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I checked into my doctor's office this week, wearing a mask, gloves, and full body armor when I heard the strangest noise nearby. It was a high-pitched, screeching noise with beeps, screams, and rrrrs. The sound was so familiar to me; I had definitely heard it before.
Looking around, trying to find the source, behind the sign-covered glass that said "Masks are our friends," I saw the glimmer of cinematic white paper spat out of a huge gray box. The piece of paper wrapped itself around itself like a snake as it magically emerged from the box. When the process was over, the tubular document fell gently to the floor with a feather-like bang, longing to be held.
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I heard my name calling as I awoke from my possessed trance. I walked up to the nurse who looked familiar to me, although I couldn't see her clearly due to her coronavirus protection and equipment. As I approached the nurse, my brain returned to that familiar sound. Could it be … what I just heard and seen … was it … a fax machine?
Of course it was. Fax machines are still there. Outdated technologies like the fax machine have a huge impact on healthcare. In the current environment, data from coronavirus results can be detrimentally skewed if critical information is missed, or overlooked due to a faxed document lying under a filing cabinet, or being delayed in sending.
Why are fax machines still used in many businesses and healthcare, especially now that we need the most accurate and reliable resources to help fight the coronavirus pandemic? Before the coronavirus, Sarah Kliff from Vox analyzed the situation in 2017 by speaking directly to doctors and health care workers.
Kliff tells us that feedback from doctors says it was routine. They are so used to faxing that it “worked the way it always worked”. She said that some don't really understand the email product and realize that it is more difficult to use. One doctor was quoted as saying, "It's just clunky." Many companies have the same attitude: "This is how it always worked and we have no reason to change."
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What is your metaphorical fax machine?
After looking at the rolled up document in my doctor's office, which is probably still on the floor or has even rolled under a cupboard, I wondered what our company's current fax machine was.
Ask yourself: what is going on in the company that is holding you back from improving your organization's performance and achieving greater success? If we don't adapt to change, we die. At some point in every organization we are confronted with our own “fax machine”. The machine may be in the form of a process, a human may not be used to its full potential, or it may be an actual fax machine. Whatever it is, the decision to detect the fax machine is about the attitude of the person on your team who is afraid or unwilling to change.
It is our responsibility as managers to listen to the employee who says, “Well, this is how we have always done it” when a challenge or conflict arises. Voila – there is your fax machine. Managers need to create an environment in which people feel safe so that employees can improve their performance in every role they play in the company. You need to create an environment in which people want to make changes for the better not just for themselves but ultimately for the company as well.
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We all have something – we all have fax machines. Our companies can perform better, our employees can be happier and more productive, our processes can be more streamlined. What is the fax machine that is holding back your success and that you can do something about today?
At our company, we use our own "Performance Check" process to ask ourselves the big, scary questions of figuring out what our fax machine is and how we can toss it out the window to better replace it. This works every time – and there is always an answer. What's your old, gray fax machine that is blocking the coffee pot that you can toss and replace with something more efficient, positive, and productive? What do you need to acknowledge it?
As Steven Covey said, "The curve in the road is only the end of the road if you don't make the curve." Make the turn, eject the fax.