Oct05

Mind the Gap!

Mind the Gap!

Mind the Gap!

I grew up in London, so the phrase “Mind the Gap” has a very specific meaning for me. Written on the platform of every tube station as a warning against a potentially nasty accident, London Underground were constantly reminding us of the void between the platform and the train.

After 30 odd years in corporate land I’ve realised that there is a common and consistent gap between what is said and what is done. This happens at all levels from the organisation down to the individual. Indeed, I’ve been guilty myself on many occasions, of making commitments and not following through on them. The costs of these gaps are huge. There are the tangible costs such as delays and budget overruns and the intangible — but more important — costs, due to a loss of trust and integrity.

I’ve been trying to reduce my own gap for many years (and those of the organisations and individuals I work with) and here are my thoughts on why gaps occur and how they can be closed. There are three main reasons for gaps:

1. Talk is cheap

2. Planning is poor

3. Doing is hard.

Let’s start with cheap talk! We all know that it’s far easier to talk about doing something than to actually do it. Making promises is often expedient and usually rewarded. Difficult conversations can be avoided or delayed by simply saying yes.

 

The first thing we can do to reduce the gap is to slow down the rate at which we make promises and commitments. This sounds simple but isn’t so easy. It is however key. Become aware of every commitment you make and have a clear set of priorities that you can test potential commitments against. The toughest thing to learn is how to say no.

Next, is poor planning. We’re often victims of our own (and others’) unrealistic desires when we make commitments. We’re hard-wired with an optimism bias that results in the planning fallacy (first identified by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979). This is a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task almost always underestimate the time needed.

 

So the second thing that will help close the gap is to improve our planning. Often this is as simple as actually making a plan and building in some contingency for the unexpected. An excellent approach is to involve others, especially those with relevant experience.

Finally, the doing. This is where the rubber really hits the road. The most useful psychological principle here was first posited by David Premack and is best summarized as, “First eat your greens and then you can have the ice cream”.

 

Basically, do the least desirable/harder tasks first and then you can reward yourself with something that is either easier, fun or possibly both. Your commitment planning should have been done with this front of mind.

So, in conclusion, make every day the same as a journey on the London Underground; repeatedly exhorting yourself to “Mind the Gap”.

In summary, think before committing, plan carefully and then make sure that what has been promised is done. Remember to do the harder things first and that it’s doing the small things that leads to the achievement of the big.

© Jonathan O’Donnell-Young 2017

ps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzvkwS64nVg

Jul24

Continuous Improvement In health care - as simple as washing your hands

Focus on the easy high impact areas

Hospitals are normally places that people go to get cured not killed, but with the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria infectious diseases are becoming harder to treat. 

The most common form of infection to be contracted in hospitals is Golden Staph (Staphylococcus aureus).  A Staph aureus infection is dangerous; a bloodstream infection has a 12-month death rate of between 20 and 35%, compared with 3-5% for a heart attack in hospital. Antibiotic-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) infections carry an even higher death rate.

Usually our immune system copes with bacterial infections but if compromised as a result of treatment for cancer, diabetes, or other drugs we become more vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections.

The good news is that in the majority of Australian hospitals the rate of Golden Staph infection is decreasing, and one of the major reasons this is occurring is because medical staff are washing their hands!

The Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Health Care engaged Hand Hygiene Australia (HHA) to implement the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) in which HHA provides training to health care workers and audits hospitals in terms of their compliance to hand hygiene procedures such as washing hands before seeing patients with alcohol based hand rubs.  Over the last six years there has been a steady decline in hospital acquired Golden staph infections, click here to see the interactive table.

Hand Hygiene Australia is based a the Austin Hospital in Victoria, and their rates of Golden staph infection can be seen in the following graph:

Screen Shot 2017 07 24 at 3.57.45 pm

It was thanks to Florence Nightingale that the need for sanitation in health care came to prominence. One hundred and fifty years later, the need is just as great and the simple task of washing ones hands with alcohol based hand rubs has had a significant impact on the well being of hospital patients.

Sometimes improvement in processes leading to enhanced beneficial outcomes does not require “rocket science” but a change in attitude as this example highlights.

Posted in Performance Improvement

Mar24

Learn how to set goals that motivate you 4.

Deadlines improve performance.

Deadlines Improve the Effectiveness of Goals

For most employees, goals are more effective when they include a deadline for completion. Deadlines serve as a time-control mechanism and increase the motivational impact of goals. Being aware that a deadline is approaching, the typical employee will invest more effort into completing the task. In contrast, if plenty of time remains for attaining the goal, the employee is likely to slow down his or her pace to fill the available time. However, when deadlines are too tight, particularly with complex tasks, the quality of work may suffer. 

