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It’s Not Enough to Just Share Information – and a 3-Word Formula for a Culture of Yes

The Proceed Until Apprehended banner at Doctors Hospital of Augusta

One of the nine lies that Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall describe in their book Nine Lies About Work is that “The Best Plan Wins.” The best way to create a high performing organization, they say, is not to expect everyone to work to “the plan” but rather to “give your people as much accurate data as you can, as often as you can” and then let them figure out what to do with it.

Fair enough, but that is only the left-brain part of creating a culture where people take initiative – a culture of yes. If the people who receive the data are waiting for someone else to give them permission, to “empower” them, to do something about the data then the outcome will be the same as if they had never received it.

Giving a brand new surgical tech data about the number of sponges used in a procedure will do no good if that person lacks the courage to call a timeout to conduct a sponge count for fear of provoking the wrath of a surgeon known to be a bully.

In order for the accurate data to be effectively utilized, there must also be a right-brain component to the culture change. You need to prepare people, teach people, how to have the confidence and the courage to make decisions and take action.

One reason that so many culture change initiatives end up being just another “program of the month” is that they overlook this essential right-brain element. That is why all of our work at Values Coach is built on the premise that culture doesn’t change unless and until people change, and that is work of the heart more than it is work of the head.

Culture change is not about empowering people with data nearly so much as it is about helping them empower themselves with new attitudes, new behaviors, new habits, and new personal goals and expectations.

The most important three words in my book The Florence Prescription: From Accountability to Ownership are “Proceed Until Apprehended.”

We give our client organizations a big banner – like the one pictured above that is prominently displayed in the main corridor of Doctors Hospital of Augusta – to remind people that leadership does not require a management title.

When Jennifer Schwehm and Lisa Labat were asked to present at the Children’s Hospital Association about the amazing progress being made on patient safety at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, they titled their poster Proceed Until Apprehended.

Because to build a high-performance organization with a culture of ownership, a culture of yes, you need leadership in every corner, not just in the corner office.


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