TEDx: You hired an employee but a human being showed up instead
Posted on July 12, 2022 | in Ergonomics
VelocityEHS’ Franz Schneider explains that in order to close the productivity gap, your organization has to treat people with at least the same respect as you treat buildings and machines.
Hi, I’m going to follow the T-E-D today in our discussions. Let’s start with technology. It’s fantastic stuff, the way we take our knowledge and leverage it to make tools to reach places we could never go. We took a peek at Pluto, we’ve seen the depths of the ocean. It’s incredible what technology can do. We fathomed a human heart that works, we’ve come up with chocolate ice cream. Oh, that’s the big one! No, I mean milk is, you know, watery and kind of white. Chocolate ice cream is an elixir. It’s a solid, it’s a wonderful color. I mean, technology’s just so important. But I’d like to introduce a piece of technology today. The technology I’d like to introduce will help every organization just launch forward into new achievements.
Now, I’m going to speak specifically about business because that’s been my purview for the last 40 years, but these concepts are equally applicable to a symphonic orchestra or a little league team. And the technology I would like to introduce to your organization, by the features it has, 7600 named parts. It’s very complex, as 60,000 miles of internal tubing. And that tubing takes fluid that takes both the energy to the source of ignition as well as the effluent away. It manages the heating and cooling. It’s driven by a very small pump, about that big, pumps 2 billion times over the life cycle of my technology I’m introducing. Pumps 2,000 gallons a day over the life cycle of the technology. It pumps enough fluid to fill 13 supertankers.
To make sure all of this works, there’s an on-board computer with a memory of four terabytes. It communicates inside this piece of technology at 268 miles per hour of information flow. It replaces 1 billion of its own sub-components every day. The functions that one gets from these features are vision, hearing, communication. We have movement with the same appliance at the end of this technology, You can have fine forces or bone-crushing forces. It doesn’t have Bluetooth, has pink lips, and it’s easily programmable with simple sentences.
The benefit of the technology I’d like to introduce you to today is that it can take a rather mundane pile of bricks and turn it into a thriving enterprise. And of course, that technology is us, the human. Now, this technology is so important to every organization in the world. People are the single and sole source of productivity. One could even say that we’re not only the s-o-l-e source of productivity, we’re the s-o-u-l source of productivity. Once you take people out of any enterprise, whether it be a business, a symphonic orchestra, or the little league team. Everything good stops right then. You can’t really have a discussion about productivity without including people. It’s like trying to separate wetness from water. It just doesn’t make sense. But if people are so crucial to us, how come we don’t take better care of them?
If we were to take a look at an organization, that organization probably doesn’t understand how critical people are. But every person in that organization, their job is to create an ecology for people to dance their dance of productivity, to think their creative thoughts, to achieve what they best can achieve. And that goes all the way from the switchboard to the chairman of the board, from a low seam coal mine to the Space Shuttle. Our job is to create that ecology as architects, as engineers, accountants, as masters and supervisors, as the workers ourselves. To create that ecology, see, this building is not just to keep the rain off. This is a place for us to do what only the human can do, which is invent and create. Again, I ask myself, if this is so important, why don’t we know more about it? Well, this is where you come to a parable, and that parable is that every organization is perfectly designed to get the results that it achieves. And right now, business demand, and educational system delivery are perfectly designed to create an environment where people are ignorant about other people’s capacity. We’re fascinated about our own, but I don’t know anything about anybody else. And that means that you can be a newly mentored engineer or manager with a bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, and get the holy of holies. You can get an MBA. And when you arrive in the workplace, you go, ‘Whoa, what are all them things moving around? We call them people. Never took a course on them. I’m gonna have to automate.’ You see, I took a lot of courses on machines, and I understand machinery very well. So that’s what I’m gonna do. People, I don’t understand. They’re the messy bits that make my plans go awry.
But if we understand that people are so critical and that the disconnect is in our understanding of people and what they can do, how do we test our organization to see how disconnected it is? Well, I test an organization by walking up and asking people what business they’re in. So, I’d ask this individual of business during, though reaching their pocket, looking at the business card. ‘Sir, steel. We make steel. We’re in the steel business.’ ‘Okay, what do you do?’ ‘Well, we make cars. We’re in the car business.’ ‘You? Well, we deliver healthcare. We’re in the hospital business.’ And they’re all wrong. Every organization in the world is in the people business. That’s the business that everybody’s in. Steel, cars, healthcare, that’s your deliverable, but your business is people.
Let’s go to entertainment. You know that you serve a life sentence at work. You spend more of your adult life at work than anything else. That’s a life sentence. Why shouldn’t it be more enjoyable? Even the most mundane tasks can be enjoyable in the correct ecology. When we walk into certain super stores that sell tablets and phones, we are engaged by everything that’s going on there, and we want to buy more. And in fact, there are sports outlets and computer stores that become the number one and number two place for people to visit in a state. They are tourist attractions, and that’s called retail payment, and it works very, very well. We can have worker-tainment. I’m not proposing that it be adult Disneyland, but certainly, there can be environmental factors that make this a positive experience that I want to be there.
Now, there’s a flip side to this coin. Not only are people the source of all good things that are going to happen in your organization, but we’re also the source of all screw-ups. Everything that goes wrong in your organization is gonna go wrong because of people. People failed to do the right thing. That’s an error of omission. I did the wrong thing. That’s an error of commission. I did the right thing in the wrong place. That’s a transference error. I did the right thing, but out of sequence. Those are Khurana errors, and all of these human errors exist because of people. But human error does not come from the human error gland somewhere behind the liver. Human error is a design mismatch between human capacity and demand. And there are certain things that people can do and certain things that people cannot do, and we should never get confused. There are certain things that people can do, certain things people cannot do. We should never get confused as we go along and we’re looking at human error.
I could talk about dozens of different examples, but I’d like to focus on one, and that’s what’s called an iatrogenic disorder. Iatrogenic is what happens when somebody in healthcare hurts you. And today, there are approximately 400,000 deaths annually in hospitals due to human error. Every year, a new study comes out, and every year, the numbers go up. 400,000 people killed because we didn’t understand the relationship between capacity and demand. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over the same time period, identified that there were 10,057 fatalities. I think Mothers Against Drunk Driving have a very valid cause, but at 400,000 fatalities, I propose a new organization here today called People Against Distracted Doctors (PAD). Because when we take a look at it, all of these problems are solvable.
I can take care of a problem of having a tool left inside an individual the same way I take care of it in aerospace with what’s called foreign object contamination inside engines. Those methods are there. I can keep sponges outside of people by radio tracking devices. You use those in grocery stores. Certainly, we can use them in surgery. All these mechanisms are there to assist us to reduce the error rate in hospitals.
Take something like pharmacies. You know there’s about 1.9 million in-hospital stays. 4.7% of the people experience a negative outcome because their pharmacy gave them the wrong medicine. Sometimes it gave them an upset tummy, sometimes killed them. But there’s a huge error of variance there that, of course, we can control.
Take a look at how this is entered into the system. Q-U-I-D, okay? That’s four times a day. Q-1-D, that’s every other day. The only difference when you’re getting medicine four times a day or every other day is a point written in a very cryptic and short form for Latin. What does Latin have to do with our lives in 2050? I don’t understand it. See, anytime anybody is involved in my life with Latin, you know I’m involved with the painful triad: doctors, lawyers, priests. I know I’m not having a good day from this point forward.
A hospital in Norway said, ‘Let’s take that out of the system. Let’s take the entrance written in scribbled handwriting out of the system and use a pick menu.’ Using the pick menu, they reduced hospital deaths due to pharmaceutical problems by 18%. Like that, it can be done.
Now, people tell you there’s not enough money to fix all these things. Our healthcare system is in trouble. It’s in trouble because one-third of the money spent is on rework of a three trillion dollar industry. The estimate is that 1.1 trillion dollars is spent on extended stays and more medicine and more fixing for people who were hurt in the hospital. Any other business that hurts is one-third out of its product is out of business.
Now, I’ll just leave you with one thought, and we’ll come back to technology. But you know, this is the only industry where you get paid for your mistakes. So, if we know that we can remove human error from any enterprise, we have to start challenging ourselves. How are we going to do it? How are you really going to do this?
Well, we do it by design. And everybody in the industry today knows exactly what to do and how to implement a good system for people. We do it all the time for machines. We put a machine into the workplace, and the first thing we want to know is what can it do? We compare capacity to demand, and if it’s the right machine, we proceed. Then, to make sure the machine runs correctly, we read the manual because we know that running a machine outside of capacity will make it unreliable. If we continue to run a machine outside of capacity, we will wear out parts, and wearing out parts in the machine is bad for business. So, we know there are certain things machines can do, certain things machines cannot do. We never get confused.
You put a person into the workplace. What’s the first thing you need to do? Match capacity to demand. There are certain things people can’t do. Obviously, one of the things we can’t do is differentiate Q-I-D from Q-1-D on a scribbled prescription. Don’t have people do that. We’re not good at it. But once we have demand matched with capacity, then we better read the manual because there are certain ambient temperatures, certain lighting levels, certain hours of work, certain physiological workloads, and various postures that dictate how well we can perform. These are performance shaping factors, and we can attend to them and fix them. All we need to do is treat people with at least the same respect we treat machines and buildings, and treat people with at least the same respect we treat machines and buildings using data to drive decisions.
You know that there are some industries that have better care for their effluent than they do for their employees. There are more people with higher educational skills managing their environmental program than managing the workplace ecology. I mean, if you ever said, ‘Hey, I mean, treated like crap here,’ no, you’re not treated as well.
So, see, these are simple simple changes, but what they require is an AHA. One of the AHA’s that I’d like to leave you with when you go back to wherever you go back to next week and you begin your process of contributing to this wonderful world is I want you to take a look at your webpage and I want you to take a look at your corporate annual report and see if those pictures are authentic. The vast majority of organizations do not have real pictures; they fake it. And that’s an AHA. That corporate embarrassment is your reality.
So now, let’s just come full circle back to technology. Technology is flattening the playing field. Technology is available around the globe. The only difference between your company and a company 10,000 miles away is your people and how well they perform. We need to understand how to optimize performance.
Let’s say that you want to do it the old-fashioned way. You’re going to try and con or beat your people into high-quality performance. Can’t be done. You can’t con or beat people into high-velocity performance or high-quality performance because the reality for you today is that productivity is negotiable. I, as an employee, can negotiate with you how much performance I’m going to give you. And the more you beat on me, the more I find what the least common denominator is.
You start messing with me, I’m going to find the least amount of productivity for you to go away. And that discretionary productivity creates a gap, and it’s the gap between what people could do if they were inspired and what they do not to get fired. That’s a huge gap. That’s a gap that every one of us can close, whether we work in a car plant, a pharmaceutical plant, healthcare, conduct a symphonic orchestra, coach a little league team. There’s a difference from what people can do if they were inspired and what they do not to get fired or cut from the team. And it all has to do with how we create both a physical as well as mental ecology.
Let’s say you don’t do any of those things. That’s fine. Old ways do not work as we move into this new competitive world. They just won’t. We’re going to discover that the only difference between your company and a company 10,000 miles away is how well your people want to contribute.
Now, this has been the elephant in the room. Do you ever read a paint can? Paint cans are very informative because when it says you’re about to paint, it doesn’t say shake, and it doesn’t tell you how to apply paint with your brush. The first thing a paint can says is prepare the wall. Well, that’s what I hope we were able to do today: prepare the wall. Because if you don’t prepare the wall while you’re painting, this paint won’t stick. And the same goes now as you go back to your organization and you say, ‘You know, I’ve got this idea, and I want to try it out on you.’ I need to prepare the wall and the idea that you’ve prepared the wall so this idea will stick is: you may have thought you hired an employee, but a human being showed up instead. Thanks a lot.