Things I learned from my dad: Part 1

Be frugal so that you can be generous later

My dad passed away recently from cancer at age 75. He was a well-liked man, got along with everyone, was thrifty when it was not important and generous when it was.

I’ve learned many things from my dad that have influenced me in all aspects of my life including my approach to work. The idea of having a solid habit of thriftiness so that you have money available when you need it has certainly contributed to my belief that the value of having your procedures being well embedded and automatic means that you have the ability and resources to deviate from the procedure when you need to. When you think about organisational processes time and money are almost interchangeable.

Solid procedures build the slack into your system. If your habit is to be thrifty (read efficient or lean) then you will have resources in reserve to manage the real crises that will inevitably happen.

This was an idea that I found invaluable when I was the operations manager at an occupational health clinic. One of the challenges I found when managing doctors (and indeed any clinicians) was that they railed against the idea of standard appointment times. I know that all medical practices do this, and I also suspect that all medical practices experience the same resistance from their clinical staff. When you are working with a patient you must focus on the needs of that patient and not on watching the clock.

However, I found that when I talked about this concept of thrift vs generosity with my clinical teams it was something that resonated. I asked, “are most of your patients complex?” to which most would say no. Most patients are routine. So, I suggested that they could aim for a standard appointment time for those routine patients which would then give them the space to run over time on a complex patient, most of them found that reasonable and efficiency improved.   (We also introduced productivity bonuses which is another blog post!)

I guess the bottom line is that procedures, SOPs, systems or whatever they are called in your workplace do not actually constrain us – what they do is to give us the freedom to make exceptions whenever that is absolutely necessary.

Thank you, Dad. I most surely did not get it then but as an adult I understand. All those times you made me pick up pieces of wood from the side of the road so that we could use the wood fire booster for the Solahart without turning on the electric booster were the reason that every time my car broke down when I was a broke university student you would say “it’s only money” and pay for the repairs.

Peter Moore: you were the best Dad, a true gentleman, and a legend. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam. (This is the Gaelic equivalent to RIP. It translates to “At the right hand side of God my his soul be faithful”.)

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