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by Yaneer Bar-Yam
Step II: Empower Workgroup Competition

How does a system empower the people who work together, and who can take on such responsibilities—and not tell them what to do? Through workgroup competition. Fostering workgroup competition means first identifying and solidifying groups that can be responsible for outcomes.

Nurses at a nursing station responsible for the care of patients in a specific part of the hospital could be a workgroup, taking responsibility for improvement in areas like infection rates and patient satisfaction.

In many hospitals, nurses, technicians, and an anesthesiologist are assigned to a surgery based on who happens to be available. In some, however, each surgeon has his or her own team of nurses and techs, and an anesthesiologist with whom he or she works. This team-based approach allows workgroup members to get to know each others’ styles and to work smoothly together. A team approach also allows them to improve their outcomes as a group.

One emergency room, in the Washington Hospital Center of Washington, DC, takes just such a team approach, dividing the emergency room staff into teams who care for a patient from entry to release or admission to the hospital.

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