Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What! No Research and Development Department!?!

Many of the major corporations in the world have a department they call "Research and Development" (R&D). These are the people responsible for innovating new products, improving previous products, fixing design defects, and adapting to new environments, including technological and economic; keeping the organization on the “cutting edge.”

Veterinary practices have an R&D group, also. We just don't recognize them as such.

I'm talking about our staff.  Our staff members know better than anyone what the problems are, where there is opportunity for new services or products, unmet client needs, wastes in our systems, etc.

They hear the comments made by clients that we are never aware of. They understand and recognize the gaps between our current state and our ideal state (True North) or the “cutting edge” of what's possible. And, they are willing and capable of partnering with us to correct those gaps, if we allow and empower them to do so.

When I first graduated from vet school and opened my practice, the business side of practice was coming into its own. One of the major subjects of management seminars at that time was to better delegate and leverage our staff members in our practices. It was like pulling teeth to get veterinarians to stop thinking they were the only ones that could pull blood samples, read a fecal exam or bandage a paw. The role of staff was to greet clients, restrain pets, clean cages and collect money.

These days, thankfully, we have evolved to delegating to staff almost everything in a veterinary practice except diagnosis, prescribing, surgery and... participating in identifying waste, innovating new products and service, meeting unmet client needs; to continuously improve, to become and stay ‘cutting edge.’

The concept of "kaizen" means partnering with staff (leveraging them) to continually improve value for the client, with value being defined from the client's point of view. It is part of the “bottom up” management philosophy of Lean (as opposed to the “top down” or “command and control” philosophy of contemporary Western management).

Vets and the "gurus" think they understand the terms 'teams', 'teamwork' and 'team building', but kaizen takes it to a whole new level. In kaizen, team means TEAM.

Isn't it time to take staff leveraging and delegation to the next level? Isn't it time to recognize and developed our potential "R&D" departments? Isn't it time to start developing a kaizen mindset and culture within our practices?  A culture that respects and recognizes the asset that our staff membrers represent, and, thereby engages them?

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