Q&A: Tug-of-war vs. moving forward

September 4, 2007

Editor’s note: Over the past year, Ron Schilling’s commentaries in DI SCAN have addressed issues regarding business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information.

Editor's note: Over the past year, Ron Schilling's commentaries in DI SCAN have addressed issues regarding business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information.

Question: As we bring larger teams together, it gets harder to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. Any suggestions?

Answer: An important distinction can be made between "pulling" and "pushing." An approach for achieving the desired result - pulling - is the construction of the sheet-of-music strategic thinking tool (DI SCAN 4/13/07, Forming a strategy).

This thinking tool is used to assign tasks to specific individuals of the team, such as an administrator, radiologist, technologist, or quality-control specialist. The sheet of music, which consists of a series of columns, is your guide. Each column represents individual functional areas of the organization. Listed under each are the key tasks on which the individual is to focus during the coming six months. Each duty must be performed if the team is to accomplish its overall goal.

Consider, for example, that the team goal is to efficiently and effectively carry out the integration process associated with a new PACS (DI SCAN 9/25/06, Planning sets framework for evolving medical practice). The detailed transition timelines require that all individuals pull together.

At the start of the process, each individual heading a functional area meets with his or her team to identify the key tasks during the next six months. They then submit the list to the department administrator, who then compiles a list of all the tasks needed to complete the project.

This list, or sheet of music, circulates for review to all individuals involved in the project prior to a meeting to iron out any omissions and discrepancies. In practice, this catches about 75% of the problems. Modifications achieved can then be sent to the department administrator for updating of the sheet in preparation for the team meeting.

At the team meeting, the department head, the respective heads of the functional areas, and others involved in the process will agree on any further revisions - if necessary - to the sheet of music. This list should be firmly in place at this point.

While this process is certainly basic and fundamental, it can easily be overlooked. Getting individuals to work together in the most efficient and effective manner does not always pass every individual's common-sense test.

The key to a highly useful process is that it should be simple to understand and carry out. The rules of the game should be clear to all involved. The sheet-of-music thinking tool meets these conditions. With strong leadership setting the right tone for the organization and the sheet of music keeping everyone focused, all that remains is to monitor the process, look for exceptions, and manage them as they occur.

Schilling is an editorial advisor toDiagnostic Imagingand president of RBS Consulting in Los Altos Hills, CA. Comments or questions should be addressed to ronald11341@aol.com.