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NIATx Principle # 4: Getting Ideas from Outside the Field …Or From Inside Track and Field

By Mat Roosa, LCSW-R
NIATx Coach

The United States has consistently produced some of the best track and field sprinters for decades and decades.

And the United States 4x100 relay teams have been disqualified from a painfully large number of World Championship and Olympic races as a result of dropped batons or botched handoffs.

Why have these best-in-the world sprinters failed so often?

Because relay success requires both speed and the effective management of a multi-step process. In sprint relays, it's all about the handoffs.

Passing the baton around the track is an excellent representation of many handoffs that we see in health care and other industries. Whether we’re talking about products on an assembly line, information, or patients receiving care, the handoff can make or break the product's quality and the customer experience.

The secret of winning sprint teams

Sprint relay teams who have succeeded in winning championships—despite having slower runners than the other teams—have excelled because they have mastered the baton handoff. Contrast this with the American teams, who have been criticized for too much focus on team members' raw speed and inadequate focus on the baton handoff process.

By dissecting a complex process into its component parts and making focused adjustments to enhance efficiencies, you can achieve some amazing results.

Perhaps the less-than-speedy teams have used tools similar to the NIATx method to understand and improve their relay effectiveness:

  • Conducting a Walk-Through (or…a Run-Through) to identify the elements of concern
  • Flowcharting to understand the strengths and weakness of the process, and to identify potential ways to fix those weaknesses
  • Nominal Group Technique brainstorming to identify specific changes to prioritize for action
  • And using Rapid-Cycle PDSA changes to test specific adjustments to the race process

The NIATx model has worked for many organizations in diverse fields making a wide range of improvements.

Not that we are suggesting a NIATx coach for the American sprint relay teams, but maybe ….

About our Guest Blogger

Mat Roosa was a founding member of NIATx and has been a NIATx coach for a wide range of projects. He works as a consultant in quality improvement, organizational development and planning, and implementing evidence-based practices. Mat also serves as a local government planner in behavioral health in New York State. His experience includes direct clinical practice in mental health and substance use services, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and human service agency administration. You can reach Mat at [email protected]

Published:
09/30/2020
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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.

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