By Dana Jacoby

The science of effective teams is well understood and extensively documented. However, we rarely hear about the impact of specific team configurations on primary care team effectiveness. Any practice that is subject to constant personnel changes (perhaps as a result of clumsy implementation) will struggle to deliver continuous, well-coordinated care.

Departments must function as a cooperative whole, not in silos. Practices must also consider work-life balance if they are serious about tackling the threat of employee burnout and waste. As modern practice leaders come to appreciate this reality, they are starting to recognize the usefulness of performance management systems.

Vertical Alignment

The Society for Human Resources Management regards a carefully formulated and legally compliant performance management system as “an essential talent management tool for high-performing organizations.” Performance management is focused on harmonizing care team behavior with organizational objectives.

Alignment is critical as job responsibilities become clearer and more closely tied to outcomes that the practice is seeking to achieve. In this case, the drive towards a more fully integrated approach is considered a form of vertical alignment, with goal setting to inform each carer’s personal plan for driving the organization to its intended destination.

Many organizations fail in this type of vertical alignment, leaving staff bewildered as to what is expected of them. This, in turn, results in a lack of engagement and a consequent deterioration in results. After all, if you instruct someone to proceed toward a destination but provide no guideposts, it’s hardly surprising that they may become disoriented.

Finding Common Causes Across Multiple Teams and Departments

When employees build their own roadmaps, they accidentally breach boundaries and misunderstandings arise. That’s why practice managers also have an interest in making sure their organizational goals are aligned horizontally — ensuring consistency, generating momentum, and reducing the likelihood of disagreements between departments.

A patient aligned care team can boost organizational performance by making sure that it’s not inadvertently working against the efforts of other departments. For example, if the ICU and respiratory departments both have goals focused on ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), then they are in a good position to work together for a common cause.

With consistent drug vocabularies, clinical recommendations, and unified pricing data, team members are better equipped to adhere to best practices.

Regular Feedback and Outcomes Reporting

A clear performance management system has been shown to inspire higher employee engagement, improved patient satisfaction, reduced turnover, less variation in care, and positive financial outcomes. Research indicates that practices that implement feedback throughout the year have 15% lower turnover than those that don’t.

Organizations perform at their best when all the component parts are working in harmony. Strategic alignment starts at the top and can involve daily management, which introduces coaching and accountability into day-to-day work, and cross-functional management, which oversees collaboration between departments.

Together, vertical and horizontal goal alignment ensure that each employee, team, and department stay fixed on the correct course.