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I checked in at my doctor’s office this week, suited up with a mask, gloves and full body armor, when I heard the strangest noise nearby. It was a high pitched, screechy noise, complete with beeps and shrieks and rrrrs. The sound seemed so familiar; I had definitely heard it before.
I looked around trying to locate the source when, behind the plated glass covered with signs stating “Masks are Our Friends,” I caught the glimmer of a filmy, white paper being spewed out of an enormous gray box. The piece of paper coiled around itself like a snake as it continued to emerge magically from the box. When the process was over, the tube-like document fell gently to the ground with a feather-like thud, longing to be held.
I heard my name called as I awakened from my obsessed trance. I walked toward the nurse who looked familiar, though I couldn’t recognize her exactly because of her coronavirus protection and gear. As I approached the nurse my brain snapped back to that familiar sound. Could it be…what I just heard and saw… was it… a fax machine?
Of course, it was. Fax machines still exist. Outdated technology like the fax machine is having a huge impact on health care. And in the current environment, data from coronavirus results could be harmfully skewed if vital information is missed or overlooked as a result of a faxed document lying beneath a filing cabinet, not manually entered properly, or delayed in sending.
Why are fax machines still used with many businesses and in healthcare, especially now, when we need the most accurate and reliable resources to address the coronavirus pandemic? Before coronavirus, in 2017, Vox’s Sarah Kliff analyzed the situation by speaking to doctors and healthcare workers directly.
Kliff tells us that feedback from doctors say it has to do with routine; they’ve just become so used to faxing, it’s “just how it has always worked.” She said that some don’t really understand the email product and perceive that it’s harder to use. One doctor was quoted as saying, “It’s just clunky.” Many in business have this same attitude: “It’s just how it always has worked and we have no reason to change.”
So, what is your metaphoric fax machine?
After considering the coiled-up document at my doctor’s office, that surely still lingers on the floor or even has by now rolled under a cabinet, I asked myself what was our company’s current fax machine?
Ask yourself: What is going on in the company that is holding you back from improving on your business’s performance, from achieving greater success? If we don’t adapt to change, we die. In any organization, at some point, we are confronted with our own “fax machine.” The machine can be in the form of a process, a human not working to his/her full potential, or maybe it is an actual fax machine. Whatever ‘it’ is, the choice to recognize the fax machine it is about the attitude of your human being on your team who is afraid or unwilling to change.
It is our responsibility as leaders to be listening to the employee stating “Well, this is the way we have always done it” when a challenge or conflict arises. Voila- there is your fax machine. Leaders need to create an environment where people feel safe, to help employees want to elevate their performance in whatever role they play in the company- building an environment where people want to make changes for the better, not only for themselves but ultimately for the company as well.
We all have something- we all have fax machines. Our companies can perform better, our people can be happier, more productive, our processes can be tighter. What is the fax machine that is inhibiting your success that you can do something about today?
In our company, we use our own “Performance Check” process to ask ourselves the big, scary questions to find out what our fax machine is, and how to toss it out the window to replace it with a better way. This works every time- and there is always an answer. What is your old, grayed, blocking-the-coffee-pot, fax machine that you can toss and replace with something more efficient, positive and productive? What will it take for you to acknowledge it?
As Steven Covey said, “The bend in the road is only the end of the road if you fail to make the turn.” Make the turn, toss out the fax.