You know, sometimes you just can't win. You try something for the best of all reasons, and it just blows up in your face. Or, in this case, it rips up right in your hands. A sign of good management is when you realize a mistake and correct it quickly. (Yes, our folks are available to advise the Bush administration!)
Here's the story.
A hospital is like a small city. Thousands of people live and work in close proximity and engage in a full range of activities and, yes, bodily functions. BIDMC's facilities people are terrific, always looking for ways to enhance our basic services to improve safety, reduce costs, and have less impact on the environment. Here was their first message a few weeks ago:
On Monday, we will launch a program to replace our paper towel dispensers with new battery-powered, "hands free" dispensers. These new dispensers reduce the chance of cross contamination and thus facilitate improved infection control. We also expect them to save money (since the amount of towel dispensed is set at a pre-measured length and minimize instances when users pull more paper towels than needed.)
Good stuff, right? Wrong. The complaints started piling in. It appears that the new paper towels were too flimsy and would disintegrate in people's hands. You might think that the CEO would not hear about this issue, but I actually received as many email complaints about this item as I have about anything in the last five years. Maybe it is because I have been strongly encouraging people to wash their hands. (See "Clean Hands" posting below, on November 1.) Maybe because holding a damp, torn piece of paper is a really unpleasant experience for people.
Here is today's message from our facilities team:
As you may recall, last month we e-mailed you about the plan to convert the campus paper towel dispensers to a hands-free model, designed to improve infection control and potentially reduce waste of paper towels. Along with the change in dispenser (and thus vendor) was a change in the paper towel itself (to one made from recycled materials in our effort to be more environmentally responsible and that was offered with the new dispensers at a cost savings). These new paper towels were put in the new dispensers but also started to be used throughout the campus.
Clearly, this change in paper towel was not a positive one as it was not strong enough to meet our needs. We tried another one which also did not meet our needs, although did slightly better in the hands-free dispenser. Our apologies for the problems and frustrations this has caused.
We have come to an arrangement to revert back to the strength and quality of our previous paper towel choice while maintaining the option to use hands-free dispensers. We will be converting ALL areas back to the stronger paper towel this week.
I say, good for our facilities people to be creative with new approaches, and good for others to let us know when something doesn't work. I will only start to worry about our place when (1) people stop trying to make improvements and (2) when people stop complaining. Fortunately, neither is in the cards!