Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Best Practice ABC's for Customer Service Branding

One of the biggest areas for a successful #brandPT generation is utilizing our compassion, our empathy, our sincerity, and the quality time we spend with our consumers as key brand identifiers. Being that we are technically part of a service industry, it is keenly important to develop best practices for customer service and customer experience. So very often, it is the service experience that develops brand equity and market value which necessary for closing the brand perception gap - the difference between what a firm identifies themselves to be versus what the market imagines that firm to be.

So! Without further ado, please enjoy this short post on my personal approach to Best Practice ABC's for Customer Service at my Physiospot Opinion Column!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A #BrandPT Challenge!

For the last few months, much discussion has been devoted to the branding of the physical therapist's service identity. With Vision 2020's due date drawing close, and, with yet another vision statement issued by the APTA's House... I felt it was high time for a grassroots, social media movement.

I'd like to propose an organized #BrandPTchallenge! ... A weekly challenge to be precise. Personally, I see physical therapy practice to encompass four key elements: movement, health, pain, performance. Sure, there may be subspecialized segments that may appear to be outside of these four descriptors, however, I think the general consumer can appreciate these four to keenly represent who we are and how we can serve them.

And so, without further ado, let me issue my challenge! The weekly #BrandPT challenge is to utilize any and all of your social media outlets to link #movement, #health, #pain, and #performance with #physicaltherapist. Additionally, you are to discuss (in person) the content of this challenge with one allied healthcare professional who is NOT a physical therapist.

"Living with #backpain? A #physicaltherapist can provide manual therapy and corrective exercise to reduce #pain & improve your daily #movement."

"Need help with a #sportsinjury? See a #physicaltherapist for rehab and regain your #performance!"

(In person): "Hello Jane! How has your neck been feeling? I remember you complained about some pain last week...." etc etc etc.

However, it isn't THAT simple. I wrote in a guest blog post via WebPT: Four Critical Rebranding Concepts that branding need to be systematic and repetitive. If we all ran out there and started to hit up any of the four key concepts without a concerted front, the grassroots movement via social media would quickly lose momentum. This challenge requires longevity, consistency, and organization.

So the challenge will be to utilize the #brandPT hashtag on (but not limited to) the big three: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Every Sunday, reach out to the PT community using the #brandPTchallenge hashtag & propose an area of expertise; say spine/back, ankle, shoulder, dizziness, balance, pain, hospitalization, joint replacement, etc. I'll more-or-less "randomly" select the area and challenge you to tweet, share, and post about. Link your thoughts with #brandPT, one of the four key elements, and #physicaltherapist. The real challenge is to do this once a day, every day of the week!

Every Sunday, we'll all shout out another segment/area of expertise... say #strengthandconditioning which I'll continue to select and roll through the submissions. As you all know, I'm mostly a Twitter kind-of-guy - so - this will require for me to grow and expand my reach further into FB & G+ (a good thing!)

The secondary challenge is to look into those areas of expertise; many social media users hashtag things like #arthritis and #jointreplacement or #totalkneereplacement because they are or are about to experience some health/life event. It is wise for us to survey the market and see what people are interested in such that we can build awareness of our availability to serve them.

So, once again, we'll identify the topic of the weekly #brandPTchallenge using the aforementioned hashtag. Shout out your suggestion & I'll announce with something like:

"This week's #brandPTchallenge is: #fallprevention."

For sake of consistency, let's use #brandPTchallenge as the hashtag to discuss the organizational aspect of the challenge; we'll save #brandPT for the external marketing efforts.


Martial Arts Musings

This post is prompted from the many hours that my hero wife was in labor which allowed me to read Sun Tzu's Art of War and Musashi's Book of Five Rings - two very noted texts of literature known for its applicability in military science, business, and politics. THIS - I will surely blog on in the future. 

So a part of me that I've recently shared is my enthusiastic interest in learning martial arts. I've dabbled, studied, learned, gleaned, tried-out, tested, and journeyed in martial arts since I was about 8 or 9 years old. Why? Not for the best reasons. It was because I was getting bullied - a LOT.

