I was consulting to a boutique semiconductor company when I was called in to try to solve a series of problems. One of them had to do with providing people with a lack of information. Let me tell you about it – because it also reminds me of a situation with the local police department and a group of people coming out of a nightclub late at night. First the semi-conductor company.
A group of women were working on the wafer-fab assembly line and grumbling because once again they had been forced to change the configuration on the line because someone demanded that they do a special run of 100 units. The women believed their time was being wasted for no good reason.
I was curious and spoke with one of the key salesmen in the organization, asking why the line had been changed in the middle of a run – and why that happened from time to time. He replied that sometimes in order to get a big order they had to promise a quick 100 units or so.
Why, I asked weren’t the women on the line told about this need so that they would understand that it made sense. The salesman responded that no one had ever thought about telling them. Once we called them into a meeting and explained, it made perfectly good sense to them
The grumbling stopped – and the rate of cooperation increased considerably.
I was on a ride-along with the local police department late one Saturday night when we received a call to come to a nightclub in town where there had been a shooting. My young testosterone filled police officer sped down the road getting us to the site of the shooting in quick order. When we arrived we learned that the victim and the shooter had both been found and were on the way to the hospital.
As we were all milling around (lots of cops – since there is rarely any serious crime in our safe and well-run city) someone noticed a bullet casing and the group decided they needed to search for more evidence. They taped off the area of the parking lot where the shooting occurred and started looking.
Around 2:00 AM, when the nightclub closed, a group of mostly African-American women came out trying to get to their cars. Most of them were scantily dressed – nightclub garb with no coats – and it was cold outside. When they were told they couldn’t go to their cars they became angry.
We were called and told there was about to be a race riot. My young cop and I rushed back to the scene only to find a group of people behind the barrier insisting they be told whey they couldn’t get to their cars.
After I asked, and was told that “We are the police, they just have to obey us”, I went over to the crowd demanding answers and explained that there had been a shooting and that the police were still searching for evidence in that area. I suggested that they go with friends who had cars in the area not being searched and also that there was a 24 hour coffee shop nearby.
The night-clubbers thanked me, and walked off. Race riot averted.
Patients put on four-point.
While consulting to emergency rooms of Hospitals I noticed that time and time again, people with minor injuries were forced to sit in the waiting room for hours while people who came in after them received more immediate help. All too often the people waiting were poor and disenfranchised and many of them felt as though they were deliberately being ignored.
Much of the time when these people were finally taken into the inner-sanctum, they exploded from fear, anger and frustration and cursed. The nurses would get upset at the words and would call security and have them restrained on the gurneys (four-point.)
After observing several incidents of this over-reaction by both the patient and the nursing staff, I started thinking about how under strain we hold things inside and then when the opportunity for release occurs it is as though the pressure came out of the pressure cooker – and an explosion happens.
So, I asked, does anyone ever explain what triage is all about and why people are taken out of order? Has anyone ever apologized to those left for hours in the waiting room?
I taught the nursing staff that words are merely words and the expression of anger and frustration was merely a release and it was not necessary to call security and restrain these patients.
I taught the administrative staff who oversaw the waiting rooms that they needed to reach out in a courteous and customer-service oriented manner to explain and apologize. Even to provide tea or coffee to those waiting.
Once these changes were put into practice the anger, frustration and fear were significantly reduced.
Most of the time all it takes is a simple explanation as to why – or why not – something is being done to smooth things over and elicit a greater degree of cooperation from those involved.