Quandary-Mat: How can I create the space for my team to succeed in working differently?

Quandary-Mat: How can I create the space for my team to succeed in working differently?

Here we are again, with real-life answers to real-life questions, gathered from the stickiest wickets in my work helping organizations learn how to achieve better results.  It’s called …
Quandary-Mat: Clean answers for the dirty work of leading change in a complex world.


Dear Hunter, 
Our medical group is part of an initiative to improve care for patients with multiple medical conditions and complex care needs. The team of 7 people working on this is motivated, but I worry that they won’t be able to achieve as much as I know we can. The best practices (for patient engagement, home visits, care coordination, etc) are all different than how our organization works now. People here act like we are creating more work for them even though they aren’t involved in the work, and I worry about people getting in our way. What should I do to help the team? Signed, Push-Pull-Stall

Hi, PPS. 
This is a classic dilemma. I’m glad you brought it up.

 

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My 21 Jump Street moment: Improvement work goes to high school

My 21 Jump Street moment: Improvement work goes to high school

High school students in Los Angeles are learning and doing quality improvement. I’m working with them and having a blast. For me, sitting around the table with these students can feel like stepping back in time, like “21 Jump Street” without the car chases and the drug ring and trying to pass for a high school student myself. (That day has loooong past for me.)

We are creating a high school course that includes a real-life improvement project. The students are in a health care career track to prepare them as new workers in health care settings, specifically in the social work role in behavioral health. Their improvement projects will be focused on improving their work as peer mentors for incoming freshman students. Their projects will allow them to reach measurable goals for academic performance and completion of coursework with their mentee students.

The two student advisors to the program are smart, motivated and hilarious. Their experience of the health care system is limited pretty much to one kid’s skateboarding injuries. They are goofy and wired, all energy, and thrilled to be talking about new ideas.

They were tentative in the discussion at first, like the explorer who has landed in a new place. Full of enthusiasm but not knowing where she is and not clear what the rules are. 

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Listening to Lead

Listening to Lead

Almost every day, I watch people fail to absorb really important information from their colleagues or from their customers, clients and patients. I’m talking about in real time, IRL face-to-face conversations, not other communication messes like misinterpreting emails or being on mute by accident on a conference call.

Last week in a meeting, a normally generous and always thoughtful and smart woman interrupted her boss twice when we were discussing the best way to recruit people to our improvement leadership program. She interrupted her boss while the boss was responding to her direct question. Reflexively, I reached out my hand toward the non-listener, like Stop, in the name of love. I got my inner Diana Ross under control before anyone noticed, which was good because I didn’t want to add a new interruption or call my colleague out in the middle of the meeting. I couldn’t help the reaching hand. It was an involuntary way to say, Shush, now, just listen. You asked a good question, now listen to the answer.

This is someone with whom I have a coaching relationship, so when it was just we two later, I said: “What did you hear her saying about the project plan?”

She said, “She thinks it won’t work.”

Not only was this black and white interpretation not what I heard, it was also not a helpful interpretation. What can you do with a blanket “it won’t work”? Blow it all up and start over? Kill the project altogether? 

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Quandary-Mat: The retreating executives

Quandary-Mat: The retreating executives

If we have met, or if you have read other posts here, you know what I’m about: I help people help other people move ahead to get better. When I’m teaching and talking with leaders of change in complex systems, I get lots of questions about how to make other people join us in improvement work, as a staff team member or as a manager or senior executive.  

The challenges I hear from people around the country are consistent. So I’m starting an occasional series of articles, using the classic advice column format, to cover some of these greatest-hits challenges of complex change work. I will call it …

Quandary-Mat! Clean answers for the dirty work of leading change in a complex work world

First messy problem, here we go: The Case of the Retreating Executives

Dear Hunter,

I have been working on a project to redesign our primary care visits for better care for patients with both behavioral health and physical health needs. It’s been a challenging project, to say the least, but we are a good team and are proud of what we have achieved for our patients in this pilot project.

When the project started, we had full commitment and approval from our board of directors and executives to do this work. Now, as the project is coming to an end, we have a good program. We need to move from the pilot phase to a real implementation of the successful parts of our work. But now our COO and CEO are balking. How can I get them to follow through on their commitment? The team is feeling discouraged after all the hard work. And I feel misled and like a lot of energy and lessons are going to go to waste. Why did we bother?

Signed: Thwarted

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I was rude to the guy at the Apple Store: When change leaders have a bad day

I was rude to the guy at the Apple Store: When change leaders have a bad day

This week I was rude to the guy at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store.

I feel terrible about it.

Even though he was not listening to my history of the problem, and even though he was being smug (at least, he seemed darn smug by my smug-o-meter, which is always on high-alert when I enter that loud, bright store of proudly sleek and pricey stuff), and even though this was the third time I had to carry my heavy still-not-working monitor, sorry, display, through a shopping mall to drop it off, there was no excuse for me snapping at him.

It was a quick moment of unquiet desperation, a “That’s not what the person on the phone said” kind of comment. Over quickly, but still far from calm and gracious.

I try to hold myself to a high standard in interpersonal interactions. In other words, I try not to be a dick. I try to walk the walk of optimistic future-focused problem-solving that is key to my work with leaders of change, and to their work with their colleagues to improve work culture and performance.

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