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Learning From Others Inside Our Own Company

Learning from others represents a great opportunity, especially within your own organization.

Written by: Quint Studer

I am a huge fan of benchmarking others. When we are trying to solve a problem or improve results, it makes a lot of sense to learn from those who have already figured it out. Seeking out and harvesting best practices from others is a lot more efficient than trying to reinvent the wheel and solve issues ourselves.

While the usual benchmarking requires us to visit other organizations that are achieving the results we want, the really good news is we don’t have to go outside our organization to learn better ways of doing things. Sometimes it’s a matter of benchmarking our own people.

This was a very valuable lesson I learned at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago. We were trying to improve our patient satisfaction results. We noticed that one department’s patient experience results were considerably better than the rest of the organization. 

Michelle Walsko was a nurse manager on the high-performing unit. We asked Michelle, “What are you doing to get such great results?” And she’d always say, “I’m sure nothing different from anybody else.” Michelle loved her coworkers, so even if she had known what she was doing differently, she wouldn’t have said, “I’m doing this, and they’re not.”

We couldn’t figure out why Michelle’s unit had higher results than the others in the organization by looking at the reports and interviewing Michelle. So we sent someone in to observe her. This person noticed that every morning Michelle took the time to talk to every patient on the unit and always asked if there were staff members she could recognize. So he said, “Michelle, I noticed that every morning you visit every patient.” And Michelle said, “Doesn’t everybody?” Well, the answer was no, but the answer after that was yes.

That was one of the reasons why Holy Cross at that time became one of the leaders in the country in patient satisfaction. We actually went on to become the place other hospitals benchmarked. The key was learning from each other right inside our own organization.

Any organization can do the same. A few tips:

Ask yourself: Which department or individual in our organization is performing well in the area we need to improve? When we drill down this way, we often find solutions that debunk assumptions around why an organization is struggling. We might assume turnover is high because, for instance, a certain job doesn’t pay a high salary, but when we look closer, we might find that one department is doing well despite this roadblock. 

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