In early April, I had to take one of our pets, a chinchilla named Fipsy, to an emergency veterinary hospital. He had complications from routine dental care that led to pneumonia, which very nearly killed him. After seven days, six veterinarians, four days of oxygen, and one red-hot Discover card, we were able to bring Fipsy home. He’s continued to improve, and we’re grateful that the little guy is still with us and has almost completely recovered.
Looking back on everything, I’m struck by how similar the process was to those we see in ops. There was a crisis in the middle of the night, scrambling to quickly understand the problem and potential solutions, bringing in subject matter experts, and staying on top of everyone to make sure that they were working the problem.
So I asked myself, what can I learn from this, and apply in my own profession?
Some key things that I learned from the ordeal were:
1. Stay on top of things. Don’t make yourself a pain to the people who are working the problem, but do be proactive in learning of any difficulties before they cannot be resolved. My own, semirandom IT schedule made it easier for me to call and talk to the techs at slow times like 4:00am. I also found it reassuring to get the same information from different sources; I had a lot more confidence in observations I heard from multiple people with differing responsibilities, such as a tech and vet.
2. Don’t assume that people will reach out to resources. Not everyone is used to or comfortable with working with other people; very bright and hardworking people may be used to relying only upon themselves. This is related to #4.
3. People may prefer to work on problems they feel more familiar or confident with. Initially, Fipsy was the oddball with a questionable chance of success. My emotions undoubtedly color my opinion, but there seemed to be an attitude that time spent on his problems was diverting resources away from other, better understood, and more solvable problems. After the first few days and initial successes however, there was a subtle but dramatic shift in attitude as he went from being an oddity to a novelty. Everyone seemed to take appreciation and ownership, and his care (at least in my mind) greatly improved.
4. A motivated, knowledgeable person can have a tremendous, positive impact. This is especially true if that person has the respect of others in the process. Even though our regular vet was over 10 miles away, he was able to apply expert knowledge of the species and of the individual animal by being a tireless advocate and by earning the respect of the DVMs at the emergency clinic.
5. Focus on the process. Remember that you are always working towards a goal, and that your efforts should be directed towards obtaining that goal. No matter how frustrated you may be at times, you should never let your emotions get the better of you and interfere with working towards the goal.