Avoid "Jumping to Z"

After a couple of days in my new position, I had noticed different members of our team refer to "Not jumping to Z" during our Processes & Initiatives meetings. New phrase for me, and fortunately, our Social Services Director, whom was also new finally asked what the heck this means. It seems obvious now. More on the concept of Processes and Initiatives some other time.

When we talk about jumping to Z, we are attempting to solve a problem by searching for the solution before we outline the boundaries of the problem. We are constantly guilty of this in long term care; perhaps you prefer to call it "putting out fires." Regardless of the terminology, I have learned that breaking ANY issue into steps always results in a longer-lasting positive outcome than brainstorming a solution and working backwards to develop steps for implementation. This process also results in creative thinking that expands beyond the topic at hand, creating opportunities for growth as an organization.

I have outlined five beginning steps to avoid jumping to Z based on my initial observances of our policy-making group. I hope to expand on this list and will appreciate any input.

1. Break the problem into manageable parts. Very few problems have one root cause. Identify each department involved, each person involved, each person affected by the problem, and any other factor that is potentially contributing. From there you can drill down each person or department into separate bullets, hopefully find a multi-layered solution rather than an all-or-nothing proposal.

2. Remember the visual people. Many people do better if they can actually see the problem in front of them. Buy an easel, a giant pad of paper, and a box of permanent markers. I hadn't worked like this prior to my latest position, but it's a simple tool that really adds to a brainstorming session. If you aren't comfortable doing the writing, find someone that is. Afterwards, we always have someone take the sheets back to their office and turn them into minutes that are quickly distributed to all involved. Save the originals for reference.

3. Don't fly solo. What's the number one way to slow a project down? Involve more than one person. I mean this in a positive sense here. Long term care folks love to use the phrase "interdisciplinary" but many don't understand the reasoning behind this approach. You always want to have a couple of people on a committee that are willing to ask "why?" Occasionally we will bring someone in that will feel no consequence of a final decision or program. Their input as an "outsider" is sometimes far more valuable than a department head with real outcomes or personal interest at stake.

4. Don't be afraid to identify threats. There is a difference between identifying negative elements and being negative. Risk can be human, operational, reputational, procedural, financial, and political, as well as other risks based on your situation. I use this approach when interviewing job candidates. It can be as simple as making a list of positives vs. negatives. There are other approaches to take, but the bottom line is never make a decision without fully understanding every negative consequence of your actions.

5. Set tangible goals and short time frames. Always approach a new program or idea with tangible benchmarks. Otherwise, success is purely subjective, and continuous quality improvement is impossible. Always revisit new organizational initiatives relatively soon after their roll out. Rare is the occasion that you roll out a new program that doesn't need some tweaking. Leaving a problem "on the workbench" until you've re-analyzed after 30-45 days ensures that there will be enough follow-up to keep things floating longer than the end of the week you introduce something to the organization.

There is a difference between making decisions and solving problems. As an Administrator, making quick decisions is certainly an important part of your daily work. But when it comes to processes and initiatives, be sure that your team has put enough thought into a project that it last longer than the time they spend dreaming it up.


Patti said...

In your group do you have aides and housekeepers and other "lower" ranked folks as members? Often they see things very differently and their input should be sought, heard, valued and when appropriate, their ideas put into action. I have seen these groups in action and when the hands on people aren't involved you have less "buy in" to the changes you seek...having the dept heads only isn't always the best way to go.
Just my opinion.

Nursing Home Guy said...

Absolutely. Our careplan meetings take place in training rooms on each neighborhood, and rarely include ANY department leader other than possible a social worker. Many of our committees also include subcommittees with floor staff members.

Patti said...

Excellent. It's one way to hear whats really going on. Not meaning to knock those in charge, but so often they just don't have a clue.