How do you train in Quality Improvement?

By 27th August 2018Uncategorised

Question: How do you train a successful Olympic Trampolinist?

First, a Spoiler Alert: this blog doesn’t have the answer to this question. But it does tell you how you DON’T train a successful Olympian.  The coach doesn’t begin by showing the athlete a picture of a trampoline. Detailing all the various parts of the trampoline; the history of trampolining; describing in which ways  the body will change, where fitness will improve, what it feels like to execute various figures,  listing in technical terms the elements of  a gold medal winning routine. And the coach isn’t someone who has just read these things in a book, having never seen or bounced on a trampoline.  You can’t train an Olympic athlete by telling them about it and then expect them to get on a trampoline and complete a international level routine. It’s not something done en masse, 100’s of people in a couple of 3 hour lectures. They don’t train someone in 6 weeks, or even 6 months; there’s no gold medal moment first competition out. Oh yes, and it’s not a sport done in private, with no one watching…

How can we learn from sports coaching when training someone in QI? Starting a culture of QI in an organisation is hard work. It takes years to embed, not all the projects will be a success, not all the successes will be visible.  We are keen to ensure that all staff KNOW about QI, understand why it can impact quality, safety, cost effectiveness, how important a driver diagram and clear aim are, where to find your stakeholders, what a good measurement strategy looks like, …..and then off you go! Sorry? What’s that? You don’t have a trampoline? You need to see that move demonstrated again? You’ve decided to think about what it would be like to do an Olympic routine for a few years, and maybe sit together with a few friends an talk about what exactly you should call the mats around the edge of the trampoline bed, how far off the floor you’d like to trampoline to be. Maybe you’ve jumped up and down on the floor a couple of times, you’re not feeling it and so don’t bother trying again? 

Why not get practical: Let’s start with a trampette.  Have a quick bounce, tell ME what YOU think. It’s totally safe, no instruction needed, no technical names required.   Encourage someone to make little change, don’t even tell them its QI, don’t call it a project, perhaps (shock!) don’t even measure it.  The Mr Potato Head game is a great taster in a training session, but is there an example at home they can ‘play’ with, safely? Getting the toothpaste cap on the tube, turning lights off when a room is empty….

Remember that thinking about it changes nothing. Change happens where the work happens.  Can you develop a rolling programme of “soft” generic projects which take only a couple of weeks, minimal input, which can get them bouncing and feeling that QI is within their reach  – how to make sure equipment is plugged in, answering the phone with your name and role… and so on. Then reflecting: How did it feel? What did they learn? Keen to go again?  Sharing stories and reporting back with colleagues is key – remember, QI isn’t something you can keep secret – people need to know what happened, see the results good and bad.  The coaching and camaraderie to support a QI culture needs to be ongoing, not a one-off contact.

 Remember that thinking about change changes nothing

Next, show them a family trampoline – the one in the back garden, with a net for added security, and so they don’t fall off. Perhaps this would be QI project proper, with a plan, with an aim, and a little bit of measurement so they can prove to themselves it worked – and show others too, share the learning.  Is there an existing project they can observe, get involved with, talk to someone who’s finished a project.    A few sessions in the back garden, seeing what their mates or siblings can do, they’ll come to you me how to do that….

So 6 months in, we’re ready to look at the Olympic trampoline: 5 feet off the ground, no net, WAY more powerful than before.  They need to watch someone in full flow, see what they’re aiming at, what’s possible. So for this you DO need the proper stuff; the driver diagram, the basket of measures, some stakeholders ( your spotters round the edge, making sure you don’t go off centre).

But they’ll be ready for it, keen, eager to know how to make sure it goes well, maximise success, get their technique right. It might be scary to start with, but that feeling, a few minutes in when you get the confidence to bounce so high you think you’ll hit the ceiling – nothing like it. That first podium place is still a few months off, but they’re committed, keen to progress, move up a level each time. And so, eventually, you’ve got a QI champion who will go on to coach, teach, show to the next budding athlete.

Which of these two pictures reflects your QI engagement programme? In at Olympic level, or having fun with beginner kit. Tell, or show. Words or actions.   Watch me, or let me watch you.  There are no short cuts, it takes patience, time, guidance, and most of all, practice.