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Cultivating Peak Performance: The Art and Science of Team Building
By Carla Perrotta
Arecent article in Fast Company magazine contained a moving tribute to thehealthcare professionals who worked at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
The hospital boasts some amazing statistics," the profile said. "In2001, it delivered 16,597 babies." Not only is that more babies than anyother maternity ward in America, it's also more babies born in one Dallashospital than were born in 10 states as well as in the District ofColumbia," the article said.
More impressive than the raw numbers is the quality: Parkland beats thenational average for neonatal death rates. For African-American babies, itsdeath rate is half the national average. Its rate of stillbirths is lower thanthe national average, as is its rate of very-low-birth-weight babies and itsC-sections. This impressive performance becomes astonishing when you considerthat 95 percent of the women who deliver at Parkland are indigent.
What struck me about the story is the absolute focus on the patient--Parkland achieves these impressive results one patient at a time with a team ofcommitted and caring individuals. While there are rigid protocols and anintricate layering of responsibilities, everyone is willing to pitch in to dowhatever is necessary for the patient. In some cases, that means doctors can befound mopping out delivery rooms to make room for the next patient.
Many hospitals and healthcare institutions have adopted teams as a way toincrease productivity and results, although few with the success of Parkland. Toachieve those results, teams must function as more than a collection of people.Rather, a team is better understood as two or more people who must coordinatetheir activities to accomplish a common goal. A smoothly functioning anddisciplined team allows individuals to achieve results far beyond their ownability, while at the same time keeping them humble. When the needs of the groupcome first, individual member needs are met better than when they were puttingthemselves first.
Among the benefits of effective teams:
The trouble is that despite their ubiquity, teams rarely achieve breakthroughresults. Too often they sink to the level of the weakest performer and keepdigging. The fault lies not with the team or its members, but with those thattook a group of individuals, charged them with improbable goals, staffed themwith uninspired leadership and expected them to function as a team. Such effortsunderscore the potential downsides of teams:
High-performance teams do not result from spontaneous combustion. They aregrown, nurtured and exercised. It takes a lot of hard work and skill to blendthe different personalities, abilities, and agendas into a cohesive unit willingto work for a common goal. Following are some attributes of effective teams:
Carla Perotta has 22 years in the healthcare staffing industry and is nowresponsible for all business operations related to Kelly Healthcare Resources, abusiness unit of staffing provider Kelly Services Inc., based in Troy, Michigan.Kelly Healthcare Resources provides healthcare staffing solutions to hospitals,clinics, businesses, healthcare facilities, insurance companies, HMO's andclinical research organizations. For more information, visit www.kellyhealthcare.com.