Call Schedule Implementation: Don’t Let a Good Failure Go to Waste

The value of learning that “You don’t know what you don’t know” while implementing a new call scheduling process

Failure is usually defined as a state of not meeting an intended objective, the opposite of success. I believe this is only true if your sole interest was in the final outcome. A better meaning of failure maybe “valuable unexpected outcomes” while en route to success!

There are all sorts of failures, based on your point of view, but a Total Failure is rare and then only if nothing is learned from the experience.

How to benefit from a failure?

The post-mortem or debrief is a good place to start gaining insights into what happened. The goal is to come out with a list of things you can change, not just what went wrong and who is at fault.

Gather the team involved in creating, implementing, and using your on-call schedule. Represent all departments and schedule a few meetings, keeping the following “rules” in mind.

    • No Blame: Looking for fault shuts down communication and limits ideas. You are on a discovery mission, simply looking for information.
    • Be Brief: Keep meetings short, and make them soon. Several shorter meetings are more productive than one long, emotional one. Your physicians, administrative assistants, and schedulers are very busy, as you well know, and time allows details to slip away. Short meetings also help maintain focus on the subject at hand, the on-call schedule.
    • Make an actionable change-list: Hypothetical perfectionism is not good enough. Focus on how to improve your internal scheduling processes and communication for the next time you try your scheduling project. Using the “three why’s” method may help you to come up with a practical, specific list without analysis paralysis.

Common reasons for failure

Not ready to change: The Group simply isn’t ready to implement the changes needed due to internal factors such as staffing bottlenecks, other priorities such as EMR, or lack of management commitment to culture change over the long-term. The “old way” of handling the on-call scheduling seems easier… for now.

Inappropriate or fuzzy criteria for success: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Setting clear, unambiguous expectations is the essential first step in any project. All parties must have a full understanding of what is to be accomplished, including what a “good” on-call schedule should look like.

Inflated Expectations: Did you lose focus? Did one individual come up with a unique set of scheduling rule requirements? Did the needs of the Group really change or did the “wish list” expand as the project went on? Sometimes “wishes” get confused with what the original expectations were. Suddenly the Group is looking for something the scheduling program doesn’t do and is discussing Custom Programming. When the Group loses focus, it’s tough for implementation deadlines to be met.

Politics and Priorities: These are strong differences of opinion within the group about when, how, and what to change, and who can make those decisions with authority. Commonly, discussions regarding rules, frequency of assignments, and who is allowed to “think differently” and try alternate scenarios can be quite contentious.

Reinventing the wheel: Did you try too much change at once instead of building on what already works well to create a call schedule? The more complex the change, the greater the risk of missed expectations during implementation.

Automating a “bad” current process: The opposite of not changing enough is doing too little. Scheduling software allows the possibility of trying different scenarios rapidly. Copying the old way of doing things and not allowing the real changes needed limits improvement.

Unrealistic deadlines: Allowing time for change to percolate through to all affected parties is expected as part of call scheduler software implementation. Schedulers must have time to develop skills, and the discipline to learn and use new skills.

No sense of urgency or no deadlines: No urgency is the opposite of unrealistic deadlines, perhaps indicating a lack of buy-in or management commitment. General lack of urgency results in the cancelation of appointments, updates, and ultimately communication failure.

Getting it “wrong” means you are on the road to “getting it right!” You may be closer to the solution for your call scheduling problem than you thought, you just need to reset expectations, re-engage your team, and “reboot” your project.

Key Takeaway

Never let a good failure go to waste. Learn from everyone and identify the technology, people, and process issues that need to be corrected.


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