The Keys to Improvement

One of the biggest challenges for most organizations is how to improve performance over time. Of course that includes financial results, but it also includes customer and employee satisfaction, service quality, customer outcomes and operational performance. 

In reality, meaningful improvement depends on meeting a number of key challenges:

Focus. The organization needs to clearly identify the key priorities to bring about improvement, rather than getting lost in trying to do too many things at once. That’s the reason we at Press Ganey developed a Priority Index that helps our clients identify focus areas that are both highly correlated with overall performance and offer the biggest payoff for improvement in relation to peers.

Insight. Quantifiable performance metrics are the first step to insight. But it is important to move beyond just the numbers to the meaning and sentiment behind the numbers from the customers’ perspective. A careful review of customer comments can both add nuance to the numbers and provide better insights into necessary changes. The danger is reacting anecdotally to the comments or getting overwhelmed by their sheer number. That is why adding more structure to the process of gauging consumer sentiment is essential to identify and organize the broader themes that may not be immediately apparent.

Best practice by name. Identifying where to improve is much easier than identifying how to improve. That is where true best practices become most relevant. Knowing that a similar organization has been able to achieve what you are looking to accomplish makes it a much less daunting endeavor. The keys are to know that organization’s name (not just that the top 10% performance is at X level) and to communicate in detail with that organization about what it actually did. It can also be helpful to quantify the benefits for your organization of meeting the benchmark for that best practice to provide the right perspective on the resources needed to improve.

Motivation. People need to be motivated to move past the status quo in order to improve performance. Monetary incentives certainly can be effective if appropriately tied to responsibility and accountability, but one shouldn’t underestimate the power of personal or team recognition, even in the absence of monetary incentives. At Press Ganey, our clients frequently mention the motivational effect of winning our Summit Awards and other honors we bestow for excellent performance and of having the opportunity to have their pictures taken with our founders, Irwin Press and Rodney Ganey. Recognition works wonders.

Interrelationships. Improving performance is usually not one-dimensional. We know that it is quite difficult to improve patient satisfaction without engaged doctors, nurses and other staff. That is why we encourage clients to measure patient, physician and staff satisfaction and evaluate the links among them. But it goes beyond those measures to interrelationships among satisfaction, clinical outcomes such as mortality and complications and operational outcomes such as waiting times and patient flow. My next blog post will offer some statistics about these interrelationships.

Improvement Portal. While the concepts I’ve discussed above are critical to successful improvement, it would also be helpful to have all the components of improvement together in one place within an organization. That is exactly what we are committed to doing at Press Ganey for our clients through our soon-to-be released Improvement Portal. This gateway will not only serve as a dashboard for numerical performance across multiple metrics, it also will bring together sentiment analysis, named best practices, benefit quantification and online solutions/resources. Finally, and very importantly, it will facilitate client-to-client interaction through an online community.

How important is all of this to Press Ganey? It means everything to us. We are now measuring ourselves internally across our organization on how much our clients improve their performance. Meeting all of these challenges and helping clients reach their benchmarks is our raison d’être.