Reflections on Consulting from the World of Medicine: The Importance of Team Work

In the previous blog post we met Greg, our heroic doctor, and Jeannie, our super cool management consultant. It was a busy Monday morning, Greg had just been saving lives and Jeannie had just hopped off her helicopter to deliver some killer advice to a large corporation in Canary Wharf. Let's cut to Wednesday and see where they're at…

The doors to Ward Four burst open and a torrent of people and activity burst through. Greg led his medical team to the far end of the ward while conversation and deliberation occurred at a breakneck pace. As he approached his first patient, Greg raised his hand and a sudden hush spread across the floor. As the team fell silent and all eyes turned to him. Greg cocked his head to one side and softly said, "So Mr. Jones, how are you feeling today?" After an exchange of a few sentences, Greg whipped his stethoscope from around his neck, plugged it into his ears and listened intently to Mr. Jones' heart. Just enough time passed for the team to jostle for position and get the best view of Greg at work. He stepped back and announced, "Mr. Jones, having listened to your heart, I'm afraid to tell you, you've got a Cardiac Fibrosarcoma." A voice of disbelief emerged from the back of the crowd and exclaimed, "Wow, isn't he wonderful?! That’s a one-in-a-million diagnosis."

Jeannie stepped out of the lift onto floor 76 of the glitzy high-rise building. Holding her iPad in one hand and her Flat White in the other, she sauntered over to the stone-faced PA outside the CEO's office. Jeannie announced her arrival to the gentleman "My name is Jeannie, and I’ve got a 9 o’clock." Instantly, the PA's face softened, a smile broke across his face and he rose from his seat to usher Jeannie into the next room. At the far end of the next room, a figure stood overlooking the buildings and streets below. The figure, unmistakably the CEO, exclaimed "Ahh, Jeannie, I've been waiting for you, tell me, what have you found?" Jeannie and the CEO sat down at the hand-crafted mango wood table and Jeannie snapped open her iPad cover. Her performance began. Half an hour of slick visuals, sharp insights, and clear recommendations flowed effortlessly from Jeannie. As the last slide appeared on screen, the CEO exclaimed: "Aren't you amazing; you're one-in-a-million!"

Greg and Jeannie have done it again! They're stars. One-person armies. The most valuable players…right?

Ok, let's snap back to reality. In the build-up to Greg's diagnosis (which by the way, is so incredibly rare, it would have taken a lot more than just a stethoscope to diagnose) his team would have seen the patient, ordered investigations, presented findings and offered differential diagnoses to Greg. Yes, Greg would have used his years of knowledge and experience to bring it all together, but it’s the collective effort of the team that made the diagnosis possible. Think of it like this: Greg is the 'front man' of his band, but without his drummer, lead guitarist, and bass player his music wouldn’t exist. Similarly for Jeannie, her slick presentation was not made alone. A team of dedicated individuals would have gathered information, analyzed it, created recommendations, and finally crafted it into an easy to digest set of pages. Just like Greg, Jeannie is the front woman of her band; she is not a solo artist.

The team is key.

The team in medicine is called the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). An MDT brings together all the relevant professionals involved in a patient’s care. An MDT meeting enables healthcare professionals to offer their thoughts and opinions on a patient’s care. All members of an MDT have an equal voice during discussion and at the end of an MDT meeting the team synthesizes all opinions and plans clear next steps in a patient's care. The collective experience and knowledge from all the people in the room enable the team to produce the very best management plan for a patient. We can take the principles from the MDT and give you some ideas for running your next meeting:

  • There's no such thing as a bad idea. Meeting attendees often get shot down for their ideas and this, in turn, discourages the whole team from contributing to a discussion. Good ideas need to grow organically. We require ‘bad’ ideas to emerge to allow ‘good’ ideas to form. If you’re leading a meeting, you need to encourage all ideas from all attendees. Perhaps even throw some curve ball suggestions yourself into the discussion to break the ice and reassure attendees to air any of their opinions.
  • Provide an equal voice. Foster a setting where the most junior or inexperienced member of the team feels empowered to speak up. Quite often it is someone with the least context and experience that can see a new perspective. A fresh perspective leads to a new way of seeing a problem which, in turn, can unlock a new way of thinking.
  • Empower different members of the team to lead. Experiment with different team members leading a group discussion. Senior team members are usually the default choice for leading a discussion but changing the lead shakes up a group dynamic and can help the creativity flow.

Wednesday is over and we’re halfway through the week. Let's keep a look out and see what Friday brings…