You’re Only As Good As Your Weakest Link

weakestlinkA while back I spent an evening at our local hospital emergency center with my mom. The experience reminded me of the old saying “You are only as good as your weakest link.”  And here’s why. . .

When I walked into the emergency center I was immediately accosted by a huge poster which promised excellent customer service.  I was anxious to see how they planned to deliver on that promise.  After a brief check-in we waited about ten minutes before being screened and were immediately shown to a room in the back.(Wow – I thought to myself.  I wonder if these folks are doing Lean or Six Sigma.) Within the next hour, the doctor stopped by, a knee x-ray was taken and a very nice lady came by to officially “log us in.”   Things slowed down a bit and we were advised that nothing was broken but that a steroid shot was needed and that it had been ordered from the pharmacy.  OK – so we waited. . . and waited . . . Hello – is anyone out there?

After more than an hour of waiting, I stepped up to the nurse’s desk to inquire about the status of the steroid shot.  They were very quick to tell me that it was the pharmacy’s fault, “they were the hold up.”  The pharmacy – in this case also known as the weakest link – had successfully turned this WOW experience into an OW experience.  After a total visit time of more than five hours, we were finally on our way home.

I often tell this story to remind folks that the customer doesn’t really care whose “fault” it is.  If you are part of the process then you are part of the process.  No matter how good you think your piece of the process performs, the customer feels the whole process and in the end – you are only as good as your weakest link.

In the case of our emergency room visit, although there were many parts of the process that worked smoothly, more work was needed to get the total process right. My suggestion for immediate action by the hospital would be to take down the customer service poster flaunting quick and excellent service. They wouldn’t want any of their patients to die laughing on their way out.