The Mystery and Misery of Omission
We all have to admit, most omissions occur without us knowing about them. After all, few omissions are deliberate, which would make them potentially malicious.
In the workplace, omissions occur most frequently when someone does not know there is a task required. Another common cause for an omission is having “forgotten” to complete the assignment.
There are many circumstances in our experience in healthcare organizations that omissions do not get identified in a timely way, and lead to some type of poor outcome. Why are omissions so difficult to spot? By their nature, most omissions are a single element missing from a group of many elements.
For example: ABCDEFGHIJKLNOPQRSTUVWXYZ is it easy to notice that the missing letter?
If you have managed long enough, you have probably been burned by the omission. Some carry serious consequences:
Being cited, reprimanded, or fined when a regulatory body completes an inspection
Finding out how much was stolen or embezzled
Being replaced following poor judgement or performance of an underling
An error and lawsuit due to a professional who failed to complete each step in a process (like checking drug allergies before dispensing).
In real life, executives are often faced with managing people that they trust. It leads to less intense scrutiny of their work performance, making it harder to find an omission. Furthermore, and more dangerous, consider that executives are often leading people from different operational backgrounds than their own experience. A contributor to an omission going unnoticed until a negative outcome brings it to light is simply lack of detailed knowledge. In other words, (my very favorite saying) “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
For whatever the reason behind the omission, for the sake of the organization, omissions need to be minimized, despite their difficulty to detect.
What are some simple steps to combat omissions?
Make lists. Do you have a list of all the important tasks that each of your reports has to do each week, month, year?
Consult colleagues: This is common practice in Healthcare. It’s like asking a peer about their most recent inspection or audit. Finding out how others were evaluated may inspire you to assure you are not cited for a similar omission.
Experience: Pay close attention to your own, or your team’s experience. When you are climbing the ladder to the top, look out. A lack of experience in an area of responsibility combined with insufficient training or accountability to a lengthy list of responsibilities can lead to omissions. How do you fix this? A few ideas include: hire content experts, read profusely, and dig deep. We recommend that you always spend more time in your direct report’s area during a meeting, than your own.
Accountability: If you foster a culture of accountability for performance with your team, it becomes clear that they will not be allowed to escape responsibility for an omission (“I forgot” “I didn’t know”). Challenge them, probe, ask questions.
Do you have a small group that would benefit from a discussion about this topic? Call 866.964.2638 to discuss an in person or videoconference meeting.