Now, I know this is hot topics in the current sociopolitical climate - let me just say that while getting bullied really REALLY sucked, the experience made me for the stronger. Paired with the study of martial arts, I learned how to have an accurate view of myself, a good sense of what real confidence is supposed to look like, and, when things get violent (ie. I get cornered or surrounded) - how to best make my way back to safety.

Let me also say that - sure - I started martial arts at a young age; I am by NO MEANS ... a master of ANY sort. I am a student. An enthusiast. A life long learner regarding the disciplining and optimizing of the human body's functional performance. Moving on...

For a while, however, I dropped out of martial arts. I found my refuge in surfing because some certain life events (surfing actually has many similarities in terms of martial arts lessons and philosophies). Surfing was great. I lived for those perfect northwest ground swells for the local San Diego reef spots. Amazing. In any case, for over seven years, my training completely ceased and my skills deteriorated with it. However, fate has it that I've come back to martial arts at a new level of awareness, analysis, learning, and execution. I have also found that there are certain parallels in how I've traveled through systems of martial arts to find my current destination (and home) much in the same way I've found a destination in the concept of how I apply myself clinically.

Since my young age, I've come across the paths of Southern Chinese blend kung fu - a mixture of what is best described as Shaolin, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. I eventually sought confidence in the hard hitting styles of Western Boxing, Kick Boxing, and Muay Thai. I found interest in wrestling and eventually (like most) in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I found some formal training in Wing Chun and also found a fascination with Combat Shuai Chiao (Shuai Jiao) - best translated as Chinese combat wrestling/judo (much of which, historically, the United States Marine Corp has adopted into their martial arts repertoire). Through all those learning experiences, I enjoyed the positional strength and adaptability of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Also, I simply loved the explosivity and pure dominance of Combat Shuai Chiao (CSC). Studying Wing Ching (WC) taught me line of attack (and defense), trapping techniques, and a general philosophy (for which I now can more deeply appreciate) the evolutions of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (JKD).

After all these collections of martial arts experiences, I realized that in my younger years, I had less purpose to my study and more passion. While passion is important, misguided passion is much like unharnessed energy. Energy can build and energy can destroy - I was unfocused and constantly defeated myself in my poor application of training.

Also, during those experiences, I was drawn to study the systems which were attractive to me. I was not necessarily dedicated to the arts that were functional - merely attractive to me at the moment in time of youth.

In any case, my journey now has landed me at the Rebellion Academy in San Diego - studying under Professor Jeff Baldwin.

At this academy, three very well respected combat systems are taught:
  • Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (JKD)
    • Bruce Lee → Dan Inosanto → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
    • Mitsuyo Maeda → Carlos Gracie → Reylson Gracie → Joe Moreira → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin
  • Filipino Martial Arts (FMA, aka Kali; Eskrima/Escrima; Arnis)
    • Guro Dan Inosanto → Roy Harris → Jeff Baldwin 
It is the content at this academy and the way it is instructed that has found harmony with my maturing martial arts philosophy. After years of contemplation and self-inflicted-floundary, I've realized in corroboration with the writings of Sun Tzu and Musashi that in martial arts, there exists a science which considers physiology, physics, and psychology.

I have found, for myself, that all martial arts have merit so long as they fulfill three criteria/principles:
  • The system must be biomechanically sound (it must make sense)
  • The art must employ and value efficiency of movement (it really cannot be "flashy")
  • The training must yield situationally adaptable skill sets (it needs to work in the vast majority of possibilities, environments, and scenarios)
JKD is seen by many as the next evolution of WC and the first real mixed martial art (MMA). BJJ is nothing if not biomechanically focused. It also is one of the best training platforms to hone a system which is adaptable to practically all situations/scenarios/positions - since BJJ is basically bringing joints, connective tissue, and circulatory tissue to terminal stress, this is actually an art which I feel that all physical therapists would benefit learning from! And, finally, FMA starts with training with rattan sticks (eskrima); "The Stick trains the Sword, The Sword trains the Knife, The Knife trains the Empty Hand." - Guro Dan Inosanto.

