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February 2009 -Excellence

The starter's gun has hardly fallen silent and 2009 is off at a fearsome pace. Where has that easy start to the year with the succession of long weekends gone? Meeting new people every day is one thing, but forgetting days off is quite another!

I trust those New Year resolutions were made and are being adhered to? Resolutions are important but why tie them to New Year? The word resolution has a variety of meanings from "boldness of purpose" to "an intention" to "breaking something into its constituents". The root of the word is the Latin resolutio as in resolve.

I see resolutions as being a determination to resolve issues that are identified as a result of analysing processes bit by bit. We are all aware of things that should get done, but don't; of issues that are not sufficiently pressing to deal with now (yet!) so can be dealt with on tomorrow's job sheet; staff development that doesn't happen when it should etc etc. I hasten to add, I speak for myself!

I always have a long list of resolutions and rarely does my list get shorter. The common theme is striving to improve service delivery, or what I call excellence. I am reminded of this organisational value, "Excellence", every time I look at my name badge. I am, however, beginning to wonder what the word excellence actually means today. I have had a particularly frustrating start to the year with elements beyond my control, both at home and at work, preventing any movement towards excellence. Over the last 12 to 18 months, failure of processes up the tree from the lab, have resulted in our being understaffed as a result of recent decisions with respect to saving money. I guess it is not as bad as in Ireland with the Irish Government reducing all health salaries by 7%, as has just happened.

It is not just at work that the pursuit of excellence is faltering. We have just had to buy new appliances as a result of servicemen being unable to get straight or consistent answers on the availability and delivery of parts. The serviceman was doing his best to deliver a quality service and was as frustrated as us at being blocked from doing so. He will not be servicing the make involved in the future.

I have recently audited a number of external spirograms and found about 45% were technically unacceptable - and this was for research. One is forced to question whether it is indeed worth the effort of striving for excellence today. Today's approach seems to be one of pushing buttons and accepting the outputs. Decisions are made whether the measurements have validity or not. This, I fear, is a consequence of the pressure to get more and more people through the door in pursuit of…? Quality is becoming associated with excessive costs, so slips on the priority list. After all, where is the return on investing in Quality when the fee doesn't depend on quality? What dollar benefit accrues from Professional Pride?

I fear that the word excellence has taken on a new meaning that has yet to make it to my trusty dictionary. In keeping with the pervasiveness of Microsoft, I suspect "Excellence" today means "competence in the use of Excel spreadsheets".

'til next month

K

February, 2009

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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