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Leaking Tap Management

The news this morning that hospital inspections in England have been carried out in a flawed manner is depressing but perhaps unsurprising, given the number of avoidable deaths reported in Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and other hospitals in recent months. I start to feel as Jane Eyre did when she replied to Mr Brocklehurst and her Aunt Reed "I must keep in good health and not die.”(though of course she was talking about saving her soul rather than going to hospital).

Prof Sir Mike Richards is charged with raising the standard of hospital inspections. He proposes to recruit doctors, nurses, patients and carers to carry out inspections and ratings. The changes are based on the methods adopted by the Keogh review, which he was invited to take part in. I sincerely hope that the new approach will do the job. I suppose there have been so many initiatives and changes in recent years, all trumpeted as the best-ever in advance, but not always delivering that one becomes a little cynical. But health is one of the pillars of a successful and vibrant society and it’s much too important to leave to chance.

How does one achieve consistently high quality work? It always starts at the top. Organisational leaders need to be clear about the definition of quality, communicate that definition in a meaningful and precise way, set the example of good quality and demand it in themselves and others. I hear a lot about the high quality from some companies but I see absolutely no evidence of it. You don’t really need to talk about good quality - if you have it, it should be there whacking you on the nose (metaphorically) it’s so obvious.

You have to have the right people in the right jobs. I’m always quoting Jim Collins’ book Good to Great in which he says getting the right bottoms on the right seats is fundamental- but that’s because I think he’s absolutely right! The team is the starting point. If you have the right people (and that often means starting with the right raw material) you can create a powerful and effective team. Don’t tolerate least-worst. It pays off too, because the right team only needs a light touch.

In order to achieve the organisation’s aims, communicate the vision and what success looks like, train people to carry out their roles, coach them past mistakes and then gradually give them freedom to do their jobs. Despite the fact that I’m a world class control freak in terms of delivering quality advice and quality service, my consultants tell me that they have never been given so much freedom in the workplace before. That’s because once I know they can and do meet my standards, I can trust them to get on with things and I’m there if needed. It works for us.

There will be hiccoughs. Pick up poor work performance problems early. If you ask yourself the question “Do all of my people meet all of my standards nearly all the time?” and the answer’s “No” then you know you need to start doing some work on managing workplace standards. Investigate the issues, discuss them with the individual (usually informally),agree an improvement process and time scale and follow it through. Most managers don’t do it and will put up with low-grade poor performance for years. But if you do that, it’s like a tap dripping away – wasting money and slowly damaging the environment around it.

Don’t be a drip! If you know someone whose poorly performing employees are causing money to drip away out of the business, ask them to give us a call or send an email and we’ll sort them out.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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