I am old enough to vividly remember watching ‘I love Lucy’ episode reruns on television. And one of my favorite memories is of Lucy and Ethyl seeking employment at a candy factory. The responsibility given to them appeared simple, they were tasked with picking up candy off of a conveyor belt, wrapping it with paper, and then placing it back down.
But there was a problem, their boss was a humorless micromanager with no tolerance for mistakes. And he warned that if they allowed a single piece of candy to pass without being properly wrapped, they would both be fired.
As soon as the boss said, “Let ‘er roll!”, Lucy and Ethyl became overwhelmed. The speed of the conveyor belt exceeded their ability to complete their assigned task, so in the effort to keep their jobs, they compensated by hiding unwrapped candy – evidence of their underperformance. Consequently, the candy ended up in their mouths, under their hats, and down their blouses.
And we all laughed- because there was a truth behind this humorous story that we could all relate to….often times we too become overwhelmed for reasons outside of our control. Often times the frequency of new challenges exceeds our ability to resolve them. And at that moment, our standards can easily fall; at that moment, we can easily side-step our responsibilities.
The key point here is to recognize that this issue lies at the very core of human nature – that the structure and environment of our work spaces has a great deal of influence on our behavior. And if we do not regularly re-asssess our structures and systems, we will create outcomes that we do not desire over and over again, while blaming those who run the systems for the shortcomings.
We all loved Lucy and knew that she and Ethyl were not intentionally underperforming. And we also knew that the “boss” and the designer of the factory were the real source of the problem.
How we structure our office -physically and emotionally – leads to feelings. Those feelings lead to behavior patterns. And those behavior patterns lead to what social psychologists call “climate” and “culture”. And practice culture influences how patients feel and ultimately behave. It’s a psycho-social ecosystem intentionally or unintentionally created by our structures and systems.
Did the “boss” need to find people who could work faster, or did he need to re-assess how had been running his business?
These are two questions we need to be continually asking ourselves as well.
Paul A. Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, © 2017