Re-reading Matthew Syed’s latest work reminded me of something when I look at the business performance of private medical practice.
One definition could be the ability to look at a situation and almost have a sixth sense of the cause.
For example just this week I looked at a pile of rejected invoices and knew immediately why they had been rejected.
I didn’t have to ask why.
The specific insurance company they were destined for always uses numeric reference numbers.
Those rejected contained letters. But that insurance company always proceeded their reference numbers with letters.
Nope. Experience had taught me that.
I’m told by one of my clients the technical expression for it is “expert induced amnesia”
The knowledge over time has moved from the conscious part of my brain, the explicit, to the implicit part of my brain.
And that got me thinking about what I look for when considering if and how a practice can improve.
The “what” is always the same. For example:
That is not the same as asking what the number is.
I’m not really interested in what the actual number is.
Instead, I’m interested in knowing if the business KNOWS!
If the answer is “don’t know” that tells me there is a lack of management controls. That sets the direction and scope of the assignment.
However, if the answer is yes but the number is at the end of the last financial year that tells me something else.
Very occasionally I hear “yes; its £x,000 as at the end of last month”
If there is no regular and timely basic management information being produced, the likelihood of significant process errors being made increases too.
And that is precisely what I found when I took on my most recent client.
No timely, accurate management information was being produced.
This was because the process of invoice generation and cash receipt allocation was not being completed.
That immediately led to another question: why not?
Yet paradoxically, the concept of “meaningful patterns” can be said to fly in the very face of my training and subsequent application of scientific management.
I’m looking for patterns that will point me in the areas of possible improvements.
Actually, it doesn’t fly in the face of my training and application of scientific management at all. And it doesn’t really matter if it does.
What matters is that areas for improvement are discovered. And then acted upon?
What is really interesting is the reaction from a practice principal when an error is found.
To me its an opportunity to put it right and ensure the error is prevented from happening again.
Sadly, however, some reactions don’t exactly proceed that way.
Significantly though, those that follow the path of “opportunity to improve” do see an increase in their cash flow.