NtC Video Podcasts November 13, 2023

NtC 27: Working Groups vs. Skunk Works

by Barry P Chaiken, MD
From Navigating the Code: How Revolutionary Technology Transforms the Patient-Physician Journey

In NtC 23, I explained the concept of skunk works, which grew out of work that started during World War II at Lockheed during the development of the first fighter jets. Skunk works teams are small, with reporting structures trimmed to the barest minimum, assuring a tight, rigorous focus on objectives and results.

In contrast, a working group provides oversight and is usually appointed for an extended period to analyze many organizational factors and make recommendations for overarching organizational improvement. Its job is not to fix a specific problem but to assess processes: what works, what does not, and how to realign those processes. Given its intent, working groups are composed of carefully chosen individuals who have demonstrated their intelligence and commitment to improving the organization over time.

Meeting members are often from divergent work areas in the organization to bring varying perspectives to the issues under discussion. In some cases, or at some time, a working group may split up into small groups to study different facets of a given problem. An added benefit accrues when individuals are multi-disciplinary and cross-trained, which generates a more profound, broader understanding. Everything occurring in a working group stays in the working group: no single outside arbiter makes the final decision.

Healthcare organizations often create large, bureaucratic committees when those decision-making tasks are often more apropos to a skunk work tactical solution. Working groups would be the most appropriate venue for solving problems that impact many departments or the entire organization.

I look forward to your thoughts, so please submit your comments in this post and subscribe to my weekly newsletter, “What’s Your Take?” on DocsNetwork.com.

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