Wound Care Articles and Insights

Going upstream: Effective long-lasting problem solving

Going upstream: Effective long-lasting problem solving

COVID, like any crisis, magnified our weaknesses and solidified our strengths. We quickly saw what was going to last at our organization: a solid customer service department, long standing relationships with key clients, and clinical employees that would go above and beyond for our patients, just to name a few. Conversely, we also saw the holes in the organization and within a few short months knew corrective action was needed.

But how do you solve a problem?

Identifying a problem is easy. Everyone loves to do that – point out what’s broken. But fixing the problem is much, much harder. And, to take it one step further, fixing the problem for long lasting success, is not for the weak at heart. It takes time, reflection, and a commitment to dig, dig, dig as deep as you need within your organization to get to the root.

One of my last trips before the pandemic was to the 2020 American Hospital Associations Rural Healthcare Leadership Conference at a beautiful resort in Arizona. As part of our welcome package, we all received an advanced reader’s edition of Dan Heath’s Upstream: The quest to solve problems before they happen. The book sat on my shelf for months until one day I picked it up, and didn’t put it down until I had finished reading.

The book challenged me to look at problems through a different lens. To name a few:

  1. How vs. Why 
    Ask questions until you’ve found the root. For example, go from, “How can we lower our cost of travel per trip?” to “Why are we spending so much on travel?” These are two very different questions that will lead you down very different exploratory paths. This isn’t just an issue of semantics. Why questions reveal thoughts, intents and motivations – key areas of problems that if left unexplored will result in ineffective solutions.
  2. You can’t always measure the success of an upstream solution – so be ready to defend your decisions and fight your corner.
    The root solution to a problem is often not quantifiable. It’s often preventative in nature. Asking, “How can we get more of our remote staff engaged in the company?” will bring out a quantifiable solution. (E.g. we implemented X strategy and saw X% increased participation.) But the question, “Why do our remote workers feel disengaged?” is getting closer to uncovering the root cause and will likely have a solution that addresses weaknesses in company culture that are affecting employee engagement.

Our organization solves problems every day all day long for clients. We’re consultants – that’s just what we do. But we’re always trying to get better at our craft which is why Heath’s idea of upstream thinking is timely not just for Wound Care Advantage, but for your hospital as well. 

If healthcare is going to rise from the pandemic stronger than before (and I believe it can) it will take leaders committed to a fresh way of problem solving for their organization. As you look at your hospital, think upstream and guide your team to do the same. If you need someone to do this for your wound care continuum, just let us know. Our work has had a transformative impact on some of the nations’ best programs; I’m confident we can build upstream solutions for yours.