One of my favorite movies of all time is "The Bad News Bears." I'm talking about the old-school, 1976 version with Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal, not the pathetic 2005 remake. I'm sure you remember the story: A group of misfit youths and their washed-up, beer-swilling Little League coach try to prove that they've got what it takes to win the big game.
Realizing that the team lacks any real talent, Buttermaker (played hilariously by Matthau) recruits the daughter of a former girlfriend to become the ace pitcher. He also lures the town's best athlete and baseball player, the motorcycle-riding, chain-smoking Kelly Leak. Buttermaker encourages Leak to dominate games, even if it means showing up his teammates. In doing so, though, Leak totally alienates the rest of the team. No one wants to play with him, or for Buttermaker for that matter. They quit on him.
Finally, in the climactic scene, Leak realizes that he's part of something larger. He checks his ego at the door and begins to focus on the team. Buttermaker, too, recognizes the errors of his ways and encourages the rest of the kids, no matter how horrible they are, to get in the game and do their best. Sadly, they come up short in the big game and lose to the hated Yankees; but, in fact, it's the Bears who truly win in the end. They learn a valuable lesson about what it means to be and play as a team.
OK, so it's not every day that someone uses "The Bad News Bears" as a teaching moment, but there is a message in the movie — there's no "I" in "team."
Our cover story this month, along with articles about CMOs and the changing role of nurses, explore how the physician-centric model is giving way to a more collaborative approach. Clinicians are working together to determine the best course of treatment to achieve the most optimal outcomes for patients.
Thirty years ago, the aviation industry was undergoing a similar transformation. In an effort to reduce the number of accidents, it turned to crew resource management as a means not just to reduce errors, but also to foster an environment of teamwork.
"The similarities are pretty striking," says aviation veteran Stephen Harden. "For years and years, we taught pilots that they were the only persons who could right the ship and save it from total disaster."
As crew resource management took hold, though, the industry came to understand that, yes, pilots need to master the craft of flying, but that the craft was rarely practiced solo. "So, we transitioned from master craftsman to master teammate," says Harden, a pilot for FedEx, where he instituted crew resource management in the 1990s. He's also CEO of LifeWings Partners, an organization that works with health care groups to implement the technique.
Harden contends that health care so far has failed to learn one big lesson from the history of CRM: It's not a quick fix, it's building process. The aviation industry has been at it for decades and continues to refine and refresh its approach. Most importantly, he says, CRM won't fully take hold until it becomes part of the culture. He notes that aviation schools can't get FAA approval unless they teach CRM. All airlines screen prospective pilots for these team-based skills.
"CRM needs to be built into the fabric of what you do," Harden says.
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