Is a bad decision better than no decision?
Same-Day Surgery Manager
By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Making decisions, while done daily, and often hourly, is difficult for many professionals. While not everyone endorses the following statement, I firmly adhere to it personally and professionally: "A bad decision is better than no decision." My rationale is that you learn from making decisions, good and bad.
As I started my professional career, I was surprised at how difficult it was to empower my staff to make decisions. I learned that it is a very difficult task for many who would much prefer not to advance their careers if it required making decisions. I realize how bizarre that sounds to many of us, but many people reading this column will get it.
Some might criticize this approach and defend someone for not making a decision that could impact their surgical outcome. First, it is very unlikely that someone who is not adept at making decisions would be placed in a position that a negative decision could impact a patient's outcome. Those management decisions usually are reserved for those who have advanced, have a history with the company, and have experience in how the decision they make might influence outcomes. In other words, part of the learning process of making decisions comes from making decisions — right and wrong. If people never make a wrong decision, how can they know when they have made the right decision?
Here are a few real-life situations that some of you might have or might face in the future. How would you handle them?
• Your busiest surgeon is in a miserable, nasty mood as he enters the operating suite, and he is mumbling and cursing under his breath. His case was delayed two hours because the staff failed to have the patient ready. Nothing was going right for anyone. While he is gowning up, you see the gown tail contaminate the opened back table. He knows it and sees that you saw it too. What do you do?
My answer: This actually happened to me personally many years ago. I knew that no good would come by calling him out on this. Because I knew that he saw it happen, it made my action easier. I walked over to the table, faked a trip, and fell on the table, thus contaminating it. He raised a fit; cursing and complaining all the while until a new pack had been opened. After the case, he gave me a knowing nod. While we never discussed the above situation, we have been friends ever since.
• Your vice president hands you your next year's budget and explains that you need to approve it today, as it is very late and she is going to be in trouble if it is not submitted that day. Reviewing it, you disagree with the staffing projections. There is no way you can run the department with the cuts she has made, but you need time to revise it. You are leaving early that day for your child's school function. What do you do?
My answer: Situations that pit your job against family are tough. You need to have your VP know you have her back, but you also have your child counting on you. Because I know that I will have other functions to attend with my child, and since this could very well be my last function at my job unless I handle this correctly, I would stay on at work and finish the staffing budget. Not a popular option to many, but it is what I would do.
• At your interview, you see a glaring error on your resume. The interview has gone well, and you think you will be hired. The interviewer emphasized that there is no room for error in your new position. It is unlikely the error would ever discovered, but if your resume is checked thoroughly, it will be noticed. What do you do?
My answer: Wow! You really need this job, but knowing that the hospital will check references and education, I would point out that I could see from where I am sitting that I was only at ABC Hospital for five months and not five years as the resume shows. I would laugh about it and divert the situation by saying that I have perfect vision and that it will be helpful in my new job. You're being honest.
• You are interviewing a potential new staff member for a desperately needed position in the department. Your boss, who is on vacation, gave you strict wage parameters for the positions. This new staff member will take the job immediately but wants 5% more than your boss authorized. What do you do?
My answer: Again, there are several ways to go here, but you need the staff member more than you need the 5%. I would hire the individual and let my boss know that I made a decision that I thought she would make in the same situation.
The more decisions you make, the more wrong decisions you will make. Simple odds. But with each decision made, you gain knowledge of what hasn't worked in the past and what normally has been a good decision. Decision-making is a learning process. All great leaders make decisions. They have too as they are faced with unique situations all the time. Not all of them are the right ones, but at least they assimilate the situation, take a stand, and move on! Do you? [Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates' address is 238 S. Egret Bay Blvd., Suite 285, Houston, TX 77573-2682. Phone: (512) 297.7575. Fax: (512) 233.2979. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: www.earnhart.com.]