At the practice I was managing, there was often a lot of confusion about changes. The employees, when surveyed, said they felt that changes occurred often and that they never knew what the “right way” to perform a task was.
Quick backstory, the practice owner was bureaucratic in the way he ran the practice. He was also someone that changed his mind often; the employees would joke and say things like, “if it’s the 3rd Tuesday and it happens to be a full moon, do it this way; any other time, do it the other way.” I understood what they meant.
It was not uncommon for the owner to completely change his mind from what had been previously stated the day before and sometimes even hours before. To his credit, he is an incredibly intelligent human being; however, he always believed his way was the best, and if you didn’t read his mind and do it the way he would have, then it was wrong. Despite my best efforts that I will post in another blog, he was pretty set in his ways, and there was no sign of changing. Reflecting, I can’t imagine why I stayed in that position as long as I did, other than I was meant to. It gave me a lot of experience and allowed me to learn things I wouldn’t have otherwise; for that, I am forever grateful. Okay, to get back to the issue at hand, the employees felt like things constantly changed without warning, and they felt like they never knew the “right way” to perform tasks. I wanted to find a solution to the problem; I wanted to empower the employees to feel more confident performing their tasks. I came up with the Protocol Awareness Program. We discussed as a management team, including the owner, that we needed more things in writing to make them “official.” It was unfair to the employees for things to change without letting them know and giving them a chance to be aware of the change. I wanted the employees to feel empowered by having things in writing; this way, if the owner did change his mind because it was that 3rd Tuesday with a full moon, they would have written documentation to back them up. Once it was “official,” it would be in the manual and the way tasks were performed moving forward. I created a template for protocols or policy changes. Certain guidelines must be followed to make the protocol “official.” A binder was started to have a hard copy of the protocols available at all times. We had a computerized handbook; however, I found the paper copies helpful. I created a system for the employees to acknowledge they had received the information and were aware of the effective date or date that the protocol would be “official.” I gave “grace periods” for brand new protocols to allow time for training. I also gave the employees an open line of communication about the protocols and any issues with them. The Protocol Awareness Program helped the employees realize that “change” wasn’t happening quite as often as they thought. The employees began to feel empowered about the way they were executing tasks. The owner realized that he couldn’t just change things because he felt differently on certain days. As the practice manager, the program gave me time to evaluate every item in the handbook and fill in the gaps. The program also set my employees up to show responsibility and accountability.