FMA, as it stands, is a blend - taking the best of all the worlds it has learned from and tossing the useless/redundant/flashy. It is typically an art that considers melee weaponry by which anyone at anytime could hold something in their hands and use to defend themselves - a pen, the corner of your mobile phone, a newspaper, a hardback book, a pronounced key, a cane or crutch... the list goes on.

The teachings at this school are disciplined, systematic, and constructive - three elements one really values at a martial arts academy. There is no pride at this school; no one is out to prove something. The members of this academy are decent and kind - willing to share their experiences and help you strengthen your weakness. This, of course, represents good instruction and leadership from the academy professor.

In another vein of thought, I've also found that much of life unfolds in the same manner as to the three principles above. Why study or employ things that do not make sense? Why get involved in systems that are not effective? That are a waste of time and effort due to redundancy or being complete bunk? Why identify with an approach that works only in small window of confidence for which only a small and select set variations are made possible?

I see these three principles are a great set of tuning forks for clinical approach. Say you come across some new clinical method for dealing with foot pain. Does this approach make sense? (ie. is it evidence based?) Is it efficient? (ie. let us make sure this isn't over complicated) And, does it work for the vast majority of foot pain out there?

Food for thought. Again, I'm not a master by any means. But, I would humbly suggest that I've seen and learned enough to make solid judgments in this regard. This musing of martial arts blog series is something very exciting to me - it's exciting to be back in training and its exciting to share about this very important part of my life.

Yours Humbly,
-Ben Fung

Friday, July 26, 2013

5 Ways to Manage Up for Best Practice

Being new to the rehab director position, I felt that this topic would be particularly interesting and useful for #DPTStudents and those looking into understanding the clinical manager's perspective. While this post circulates upon managing up the clinical practice, the principles can certainly be utilized for any type of business model. Also, these 5 ways are simply ways I've found useful when I've needed to manage up - AND - these are way I personally like being managed up. Enjoy!

5 Ways to Manage Up for Best Practice

1. Respect the Office
Respecting the chain of command is an essential part of managing up - in fact, without this, there is no managing up. Everyone knows what it means to be, think, speak, and act (passively/actively) insubordinate. Management does not welcome this. No matter how passive aggressive, sneaky, or subtle - we get it - we know what you're up to - we're not dumb! What is sad is this: as management, I'm not out to "get you"; I am trying to protect your job. The disrespect of the office only threatened staff job security. In this vein, so often managerial positions are seen as this adversarial anti-floor/frontline-worker. That's REALLY not what management is about. Management is (minimally) about a big picture, operational standpoint of how to maintain a business model so that it will continue to run for the next day, week, month, quarter, year, decade, etc. In the end, this is precisely what we're concerned about. So! You don't have to like me; but, I do ask you respect the office for which I serve.

2. Know the Business & Be Proactive
If you need equipment, continuing education, have marketing needs, etc. - I am all ears! The condition is that you understand how your requests affect business and that you are proactive about it. Asking for an *insert terribly expensive amount of money costing* machine for *insert non-evidenced-based benefit here* is a great way to turn me off to the request. Again, my job is to protect your job. Many times, it means I'm not going to be terribly popular. Other times, I means I'm Santa Claus. Regardless, I most deeply appreciate when my staff keep the business in mind - are aware of how their requests, decision, and actions will affect the operational and financial facets of the clinic. Additionally, I as most appreciative when they are proactive in their steps to save money, make more money, nip problems in the bud, etc. Seeing a train about crash without helping the engineering pull the brakes is just as bad as someone causing it themselves. Be proactive!

3. Complain WITH Solutions
Complaints are ALWAYS welcome WITH SOLUTIONS! Nothing is more annoying to management than a laundry list of complaints, needs, wishes, etc. with no viable way of achieving the resolution points. If you are to complain, be sure you bring to the table viable action steps to reach the goal. Repeated complaints without any participation on a staff member's part to fix the issue is a red flag for which management starts to wonder what/who the root problem really is. Oh, and one more thing: not to be rude, but, what's the bottom line? I don't have all day... really. If you, as my staff, are able to punch out 1, 2, 3 and the suggested solution - I will be far more agreeable to any future approaches.

