Picture this: Anna is a young tennis player with aspirations to be a top tennis player. So she works on developing her serve, hoping that it might be like Pete Sampras’, an offensive weapon that would help win her many games, sets and matches. She practices her serve 500 times a day, seven days a week.
After 12 long months, will she have a match-winning serve? Answer: it depends.
If Anna received proper coaching of her technique and the finer aspects of the serve, she might have a reasonable chance of building a killer serve – power, accuracy, variation, tailored to her opponents’ weaknesses and delivered reliably under pressure.
On the other hand, Anna could have practiced her serve for 12 months (or longer) without the right form of coaching and not developed all the attributes of a great serve; it’d likely be an average one that delivers average results.
Pursuing Perfection in Healthcare
Hospitals execute numerous clinical care processes every day, and some have been doing so for many years. Certainly, a number of hospitals have had much “practice” in this area.
However, the true measure of success is results. Organizations that boast a long track record of superlative performance can justifiably be proud of their achievements. On the other hand, hospitals with many years of experience behind them but without great results to show for it are like a tennis player practicing for years but not obtaining the desired performance and results.
A hospital, or individual, with 40 years (or more) of average performance is certainly not in the same league as one with, say, 20 years of exemplary results.
If hospitals and their leaders continue to “practice” as they always have, they will continue to get results similar to those they got in the past.
Clearly, in a climate of increasing competition, better educated consumers of healthcare, and rising costs, this situation is unsatisfactory to all stakeholders. Like tennis players, only hospitals that practice correctly – taking a deliberate, disciplined approach to acquiring and honing their skills in improvement – will achieve sustained outperformance.
As Vince Lombardi, the legendary American football coach, put it, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” We couldn’t agree more.