Process Matters: Turning Observations Into Action Steps

Written by:  Tracy Dunn

Observing Process

Have you ever watched someone doing something or better yet struggling with a task and thought to yourself, “why don’t they just…?”

I started going to a chiropractor this past year. The difficult thing for me is taking the time to schedule and go to appointments multiple times per week.  I like to observe people and observing people at the chiropractor’s office is no exception. I find it interesting to hear other’s tales of how they landed at the chiropractor- a fall, an accident, a temporary lapse in judgment doing something they knew was not going to turn out well. I also like observing the caregivers. I watch people check in and out at the front desk, sit in the waiting room and the chiropractors who care for everyone. The chiropractor in this scenario is a bit like a ringmaster at the circus.   In this area, we have two people in traction, in the center ring we have manual adjustments happening and over here we have education and exercises going on. Funny thought, right?

The chiropractors and front desk staff run a pretty tight ship. It is essential. While quality of care is certainly their primary goal, volume is how they make money. The appointments need to run smoothly and efficiently to effectively treat large numbers of patients in a day.

Back to my story. I was seeing the chiropractor multiple times per week and it was exhausting.  I kept going though because I was experiencing positive results. However, I saw the efficient, well-oiled machine break down when it came to me needing to schedule an appointment on a Saturday. Dreaded Saturdays when there was only one chiropractor and no one manning the front desk-chaos. At that point, lack of staff turned into longer wait times. The eloquent ringmaster-chiropractor literally did circles around himself, keeping track of who was where and what he was doing became quite challenging.

On Saturdays, I observed their efficient Monday – Friday system break down. When tasks are appointed and each team member does their part- efficiency is the result. Throw all those tasks to one person on the weekend and you might as well start the circus music! It just doesn’t work. That is why we stress the importance of communication and teamwork. It takes a plan and people to carry it out.

Improving Process

One day, as I watched my chiropractor pirouette around the office I said, “You know you need a process for Saturdays and I think I can help.” Nervously and a bit embarrassed, he looked at me knowing I was right. Frustrated, he replied “tell me, I need all the help I can get.”

It came down to preparation on Fridays. Patient files were pulled in order of their appointments and readied for the chiropractor. This allowed the chiropractor to stay in the exam area and not run back and forth to the front desk. It allowed more time to focus on the notes he needed to write for each patient. Lastly, I suggested when the front desk scheduled someone for Saturday that they also scheduled the next appointment at that time. This allowed more time to focus on the patient and smoothly get patients in and out.

Not long after implementing these changes, the chiropractor pulled me aside and said, “Hey, you know we used your ideas and it is working out for us!” I smiled and replied, “I know! I can tell because the circus has left town.”

Take Away

Why am I sharing this story?  I truly believe that as employers, we need to take time to evaluate our own processes. What is working? What is not? How can we streamline or utilize people more efficiently? Simple moments of pause and observation can greatly affect what and how we do our day to day work.  So in short, PROCESS MATTERS.  


Tracy Dunn is a Project Facilitator for Snow Consulting and has extensive experience working in the medical community with a special focus on sleep medicine, respiratory care, service coordination and compliance.  Ms. Dunn has experience in hospital clinical, off sight and in home care management and is known for her industry and product knowledge, business development and tenacity in providing outstanding service for the patients directly or indirectly under her care and supervision.  Ms. Dunn also works in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, NE.