4. I'm no longer clinical... I trust you!
Most managements staff become less clinical the higher up you get on the command tree. To be honest, we rely on you, as the front line clinicians to be up-to-date, with the times, and heavily evidenced based for excellent outcomes. In fact, we expect it. When you approach us with ideas, suggestions, requests, etc. - we trust you've done your due diligence in properly researching the literature behind it. We trust you. The best thing to do is to print out a few abstracts or email some links with a short paragraph description on how the literature supports your idea for a clinical approach. Sold!

Caveat - DON'T BLOW THE TRUST! If every I discover you're blowing smoke, abusing my trust, and are up to something, you'll never regain that trust again. In fact, it'll probably place you in the hot seat - for not just myself as your director, you'll probably be seen quite unfavorable by the entire rehab team.

5. Remind me again?
Management staff typically has a thousand and one tiny little things to attend to... All. The. Time. It's actually quite annoying, but hey, we signed up for it! Be very welcome to remind me as often as you'd like; emails, sticky notes, text messages, etc. are all tremendously appreciated. If you do wish to discuss something face to face, make sure you spend that time wisely. Again, its kind of back to #3 - "I don't have all day." Be clear. Be concise. Be convincing. And, I will continue to listen, every single time! In fact, I'll probably start seeking you out for your thoughts & input on a great many topics! HOWEVER... Start to ramble. Start to waver. Start to make no sense.... yeah, you are totally going to lose your audience. Writing is always the best because it is trackable - especially via email. Also, many managers utilize their work emails as a secondary calendar/reminder tool; these types of reminders is a great help to the department. Every good manager will appreciate this method of managing up.

Managing up is a delicate art, a must have in professional relationship dynamics, and a critical part of making clinical practice the best it can be. Clinical managers are responsible for making sure that the departmental operations are firing on all cylinders and to support best practice. Typically, it is up to the clinical educators/specialists to bring forth, promote, train, and reinforce best practice. Regardless of how you feel about your manager (because, you know, there is ALWAYS someone above you), knowing how to respectfully interact and do business above & below the chain of command is critical in developing a strong & cohesive team dynamic. This is also essential in you keeping your job secure and your upward mobility options wide open.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Optimal Support Systems: Organizational Infrastructure

A building is only a firm as its foundation.

This post is strictly a business model post regarding best practice for any organizational infrastructure. I find that the content of this post is quite helpful for the #DPTStudent and anyone looking to change organizations.

To begin this post, we must understand that with all organizations, there exists a chain of command responsible for the financial and workplace well being of the employee body. Additionally, in this chain of command, a lattice of bureaucracy exists so that the top of the chain can do what they do best; make decisions. This function serves to benefit the organization up and down the chain of command. Some chain's of command are very long, lengthy, and remarkably tall - typically these organizations hold amazing amounts of redundant bureaucratic functions. Other chains of command are really quite blunt; these are the ones that run on the proverbial "bare skin and bones" with practically no support systems. However, neither extremes upon this continuum is ideal for optimal productivity. For the optimal results, one should seek the classical lesson from economics in supply and demand.

Without getting into splitting headache mathematics, the best balance between the management chain, support systems, and the floor staff (operators) is a combination of supply & demand with considerations to profit maximization (which we won't really get too much into). Essentially, even within the internal functions of the organization, staff will naturally grumble when there are too many support staff or an insufficient number of them. In both cases, you'll notice this from the consumer side in the following fashion:

Welcome Sir/Madam! Start on this hideous line. Now: Go to window 5, then line C, then window 2, see area K... oh, don't lose your place because you'll have to start alllllll over. If you're lucky, this will be a 2 hour visit - if not, you'll be here with us allllll day!

Or, you may get this:

Welcome Sir/Madam! Please wait for a couple hours in this single line!

Any of that sound familiar? Yeah. Lame stuff. This is a CLASSIC symptom of organizations that function with too much or too little support. What is most costly is when an organization functions with far more supply than demand of the support systems required. On the flip side, what may seem like a cost saving measure in hacking & slashing support systems will actually rob an organization of profits. Why? Same economic law prevails: now there is more demand for support system than has been supplied.

