Observation Deck: Yes, and

Recently we went to Second City, a comedy club here in Chicago. One of its strengths is improvisation. In fact, most of the revues that end up on the main stage were born of improvisation.

In the lobby, I noticed, among the T-shirts for sale, one that said “Yes, and.” That’s all it said, and I wondered what it meant. Later I found out.

It turns out that improvisation – as wild and unplanned as it is – has some rules. One of the most basic rules is, you must respect the other person’s reality. Someone who works at Second City gave us this example.

Person A says to Person B, “The kids are driving me crazy.” Person B CANNOT then say, “Kids? What kids? We don’t have any kids.” If that occurs, the improv session quickly deteriorates. Instead, Person B has to go with it, and build upon what Person A just said.

That’s where “Yes, and” comes from. You have to accept what the other person says, and build from there.

In a way, respecting the other person’s reality is one of the most basic lessons of life, business and, yes, healthcare supply chain management. How many arguments do we get into with those we love because we fail to listen to their point of view, or we reject it outright? Same thing goes for our business relationships.

For business and supply chain management, “respecting the other person’s reality” is a little like adhering to “the customer is always right” strategy. What JHC reader hasn’t encountered a stubborn, even ornery, internal customer? It could be a nurse, a doctor, a department head, an administrator. It’s pointless to get into an argument with them. Like the improv session, things deteriorate quickly that way.

I’m reminded of someone in medical sales who lived by the philosophy, “Never say ‘no’ to a customer.” That doesn’t mean you have to accede to every request made. But it means you never shut down the other person; you accept what they’re saying, and offer what you can. It seems like a successful sales technique…and one that a customer-service-minded supply chain department can use as well.

“Yes, and” is a winning strategy. Not always easy to execute. Sometimes, our anger, impatience or frustration can cloud our better judgment. Still, it’s something to strive for.

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.