Health care quality measurement is a rapidly evolving field with layers of complexity, widely varying constituencies, and billions of dollars at stake. Dana Gelb Safran – a former academic, exec with Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA and currently with Haven – understands the challenges, demands, and importance of this work.
She recently shared a story with me about how she worked with one project team to do their best work in a sustainable way. Brought together with the purpose of doing something that had never been done before, and drawn from the best and brightest talents in academia, management consulting and other intense fields, the team were no strangers to hard work.
From their first days as a team, they gelled quickly, united by their passion for the work and their high expectations of themselves and each other. Intensity was high and night and weekend hours were commonplace.
But the group soon realized they shared something beyond passion and work ethic: they shared a need to catch their breath periodically. No one on the team wanted to deliver less, or even to put less time into their work. What they needed was a time when they knew they could safely disconnect without missing anything.
“You know the terrible feeling of getting caught up over the weekend, sending something back out and then finding out on Monday morning that the other person also caught up over the weekend and had already sent it back to you?” recalls Dana.
Without a way to let go without falling behind, they risked losing their energy and passion for the work they loved. Their solution offers tips for all of us.
Tip 1: Design together
Having discovered their shared need for respite, they began to consider solutions together. They considered banning emails after 6 pm on weeknights, but the team felt that wasn’t realistic. They also considering banning work over the weekend, but people wanted the option to work on their own schedules. They talked honestly, as a group, about how they worked and what they needed.
Tip 2: Aim for Do-Able, not Optimal
Being honest with themselves about what was possible, they found one key rule: no weekend emails. Even if they choose to do work on their own, they committed not to send anything to any of their colleagues. They promised to go “pencils down” from 6 pm Friday until Monday morning.
This meant that for two full days each week, they could think about work if and when they chose. For the time they spend with playing or resting or tending to other commitments, they knew that their work would stay right where they left it – with no surprises in their inboxes.
Tip 3: Build Supporting Structures
With the new agreement in place, they made one more key change to support their new way of working. Knowing that many of them would have new work – or new thinking – to share on Monday mornings, they set aside the first two hours of every Monday for the team to meet, catch up, and get whatever they need from each other.
One member of Dana’s team reports that “the Monday meetings reduce my Sunday night nerves. It makes a big difference to know we’ll have time for digestion and thought heading into the week.”
Congratulations to Dana and team for finding a structure that worked for them. Is there something draining your team’s energy? How can you work together to find a solution?