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Train of Thought...
September 2010 -Short Cut or Long Way Round?

I have recently completed a bookcase for a friend that proved to be a more challenging project than I anticipated. There was not a right angle in it! Any attempt to cut joinery freehand was a disaster. Rather, time had to be spent making jigs to hold parts at the correct angles for cutting the joinery and practice joints had to be made to check alignments and fit. Any attempt to go straight to a workpiece meant a new part would soon be made! When it came to finishing, I made a mistake and purchased prepared shellac that was supposedly dewaxed. It soon became apparent that my definition of dewaxed differed from the salesman's one. I took a short cut, avoiding the need to prepare my own shellac solutions and hey presto had to sand the shellac sealing coats off as the next layer of finish wouldn't bind properly.

Avoiding shortcuts can mean more time is spent on parts of a project and progress appears slower. When time spent remaking parts or refinishing a project is taken into account, however, the equation changes somewhat. Not only will short cuts ensure you are unlikely to complete the project quicker, but the quality will be lower because the frustration level will be increased and mistakes made.

The same is true in my working life as well. There is considerable pressure to get results quickly whether it be patients through the door faster, or delivering reports to managers yesterday. As managers we need to take the time to validate the data held in our hospital systems - those in management generating the reports, frequently only get half a story and have no interest in validating their data. It is assumed it is accurate and that they constructed their search correctly. Then there is database designů..

Testing for bronchodilator response after 5 minutes may well answer the question "Can I claim the rebate?" adequately, but does it really answer questions about reversible airflow obstruction? Yes this short cut can be taken but what happens to the quality of the decision making?

There is, of course, a fine line, very fine line perhaps, between being obsessive about getting it right and being pragmatic. We could all spend our time gathering information and never making progress. The art is in knowing when enough is enough. How thorough and careful you need to be depends on a risk assessment of the consequences of your decision, or the decision made by another based on your information. I never provide data to management without first determining the context of the request. Sometimes a detailed explanation of the data needs to accompany it. Other times no. Always validation is required.

There are many occasions when I am very tempted to say "What the hell?" and take the easy road. If truth be known, increasingly often. What is the problem with waiting 15 weeks for a product through a local agent, at higher cost, than getting it directly from the manufacturer in one week? I could have gone with the flow and accepted patients being put on hold until the parts arrived or I could have rocked the boat. Suffice to say, it won't happen again.

Short cuts, and the easy way out, rarely pay dividends in the long haul. The only guarantee that is likely to come with shortcuts is grief.

'til next time,

K

September, 2010

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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