Two weeks ago, I mentioned how Mike Duggan, the mayor of Detroit told a great story of how he discovered that the culprit responsible for wide ranging problems in the DMC hospital system was the leader – he was the culprit that needed to change and transform. Mike also related a second chapter of this story that I share with you today.
Mike asked his team “why” they had to wheel out patients who were able to walk out under their own power. He asked “why” it was a policy and the answer was that federal regulations required it. Mike asked for a copy of the Federal requirement. Days later after several rounds asking "why" the team discovered there is no Federal, State, or insurance requirement from the DMC’s carrier.
So again Mike asked “why” and this time, it was something like “why not stop doing this and test the outcome?” The DMC leadership team set about putting the new practice into place, and ambulatory patients could walk out under their own power without wheelchairs.
The real roadblock was not the policy or practice, but their thinking. They thought that there was a “requirement” of the system that did not exist at all, except in their thinking. Stephen R. Covey said “The way we see the problem is the problem“ and this is a perfect example. They had not asked “why” enough! Yet, this held them back from asking why this practice existed at all.
The moment of discovery for Mike as CEO and leader was that ultimately, our thinking that can help us solve problems, can also imprison us. W. Edwards Deming once said, "We’re living in prison, under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management, a style of interaction between people, between teams, between divisions, between competitors. We need to throw overboard our theories and practices of the present, and build afresh."
Yet, we sometimes spend valuable effort to improve something that should just be abandoned. We need to ask “why” more often and transform our thinking as Mike did.
Chairman of Michigan Lean Consortium, Deming Apprentice