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Communicating Goals

Managing Continuous Improvement Teams

A while back, I was at clinic for a flu shot. As I was waiting in line, I could hear one of the nurses in the other room loudly describe her manager in unpleasant terms. The main gist of the RN’s complaint seemed to center around productivity. According to the nurse, her boss had asked her how many injections she had given at a recent immunization clinic. She proudly reported her total, at which point the boss apparently chastised her and she should have done twice as many.

Due to her level of irritation, it probably comes as no surprise that when it was my turn for the injection, I chose the other nurse. Needless to say, the manager’s feedback about her productivity levels had an entirely different result than he probably intended. Not only did the boss subsequently have an unhappy employee on his team, but their conversation quickly translated into poor customer service as all of us in the waiting room were made aware of her feelings on the matter. The problem in this case was that the manager did not communicate the improvement objective to his team before the immunization clinics began.

The nurse thought she was doing well, and when she found out her boss didn’t see it the same way, it demoralized her. Her employee satisfaction dropped, but the damage didn’t end there. She was passing her anger on to the team: the other nurse and to the receptionist. Plus, she did it in front of a patient-me. As a manager, think about how your interactions with your team about hitting continuous improvement targets trickle down to the customer. I could have left. Instead of a few dollars for a shot, what if it had happened at a car dealership, and I walked away with my checkbook? Or what if it was in front of a major client who was considering awarding a long-term contract? When managers implement Lean and Six Sigma it has ripple effects throughout the company. Those ripples will eventually reach the customers. What message do you want those waves to carry?


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