ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO SOLVE THE ROOT CAUSE
By Imran A. Andrabi, MD
President and CEO of ThedaCare
Every day we are faced with challenges that we think are the issues we need to solve. Many times, we address problems one-by-one. But if we take the time to ask the right questions, we often end up discovering the root cause, and solve many problems all at once.
Part of being a leader is identifying underlying issues. It takes time and forces us to listen, be curious and dig deeper through thoughtful dialogue. The real learning happens when we understand why we do what we do. The steps to discovering root causes include:
Go Deep. To understand the core issue, we need to dig deep. As a ThedaCare team, we accomplish this through Deep Dives. The idea behind this is to ask questions, gain insight and create clarity and focus. We’ve learned that after we ask questions, often 10 to 12 or more, the real issues begin to appear. We need to peel off layers, one by one, and have a sense of curiosity to get to heart of the issue. Once we do and address the root cause, we take care of a thousand symptoms.
Firefight or Prevent. The organization and the employees need to decide what they enjoy doing: firefighting or preventing issues from happening. Firefighting is sexier because there is a sense of accomplishment. But by addressing root causes and preventing fires, we create the time to truly work in things that matter.
Leverage different points of views. Deep Dives are multi-faceted conversations with different points of view. For ThedaCare, this means including team members from Clinics, Nursing, Finance, Legal and many others. Each person listens and asks “what if” questions through a variety of lenses, ultimately enabling the team to unearth the root cause more quickly and creatively so we can all learn rapidly.
Empower employees to do what is right. Deep Dives can be intimidating. It may take time for employees to be comfortable in the discovery process. It is important for leaders to encourage team members to work as owners and not renters. Give them permission to ask questions, make recommendations and be part of creating a solution that they want to implement. Knowing what is right is key. When leaders and employees put their mission and customers first, the right things begin to appear on their own.
In clinical practice I realized that because of the speed at which healthcare is changing, 50 percent of what we learned was obsolete by the time we graduate. In other words, if we knew all the answers, we would be wrong 50 percent of the time. Its asking the right questions that is critical. When we ask the right questions, we find the right answers.
I have been participating in Deep Dives for more than 12 years and it works every time. It changes the mindset of the team. It enhances the culture because leaders become part of the discovery and of creating the solutions. Addressing root causes improves customer service and creates better experiences for employees and, in our case, for our patients and their families. We all feel we have made a difference each day in the lives of people we are honored to serve.
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a nonprofit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, and stroke, orthopedic and cardiac programs, as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.