Just Do Your Job!

My wife has identified "The Rule of Two" which states that it is impossible to get anything done involving business people without at least two phone calls or two visits. People, can you Just Do Your Job?

It is time for a rant again.

My wife has identified "The Rule of Two" which states that it is impossible to get anything done involving business people without at least two phone calls or two visits. All too often she's right and this costs time and money, to say nothing of aggravation.

For example, let's just take my last week. We went to "the best" fireplace store in our area to arrange for some work to be done. "Great! We'll get right on it and have someone come out." Maybe they showed up at your place, but certainly not ours. Gotta make another call. The Rule of 2; but people, can you Just Do Your Job?

You remember I wrote a few months ago about ordering a car? Well, it seems that the dealer has "lost" my car somewhere in transit, even in this age of bar codes, email, and such. Come on folks, JDYJ!

Health care is not exempt. I cracked a tooth and went to my dentist who put me through two painful, lengthy, inconvenient and expensive visits with injections only to find that my $1600 crown didn't fit. "But it only happens one out of a hundred times!" says he. "This isn't tissue, the shape of the mold and the crown is 100% controllable by you!" says me. And now I have to go back for a third go-around of inconvenience, pain and injections. DDS, JDYJ!

Want another egregious health care example? A major California health insurer was dinged by the state last week for 732 violations of mishandling claims. As if delay, denial, and inattention are something new for health insurers in any state. Heck, I have 732 examples of insurer malfeasance in my accounts receivable alone right now! Why can't the clerks JDYJ!

Multiply this kind of thing through the entirety of our lives and it probably costs each of us many, many thousands of dollars. I don't even want to think about the cumulative effect in the whole economy. I get vertigo with that kind of stuff.

One identifiable reason for this Failure To Execute is the haphazard way that many workplaces hire, train, and supervise. Jim Collins in his famous "Good To Great" book argues that the difference between an ordinary enterprise and the great one is "Who Do You Have On The Bus?" In other words, if you don't start out with the right people your chances of having your business/practice achieve a high standard are much more difficult. He says all great enterprises feed upon passion and self-discipline, not just training and oversight. Did you see any of that on your last errand day? Not me....

And what drum do I always beat? In addition to many other business functions, physicians are not trained or prepared in any way to effectively hire, train, or supervise our support staff. It usually boils down to OJT for us and for them and, if you think about it, it's a wonder that we do as well as we do.

Fortunately, there are weekend courses, books, and Internet resources to give us some quick insight into the basics of what is a surprisingly extensive amount of knowledge and legal requirements on hiring, managing, and firing personnel. Unfortunately, I have never spoken to even one doc who said that he/she had accessed any of these.

"I leave that to my office manager" (how did you hire/manage them?), "An agency does that for me," or my personal favorite, "Huh?"

In lieu of inadequately attempting to summarize what we all should have been introduced to during our training, let me just share a personal experience and some hard-won wisdom.

I was once under pressure from my staff and partners to stop being so picky about finding the "right" new medical assistant because we were short staffed. So, being young and not having much of a frame of reference for such things yet, I hastily hired the next reasonable applicant. The first day with the new, un-vetted assistant was so difficult that I told my wife that I had a stomachache. When I belatedly checked with her last doc, he said, "You should have called me. She's sweet and anxious to please, but dumb as a stump." I guess that she wasn't the only one.

So it's really important to check references. And learn to listen between the lines, because the rise of lawsuits in such matters has led many to be quite cagey in what they say. But listen carefully and you'll get the story without having to put the last employer on the hook.

And whatever little wisdom I have learned through trial and error is this: you can teach someone to do an EKG, answer the phone, or upload claims, but you cannot teach maturity, work ethic, cheerfulness. Personality and character matter the most in the end and we are well served to put our focus there when we hire. And if you hire carefully, the rest will be a lot easier. You'll practice better medicine, make more money and sleep better.

I might explore this HR/personnel area in greater detail in a later column, but I just had to start the dialog after the terrible week that I had with people who needed to be told, "Just Do Your Job!"

What JDYJs happened to you last week?