TELL THE TRUTH FASTER

Ronald Gross

 

At Kaiser Permanente in Denver several months ago, Dr. Michael Leonard was operating on a cancer patient, when he made a life-threatening mistake. But to his tremendous credit, Dr. Leonard learned something from that mistake -- something which can improve performance in your organization. He learned how important it is to Tell the Truth Faster.

Dr. Leonard, an anesthesiologist and chief of surgery at KP, had reached into a drawer for medicine. Inside were two vials with yellow labels and yellow caps: one was a paralyzing agent which he had correctly administered to keep the patient immovable while he was operating. The other one was to reverse the paralysis. "I grabbed the wrong one," Dr. Leonard recalls. "I used the wrong drug."

Fortunately, the drug wore off and the patient was not harmed. Most doctors would keep quiet about their mistake. But not Dr. Leonard. He talked about the mistake with the surgeon and scrub nurses, and the hospital pharmacist. As a result, the two agents were relabeled with different colored labels, and put in different drawers.

But Dr. Leonard also discovered that his telling others about his mistake was, unfortunately, rare behavior. When he told his five medical partners about it, for example, "Four of them said, 'I've done the same thing.' And one of them said, 'I did the same thing last week.'"

Dr. Leonard concludes: "I've been chief of this department for five years, and I'm the chief of surgery. But nobody had ever said to me: 'We have this problem.'"

I use this story to make the point that we must all learn to Tell the Truth Faster. The principle applies in every kind of association I speak to -- from medicine and law, to computer technology and retailing.

I use dramatic examples just like Dr. Leonard's from companies and organizations including, Apple Computer, Walt Disney, Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, Lockheed's notorious "Skunkworks", and Continental Airlines.

In each of these organizations, the habit of Telling the Truth Faster results in better performance, higher profits, and faster accomplishment of goals.

Just last month, I experienced it in dramatic form working with a "Dot-com" start-up that had rocketed from four partners to 150 employees in 10 months! I had challenged the twenty Team Leaders to use one of my favorite creative strategies (Convene, XXX, XXXX) to come up with ways their operation could be made faster, better, and easier ­ for themselves, and their customers.

When the tables started "reporting out", every table mentioned that the Nav Bar on the company's all-important web-site, was terrible ­ ugly, confusing, hard to use. By the time all the tables had reported-out, the CEO stood in the center of the room, looked around with a dazed expression on his face. "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE EVER TELL ME ABOUT THIS?!," he asked

Could you be Telling the Truth Faster? Have you made clear to your people that you them to Tell You the Truth Faster ­ and that you will appreciate and reward them for doing so?

For more information go to the web-site for this column, www.RonaldGross.com, and go to CONVENE Readers' Resources

Ronald Gross is _____________________________________________

 

Professional Development

 

TELL THE TRUTH FASTER

Ronald Gross

 

At Kaiser Permanente in Denver several months ago, Dr. Michael Leonard was operating on a cancer patient, when he made a life-threatening mistake. But to his tremendous credit, Dr. Leonard learned something from that mistake -- something which can improve performance in your organization. He learned how important it is to Tell the Truth Faster.

Dr. Leonard, an anesthesiologist and chief of surgery at KP, had reached into a drawer for medicine. Inside were two vials with yellow labels and yellow caps: one was a paralyzing agent which he had correctly administered to keep the patient immovable while he was operating. The other one was to reverse the paralysis. "I grabbed the wrong one," Dr. Leonard recalls. "I used the wrong drug."

Fortunately, the drug wore off and the patient was not harmed. Most doctors would keep quiet about their mistake. But not Dr. Leonard. He talked about the mistake with the surgeon and scrub nurses, and the hospital pharmacist. As a result, the two agents were relabeled with different colored labels, and put in different drawers.

But Dr. Leonard also discovered that his telling others about his mistake was, unfortunately, rare behavior. When he told his five medical partners about it, for example, "Four of them said, 'I've done the same thing.' And one of them said, 'I did the same thing last week.'"

Dr. Leonard concludes: "I've been chief of this department for five years, and I'm the chief of surgery. But nobody had ever said to me: 'We have this problem.'"

I use this story to make the point that we must all learn to Tell the Truth Faster. The principle applies in every kind of association I speak to -- from medicine and law, to computer technology and retailing.

I use dramatic examples just like Dr. Leonard's from companies and organizations including, Apple Computer, Walt Disney, Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, Lockheed's notorious "Skunkworks", and Continental Airlines.

In each of these organizations, the habit of Telling the Truth Faster results in better performance, higher profits, and faster accomplishment of goals.

Just last month, I experienced it in dramatic form working with a "Dot-com" start-up that had rocketed from four partners to 150 employees in 10 months! I had challenged the twenty Team Leaders to use one of my favorite creative strategies (Convene, XXX, XXXX) to come up with ways their operation could be made faster, better, and easier ­ for themselves, and their customers.

When the tables started "reporting out", every table mentioned that the Nav Bar on the company's all-important web-site, was terrible ­ ugly, confusing, hard to use. By the time all the tables had reported-out, the CEO stood in the center of the room, looked around with a dazed expression on his face. "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE EVER TELL ME ABOUT THIS?!," he asked

Could you be Telling the Truth Faster? Have you made clear to your people that you them to Tell You the Truth Faster ­ and that you will appreciate and reward them for doing so?

For more information go to the web-site for this column, www.RonaldGross.com, and go to CONVENE Readers' Resources

Ronald Gross is _____________________________________________