GOLDEN KEY - you own this priceless gift, so start using it!
Few young job starters hear this startling fact of life:
"Despite your inexperience, you possess a precious key that can help transform an organisation."
No wonder your employer is keen for you to use it. What is this mysterious key, and does it exist?
Let’s start with a simple, uncomfortable fact. Since 1965, many organisations have become less and less efficient.
More money, vast injections of technology, and better education haven't stopped the dismal downturn. It's happening to nearly all big organisations and resource-hungry services like the NHS, the Railways, Energy Suppliers, and poorly performing water companies.
Naturally, there are honourable exceptions. It’s just that the overall performance trend is
Why is this happening, and what can be done about it? According to business leader Aaron Dignan and author of Brave New Work, the explanation is…wait for it… bureaucracy. It's when managers are in the driving seat, hungry for control, certainty, and risk reduction. It means that the most powerful question you can keep asking at work is:
“Why do we do it this way? Isn’t there a better, cheaper, faster, more effective approach?”
So, according to a paediatric nurse quoted in a recent FT article, young NHS nurses
“Come in newly qualified and really enthusiastic…but after two years, they’ve just been beaten down.” presumably making them reluctant to use their Golden Key.
Ronald Sinker, Chief Executive of Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, describes the productivity challenge as coming in “two buckets, how do we do more with what we’ve got, and “innovation.”
He and his colleagues now go 13 times faster when preparing curative radiotherapy treatment. They have done this "by removing a major obstacle to pushing patients through treatment faster and in greater numbers.” Somebody in his hospital asked that powerful Golden Key question and got the correct answer.
As for innovation, Sinker claims the answer is “giving teams at the front line a chance to innovate in a way that they want” and by the managers “getting out their way.”
In using your Golden Key, you are responsible for suggesting alternatives or where to look. You also have to be prepared to be a bit brave. Asking this Golden Key question will only be genuinely welcomed if you can point to practical action to take immediately, not in five years.
But as Sinker of Addenbrooke argues, the solutions will come from the front-line staff, not those hoards of managers.
“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albe
rt Einstein said.
Many organisations are poor at prioritising urgently needed solutions.
Dismal productivity trends suggest that your organisation may also need your help to ask the right questions and hear your Golden Key.
Sources: A. Dignan, Brave New Work, Penguin 2019. S. Neville, Hospital Innovators, offer a cure for NHS crisis, Financial Times 27th November 2022
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