The question inevitably will surface: how does an organization make for an equilibrium state? This is where I punt to profit maximization principles of Microeconomics. In essence, if an organization reaches the point when their marginal revenue equals their marginal cost - they are indeed at the point of profit maximization.

In any case, since I'm really more of the operations & marketing guy (and thus, I leave the more number crunching events to the interested experts), the key behind this concept of organizational infrastructure has more meaning to me in terms of business administration, strategies, and solutions.

Organizations that have too much infrastructure tend to be sluggishly redundant, wasteful, and yield appallingly poor customer service. Organizations which too little infrastructure tend to ask too much of their middle management and floor operators (as pressured by the board of directors and c-level executives); this yields a weakening of the lattice which ultimately will result into burnout and collapse.

From an ideological standpoint, I'm a conceptual minimalist - why use five strokes when three will do (and do better!)? In terms of rendering optimal support systems for any organization, simply check on these following and very easy to track measures:
  • Staff overtime (or lack thereof): This is probably the FIRST indication that an organization really needs to hire on some support staff or invest in support systems (ie. computers, company cell phones, etc.). Employees/staff how are stretched out far too thin will be habitually going into overtime. Most staff aren't there to sap company hours/pay, those that do don't last very long. So! When one sees habitual over time - or worse - employees constantly working off the clock to get stuff done, it is time to hire on and develop support systems. By doing so, the well being of the organization will be lifted and the profit margins will also improve. The opposite of this is true: when one observes an organization constantly sending people home early, then too much infrastructure exists and people are beginning to crowd out each other's productivity & function.
  • Middle management stress levels (or lack thereof): Middle management is a rather shoddy deal. Most floor staff/operators see this as the next level up. It is - but - it comes with a whole 'nother can of worms. Middle management and operational management serves as quite the literal ping-pong-ball; the middle man between floor staff and upper management. There is no true power nor control over anything except the day to day operations at this level. They are held to pressures in staff satisfaction as well as sufficient performance measures which are reviewed (typically) weekly by their superiors. When the stress levels at this rung of the organization seems in the order of "stressed out of their minds", the organization NEEDS to strengthen their support systems. The opposite is true, if the middle managers and operational managers are simply chill and constantly leave early or show up late - they need more work to do and/or they need to move on.
  • Turnover rate (or lack thereof): Haha! This one always makes me chuckle. If you see people leaving a firm and running for the hills every couple a months, you should beat them there! This type of organization has virtually no support systems and you are witnessing the seasonal tidal exodus of people who have been overworked, underappreciated, and/or thrown under the bus in the name of "underperformance" or being a "poor fit for the team." The opposite is also true, when you have a company that has retained the exact same people in the exact same positions for YEARS and you're considering joining the ranks... I have one word for you my friend: "RUN!" This is a classic sign of a stagnant organization. I always wonder on what the upper management thinks upon such situations. The same people have been supervisors for 10-15... maybe 20 years? Hmm... Shouldn't every organization promote growth, development, and upward mobility? Isn't this what makes organizations grow into social significance? Into something that really helps our present and future? Now given, certain people do certain things with true excellence and there is no point to remove them from these positions. Nevertheless, this shouldn't and realistically cannot be a universal trend for an entire organization.
Now, I listed the above three factors, or, lack thereof in that specific fashion because most organizations are starved for support systems. It is a rare occasion that organizations have too much support; in these cases, you can bet there exists some rather angry board members not to mention stockholders if not now... VERY soon.

If you are in business management, I hope you find this information useful in your own practice. If you are looking for work or are looking to manage up or move up, I hope you find this information empowering in best positioning yourself to effect positive change.

Until next time!
-Dr. Ben Fung

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Need Experience To Get Experience? An Oxymoronic Reality For New Grads.


I invite you to read my new opinion post on Physiospot: Need Experience To Get Experience? An Oxymoronic Reality For New Grads.

It will be a challenging and perhaps stinging read. You may or may not agree with me. But, hey! It's an opinion column after all ;)