A Learning Goal Orientation Leads to Higher Performance than a Performance Goal Orientation

A person with a learning goal orientation wants to develop competence by mastering challenging situations. In contrast, the person with a performance goal orientation wants to demonstrate and validate competence by seeking favourable judgments. Considerable research has indicated that a learning goal orientation has a positive impact on work-related behaviours and performance. The learning goal orientation is particularly relevant in today’s work environment, which requires employees to be proactive, problem solve, be creative and open to new ideas, and adapt to new and changing situations.

Group Goal-Setting is As Important As Individual Goal-Setting

Today, many employees work in groups, teams, or committees. Having employees work as teams with a specific team goal, rather than as individuals with only individual goals, increases productivity. Furthermore, the combination of compatible group and individual goals is more effective than either individual or group goals alone. A related consideration is that when a team member perceives that other team members share his or her personal goals, the individual will be more satisfied and productive. A recent study of project teams indicated that a perceived fit between individual and group performance goals resulted in greater individual satisfaction and contribution to the team.

Mar24

Learn how to set goals that motivate you 3.

Feedback on performance is more effective than actual goal achievement.

Feedback Must Be Provided on Goal Attainment

Feedback helps employees attain their performance goals. Feedback helps in two important ways. First, it helps people determine how well they are doing. For example, sports teams need to know the score of the game; a sharpshooter needs to see the target; a golfer needs to know his score. The same can be said for a work team, department, or organization. Performance feedback tends to encourage better performance. Second, feedback also helps people determine the nature of the adjustments to their performance that are required to improve. For example, sports teams watch video reproductions of a game and adjust their play; an archer can adjust his shot; a golfer can adjust her swing; and a CEO of an organization can gage the growth, profitability, and quality of a product line.

Goals Are More Effective When They Are Used to Evaluate Performance

When employees know that their performance will be evaluated in terms of how well they attained their goals, the impact of goals increases. Salespeople, for example, have weekly and monthly sales goals they are expected to attain. Telephone operators have goals for the number of customers they should assist daily. Quarterbacks are judged on the completion percentages of passes thrown and the number of yards the offense generates per game. Coaches are assessed on their win-loss record. CEOs are evaluated on meeting growth, profitability, and quality goals. 

Mar24

Learn how to set goals that motivate you 2.

Involvement creates ownership.

Goals Must Be Accepted

Goals need to be accepted. Simply assigning goals to employees may not result in their commitment to those goals, especially if the goal will be difficult to accomplish. A powerful method of obtaining acceptance is to allow employees to participate in the goal-setting process. In other words, participation in the goal-setting process tends to enhance goal commitment. Participation helps employees better understand the goals, ensure that the goals are not unreasonable, and helps them achieve the goal. The factor of self-efficacy mentioned above also may come into play regarding imposed goals. Some individuals may reject imposed goals, but if they have self-efficacy, they may still maintain high personal goals to accomplish the imposed goals. 

 

Mar24

Learn how to set goals that motivate you.

Specific and motivating.

Learn how to set goals that motivate you.

Goals Need to Be Specific

Employees perform at higher levels when asked to meet a specific high-performance goal. Asking employees to improve, to work harder, or to do your best is not helpful, because that kind of goal does not give them a focused target. Specific goals (often quantified) let employees know what to reach for and allow them to measure their own progress. Research indicates that specific goals help bring about other desirable organizational goals, such as reducing absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover.

 

Goals Must Be Difficult but Attainable

A goal that is too easily attained will not bring about the desired increments in performance. The key point is that a goal must be difficult as well as specific for it to raise performance. However, there is a limit to this effect. Although people will work hard to reach challenging goals, they will only do so when the goals are within their capability. As goals become too difficult, performance suffers because they reject the goals as unreasonable and unattainable. A major factor in attainability of a goal is self-efficacy.  This is an internal belief regarding one’s job-related capabilities and competencies. If employees have high self-efficacies, they will tend to set higher personal goals under the belief that they are attainable. The first key to successful goal setting is to build and reinforce employees’ self-efficacy. 

Mar23

Learn how to set goals that motivate you 5.

Goal setting traps for the inexperienced.

Despite the benefits of goal setting, there are a few limitations of the goal-setting process

First, combining goals with monetary rewards motivates many organization members to establish easy rather than difficult goals. In some cases, employees have negotiated goals with their supervisor that they have already completed. 
Second, goal setting focuses employees on a narrow subset of measurable performance indicators while ignoring aspects of job performance that are difficult to measure. The adage “What gets measured is what gets done” applies here. 
Third, setting performance goals is effective in established jobs, but it may not be effective when organization members are learning a new, complex job.  

Posted in Change Management, Innovation

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