The system works

Make your practice stand out from the crowd by offering a consistent and high-quality experience

31 March, 2015 / management
 Mark Fowler  

Let’s recall a time when you have received excellent customer service, attention to detail or a high-quality experience? How did it make you feel? Have you ever wondered how that business made that happen?

Here is a personal example. I recently attended a conference that was held at a well-known hotel in Glasgow. I used the bathroom twice during the day (lots of coffee). Each time, I noticed that the toilet paper was folded into a ‘V’, the toilets were spotless, the bins were empty and the soap bottles and toiletries all had their labels facing the front. Each time. What attention to detail. How is it done?

The answer is simple: Systemisation. Design. Planning. Training. Not luck or chance. Or reliance on someone “just knowing their job” and what to do. Or being a mind reader.

Practices that work with systems report that their teams adapt well to using a set of instructions and a structured approach

Mark Fowler

Operation of those guest bathrooms is pared down to a set of instructions or a system that sets out, in simple terms, what, when and how operation of that bathroom is to look like, what is expected and who is in charge of it, who they will be accountable to and how that accountability will be managed. This means that the “experience” of using that part of the hotel is consistently high, appears effortless and leaves a great impression.

In practice, it will mean that someone is responsible for visiting that part of the hotel at regular intervals, folding the toilet paper, emptying the bins, turning the soaps, cleaning the sinks and so on.

They will know exactly what to do, since it is all written down in a simple instruction sheet (and they will have had relevant training using that sheet, and possibly even helped design the system itself) with a tick box protocol to show that it has been done or that the tasks have been completed so that nothing is forgotten.

There will perhaps even be photographs to illustrate what the bathroom should look like at the end. The manager then only has to inspect the job and identify whether it has been carried out or not.

This systemisation of jobs and tasks is often criticised because it allegedly prevents team members from thinking for themselves. Not so. In reality, it frees up team members from concentrating on what or how they are doing something to why they are doing something. In the earlier example it means that guests of the hotel consistently experience a high-quality environment.

Systems also allow teams to add their own value, contributing to and refining the systems that they use and using experience gained at first hand, rather than being the gatekeepers of how things are done. Empowering teams with systems also leads to enhanced job satisfaction.

Practices that work with systems report that their teams adapt well to using a set of instructions and a structured approach, since it avoids any ambiguity and means that, for unfamiliar tasks, it can be referred to time and again.

Ultimately, of course, it will be your patients who will benefit, since they will get a much more consistent service every time they visit or interact with you and this consistency will make them feel more satisfaction towards your services.

After all, that is what you are aiming for: patient satisfaction.

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