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Hank Q1-2017

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From the Desk of Henrietta: A Fresh Look at Problems

Henry J. Kaiser, Kaiser Permanente’s co-founder, famously told fellow industrialist Warren Bechtel, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”

If you work with unit-based teams—as a co-lead, consultant or sponsor—you might be rolling your eyes right now and thinking, “Well, if that’s true, I sure have a lot of ‘opportunities.’ Grrr!” 

When a team has problems, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to boldly improve service and quality for our health plan members. Especially if problems linger and fester, eroding trust and goodwill. These can depress morale and even endanger patients. 

Lucky for us, the leaders of Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions had the moral imagination more than two decades ago to envision a better way to solve problems. Together, they formed what would become our Labor Management Partnership.

As we celebrate our partnership’s 20th anniversary this year, we can look back and see how we have built the tools, structures and culture that support this alternative vision of how workers and employers can interact.

One of those tools is issue resolution. As you will see in the stories that follow, this process bypasses more traditional forms of problem solving in favor of going deeper to really uncover the source of the difficulty. By doing that, union members, managers and physicians not only can preserve their working relationships, but also make them stronger. This, in turn, fosters innovation and improvement. 

Now that sounds like a great opportunity.

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