We all lose when teams are not empowered to respond to relevant situations that go beyond their job description. An extreme example of this is the hierarchy of the London Underground: the main hall of the King’s Cross subway station in London, England.
In November of 1987, a fire started in this heavily trafficked subway stop which is made up of seemingly endless escalators, passageways, and tunnels. Even though several employees noticed the fire in its early stages and the presence of smoke, no one took action. It was not in their job description.
In fact, at that time the London Underground was ruled by a tight chain of command and no one would communicate with anyone outside of their department without proper authorization. Even when passengers commented on seeing smoke or others spotted a glow coming from underneath the escalator, no one took charge. The fear of reprimand kept everyone concentrating on their job duties.
By the time someone did contact the fire department, it was too late. The blaze had grown into an inferno that killed over thirty people. As you might imagine, that tragedy ushered in a complete overhaul of the London Underground’s operating procedures and corporate culture. Everyone has since been empowered to act when passenger safety is at risk.
Even though dental practices will not face a tragedy on the scale of the London Underground, there are still times when team dysfunction gets in the way of effective communication and follow-up with patients.
It’s important to examine how to fine-tune your process for patient communication. What are the sticking points? And how many team members are fearful or unwilling to go beyond their job description when the situation calls for extra effort? Now is the time to resolve those challenges and ensure every team member is empowered to always do what is in the best interests of your patients.