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Business Improvement Process, Anecdotes, and Evidence

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One of the most inspirational sources of workflow improvement is medicine. Yet, what makes doctors effective are not good outcomes, but understanding why good outcomes actually occur.

A fantastic summary about the role of science in medicine recently appeared from writer Harriet Hall. The article states:

How can you know whether a medical treatment really works? If everybody says it works, and it worked for your Aunt Sally, and you try it and your symptoms go away, you can pretty well assume it really works. Right?

No, you can’t make that assumption, because sometimes we get it wrong. For many centuries doctors used leeches and lancets to relieve patients of their blood. They KNEW bloodletting worked. Everybody said it did. When you had a fever and the doctor bled you, you got better. Everyone knew of a friend or relative who had been at death’s door until bloodletting cured him. Doctors could recount thousands of successful cases.

All those people got it wrong. When George Washington got a bad throat infection, his doctors removed so much of his blood that his weakened body couldn’t recover, and he died. We finally got around to testing bloodletting and found out it did much more harm than good. Patients who got well had been getting well IN SPITE of bloodletting, not because of it. And some patients had died unnecessarily, like George Washington.

The story of the development of medicine is the story of testing. Researchers have learned that results are not as important as the actual underlying scientific phenomena. Just because some action appears to lead to a positive outcome does not mean there is any actual connection between the two.

workplace productivity

© Flickr user Victor1558

Businesses can learn a great deal from medicine. Are workflow patterns actually effective, or are they just traditions we’ve always done? Do software systems collect useful data, or do they just make people busy with data collection and useless analysis? A critical issue in any organization is determining what work actually matters and what is merely distraction.

When AccelaWork conducts its own form of medicine, like diagnosing your workplace for potential improvements, we try to help organizations recognize that every element of work should be open for discussion. A great employee, like a great doctor, is not just one who follows the procedure, but one who is willing to try and understand what makes the procedure work. It’s not wise for anyone to improve on business process without understanding true business value. For more information on how to work smarter, contact our business consultants at AccelaWork today.

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