The outcomes in professional sport are decided by the finest of margins. The All Blacks win by a single point at Twickenham, Team Sky win their 6th Tour de France in 7 years with Geraint Thomas ahead by 1 minute and 51 seconds after 3 weeks of racing. These results aren’t flukes; neither are they decided by God-given natural talent (but good physiology helps!). Instead they are determined by an unrelenting focus on process and improvement. The athletes might get the plaudits but the whole team buys into the highest performance culture from senior leaders to kit carriers, everyone is invested in the team’s overall success. To do this they are prepared to fail. They accept that not every game can be won and they understand the need to try new ways of working to keep moving forward.

Without exception they commit to the process. They define it, they develop it, they live and breathe it, above all they trust the process. They trust that the process will deliver the results that their efforts deserve.

What’s this got to do with healthcare and a medical school? In my opinion, everything. We don’t have the resources of Team Sky or the All Blacks, but we can take plenty from their approach to team work and performance. Perhaps start by asking yourself a few questions. What does your process look like? Have you ever discussed it as a team? Have you agreed the behaviours and standards that you will be held accountable to? Or has this been “imposed” from above? How would it feel to work in a high-performance environment where you understand the context of the decisions that are made around you and you can influence the outcomes?

As an individual, how often do you think about what influences your personal performance? As a surgeon the operating theatre is my Twickenham, my Alpe D’Huez. Would I approach the hardest climb in the Alps without sleep, dehydrated or under fuelled? Not if I could help it. Would I review my performance and learn from the experience?……………almost certainly.

Much as I would like to be, I’m not a professional sportsman, but I’m willing to learn from the best in the business. The evidence is clear, concentrate on high performance, culture and process and the results will look after themselves.

Professor Tim Underwood

Head of Cancer Sciences

Without exception they commit to the process

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