the same things the same way and expecting a different result.

Companies that do not innovate and flirt with change end up stuck, stale and starving, claims Storm, a master of alliteration and someone who uses many catchy phrases in his speeches and writing.  For example, we are used to hearing, "Don't just sit there, do something."  Instead, Storm's advises, "Don't just do something, sit there!" In his contrarian phrase "sit" (or more correctly S.I.T) stands for Strategize, Innovate and Take action.

Strategize. What you do is important, but you must also consider when you do it and why you do it. For this step, various tools can be used like looking at best practices, brainstorming, and surveying those who actually do the work. Consider the desired results. Then using all that information, determine what is not working or what could be improved. Then develop a plan for change; being willing to uproot the current system if necessary.

Innovate. Innovate goes a step beyond strategizing. This involves constantly looking for opportunities to improve processes. Something does not have to be awful to be improved. Some of the same tools such as brainstorming and surveys can be utilized to identify areas to focus on.

Storm recommends three pointed questions to ask your team over and over again: Stupidest things we are doing and why? How can we save time and money? How can we make additional money? He cautions that managerial types might not like some of the answers they get. They might initially think change will cost too much, might be disruptive, or even that certain processes are "sacred." So management or those empowered to make changes must be open to hearing and seriously considering all suggestions, however uncomfortable or inconvenient. Some changes may be major, others can be minor; some may be accomplished quickly and others are more long term.

Take action.  While strategic planning and information gathering are important, it is way too tempting to be hampered by the paralysis of analysis. Once a problem has been identified, or a viable change has been suggested, move in the direction of doing something about it.  By the way, the process will be unending and dynamic. Change is never final, so a process that has been modified in some way is not exempt from evaluation for further change as well.  Consider not only is a practice or process currently working, but could it be improved?

In healthcare, including medical laboratory sciences, many procedures are very rigid because of the exactitude of science or empitical evidence, but many others are just done out of habit. Even standards set by regulatory agencies very often linger on year after year -ad nauseum- despite advances in science or technology.

Consider common laboratory practices like the frequency of running controls, duplication of documentation,  inflexible scheduling, loose criteria for manual differentials, failure to revise test menus or reflex testing algorithms. How about the failure to institute test utilization strategies to ensure physicians do not automatically get a duplicative or expensive  test simply because they ordered it.

Over the years we have certainly fine-tuned the art of keeping busy; always doing something. But let's also consider the counter-intuitive advice , "Don't just do something; sit there!"

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