“Excellence Wins” in Healthcare – More Than a Pair of Hands

Share this Article

For the next several weeks we are using the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, by Horst Schulze as a resource for Thursdays Thinking TIPs.

While having a copy of the book is certainly not needed to enjoy the next several BLOG posts, if you’d like to grab a copy to follow along, feel free to pick it up at Amazon here, or of course at your favorite book store.

Now, let’s review Chapter Five: MORE THAN A PAIR OF HANDS

“…how many times do business leaders slip into thinking of human beings as little more than what might be called ‘functional fillers’ — bodies hired to do certain task — and nothing more? They serve no purpose greater than the chair or the copy machine in that they’re useful tactically, but that’s all.” (1)

Wow, that is a sobering thought, but unfortunately that type of culture creeps into organizations all the time. As a matter of fact, because of how we humans are wired, I contend that unless an organization is very diligent about maintaining a wholesome culture — a culture that honors their employees and places them in position of respect — the culture of the complacent organization will, by itself, degenerate into a place where it’s barely tolerable to work. In an organization where the culture is allowed to flounder, it disintegrates; employees will dread going to work and will, in turn, treat your customers/patients in the same manner that they are treated!

Beyond Taylorism

When I was getting my bachelor’s degree from Auburn University’s School of Engineering we studied about the “Father of Industrial Engineering.” Little did I know back then that Frederick W. Taylor would, to this day, still have an influence on corporate executives and how they approach their employees — how they “manage” their organizations.

“It was Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915), who said that in order to mass-produce efficiently, an operation needs some people (the few) who think and other people (the many) who do.” [underline mine for emphasis] (2)

See Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper, 1911).

You don’t hear too many corporate executives quote or even refer to Frederick Taylor these days, but they still fall into the trap of using some of Taylors’ techniques and philosophy, especially when they say things like, “We have to stay aligned.” (3) According to Mr. Schulze, “we have to stay aligned” may actually mean; “I’m leading the parade, and you need to stay in line behind me. Don’t get out of line.” (4) It could also be code for, “don’t ever go over my head, or go around me to MY boss.” I have personally been the recipient of that type of wrath from a “well-meaning” boss, and my guess is YOU have too!

A better approach, as described by Mr. Schulze is to say, “Do you want to know what our company is about? We are bent on becoming the best in our category.” (4)

When employees buy-in to supporting the company, rooted in the values and principles of the organization, the foundation needed to become a world-class organization is in place, it’s at this point that your employees have been motivated to not just perform their roles well, but they are also excited to personally grow with the organization.

When employees are ready to grow with the organization and are committed to doing their part, express to them the upside of what it will mean for them personally: “respect, recognition, opportunity, the chance to build your reputation in this industry, and yes, money as well. All kinds of good things are in store.” (5)
Here’s the bottom-line, take away from this section: “The challenge is to cast a vision and then invite other living, breathing human beings to join you in pursuing that vision.”

Appreciation but Not Compromise

Mr. Schulze said it this way, “My call to value humanness of the employee is in some ways an echo of what God told Moses to say to the ancient Israelites: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus later highlighted this as a second most important commandment.” (6)

If you are like me, you have at some point in your career actually calculated how many hours you spend at work with your co-workers, and how many hours you spend with your family. Most of us spend more time with fellow co-workers than we do with our family members! With that being the reality of life in America, it only makes sense that we treat each other with a high level respect, and yes, even love each other.

“Sometimes the word love is misunderstood as softness. If we bend the standards for one employee, putting up with substandard performance or allowing extra time off without justification, the other employees have a right to be upset. So do the owners — the stakeholders — of the firm.” (7)

The Well-Oiled Organization

According to Mr. Schulze there are three major components of a well-oiled organization. He uses a seafood restaurant to illustrate the point. Take a look at the three components below (8) and let’s see if we can make this apply to your physician practice or healthcare organization.

  1. Three Essential Inputs: Good Equipment, Good Materials, and Good Employees
  2. Fresh Fish to Prepare
  3. Cooks who Know How to Use the Equipment

Ok, here’s an attempt at applying the Three Essentials of a Well-Oiled Organization – a seafood restaurant example — to a physician practice.

Inputs: This one seems to be a no-brainer — yep, we need good equipment, good materials (think medical supplies and a great facility), and of course good employees.

A good product: Here I’m thinking about the competency of the team. A competent care team that is well trained and has the education and experience to provide high-quality care, is the product. Add to that a heavy dose of world class customer service, and there you have it — an awesome product! So, while I’m not crazy about comparing “fish” to highly competent clinical and administrative staff, I can get there when you think about what’s required to produce a superior product within a physician practice or healthcare organization.

Team members who know how to use the equipment: Again, I’m not crazy about comparing physicians and other healthcare providers to a cook in a restaurant, even so, the healthcare provider is essential, and at the core of what is needed to ensure the success of every physician practice and healthcare organization. Without highly trained healthcare professionals that know exactly how to “cook up” the best care possible by applying a generous helping of compassionate care, outcomes suffer and healthcare organizations fail. (I couldn’t resist, please forgive me).

Mr. Schulze mentions Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, and offers an excerpt from Mr. Collins’ book. “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ not with ‘who’. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”(9)
It’s all about hiring the right people, understanding the skills, talents, and personality traits of each employee, and then positioning each employee in a role that emphasizes their strengths and downplays their weaknesses.

Build strong relationships with your employees and then position them for success.

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. A Cardinal Rule: Don’t just Hire – Select
  2. Don’t Take Shortcuts
  3. Whose Fault?

As it relates to selecting employees instead of hiring employees, Mr. Schulze stresses the need to match the applicant’s personality with the job opening.(10) An example Mr. Schulze uses is when filling an opening for a receptionist position. “Pay attention to the applicants personal appearance” (11), and look for someone that has the natural ability to cheer people up” (12) are just two examples of how to make a selection vs. how to simply make a hire.

When it comes to not taking shortcuts, we’ve all most likely been guilty of this one. “I’ve got to have somebody on board by next Monday!” (13) It has never failed, whenever I have rushed into hiring someone just to fill a vacancy, no matter how much I thought there was a high degree of urgency, it has always back-fired on me. I bet you’ve experienced it too! Let’s agree, and even pledge, not to take shortcuts.

Whose Fault? “Well Joe just didn’t work out.” (14) When we select the right people, train them well, and position them for success, we can avoid having to place blame on the employee because “it just didn’t work out.”

I leave you with a couple of thought provoking statements from Mr. Schulze worth pondering.(15)

  • “Very few people come to work to be negative or do a lousy job.”
  • “People come to contribute to a purpose.”
  • “Know them as human beings.”
  • “Match their unique interests with a set of tasks that energizes them.”

In summary:

“As a result, they become employees of excellence for a long, long time, which benefits not only them personally but the organization as well.”

Next week we will review chapter seven: FIRST THINGS FIRST

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates , so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.
Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC.

Names: SCHULZE, HORST, 1939 author. | MERRILL, DEAN
Title: Excellence Wins: a no-nonsense guide to becoming the best in the world of compromise / Horst Schulze, with Dean Merrill
Description: Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, [2019]


(1) Page 96
(2) Page 97
(3) Page 98
(4) Page 98
(5) Page 98
(6) Page 101
(7) Page 101
(8) Pages 102 and 103
(9) Page 103
(10) Page 104
(11) Page 104
(12) Page 104
(13) Page 105
(14) Page 107
(15) Page 108

1 thought on ““Excellence Wins” in Healthcare – More Than a Pair of Hands

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *