Especially in medical settings, teamwork is vital for success. But, how can you create an effective team?
Harvard professor and researcher, Amy Edmondson, asked a similar question in her study. Why do some teams click while others don’t?
Edmondson followed 16 surgical teams learning to perform a new heart surgery technique. After several months, she found teams distinctly fell into two groups. Either they were extremely successful, or they weren’t. Upon further examination, she uncovered five basic real-time signals displayed by the top performing groups: Framing, roles, rehearsal, explicit encouragement to speak up and active reflection. (The Culture Code, 2018)
Here’s how you can apply this research to improve collaboration on your nursing team.
Provide Framing – Edmondson discovered successful teams viewed the surgical procedure as a learning experience that would benefit both patients and the hospital. How does your nursing team view their work? As a mission? As a chance to improve and/or save lives? As an opportunity to increase medical knowledge? Or, simply as a series of tasks to complete?
Define Roles – In Edmondson’s study, top team leaders clarified both the individual and the collective skills required for success. Does your nursing team know exactly what you expect from them? Do they understand why it is important for them to work together as a group? Do they know what success looks like? Or, is success more of a vague idea?
Rehearse – Edmondson saw successful teams perform elaborate dry runs, prepare in detail, explain techniques and discuss communication techniques. Does your team have opportunities to rehearse best medical practices? Do you review and role play effective communication strategies? Or, is all training completed on the job, with little preparation?
Encourage Everyone to Speak Up – Even when they saw a medical mistake, the individuals on Edmondson’s unsuccessful teams were hesitant to interfere. On the other hand, the successful leaders not only asked their team members to speak up, but also actively coached them through the process. Are your nurses comfortable asking questions, making suggestions or pointing out problems – even if they lack experience or seniority? Or, would they remain quiet during a potentially dangerous situation, because either no one would listen or they might face a reprimand or retaliation?
Actively Reflect on Performance – Between surgeries, Edmondson watched as successful groups reviewed their performance, discussed future cases and suggested improvements. Unsuccessful teams showed little to no interest in either receiving or providing feedback. Do your nurses have meaningful conversations about what went right and what went wrong? Are they willing to share knowledge and work together to find better solutions? Or, do they keep their heads down and only do what their supervisors say?
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