The Big Threat: Complacency


“We have invested a great deal of time and effort to create a solid peer review program we can be proud of, and it has made a big difference in our quality. But too often we get ourselves into trouble by running adrift and failing to stick to our own process.”



Many of the problems presented to us are more of a technical nature and easier to solve. Not this one! If you have gone through the rigors of building your program on a solid foundation of principles, consensus, accountability and trust, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, many threats to your success remain. While solid design and construction are necessary prerequisites for success, the hard work can’t end there. Building a home correctly is just the beginning. Living in it requires much more than just being couch potatoes. When it’s new, it seems easy. It’s fresh and seems to require little maintenance, little effort. But with time, if little effort is put forth to keep it’s inhabitants safe and sound, not only will it begin to show its age, but the very safety of its inhabitants is at risk.

One of the greatest threats to leadership effectiveness in general is complacency. Driven by self-protection, competition, fatigue, ego or comfort in past success, complacency blinds us to opportunities as well as to dangers. Leadership can’t just show up and go through the motions, even if the motions are well-designed. Constant vigilance is required to make sure that process, effort, decisions and impacts are aligned with purpose.

When physicians accept leadership positions, they must appreciate that they are not simply accepting another time obligation, another monthly meeting. Rather, they are accepting the responsibility of being a steward of important resources, processes and decisions that should have a favorable impact on the organization and those it serves. Otherwise, serving is not only a waste of time, but it also stands to do much more harm than good, both to those within the organization and the people for whom it cares.

The real problem is that complacency is easy, yet its impacts are contagious and lethal. How do you minimize its threats? Each committee member and those charged with supporting roles can start by asking:

  • What is my purpose for participating?
  • How can I ensure my efforts consistently make a difference?
  • Do my actions match our peer review committee’s purpose?
  • Am I holding myself and my colleagues accountable to have our actions match our principles?

Acknowledge the presence and impact of complacency both individually and as a group. Hold yourself and each other accountable. Show up to make a difference. Be vigilant. Constantly measure your actions and decisions against your purpose and objectives. You can’t expect perfection. Individually and as a group, you will drift. You will, from time to time, be complacent. You just have to watch for it and know that it is each participant’s responsibility to keep complacency from infecting your effort to achieve the very purpose behind your participation and leadership. The solution is individual and collective vigilance.