There is a renewed and growing recognition of the value that cohesive interprofessional teams with right mix of technical and functional expertise bring to the FMEA process. No individual discipline alone has the requisite knowledge, skills and capability to fully, critically and accurately assess the system, product, process, function or defect under investigation. Healthcare professionals who participate in FMEA teams also benefit from teamwork by improving their leadership skills, gaining broader knowledge of organizational systems and processes, and achieving better understanding of team dynamics and interdependencies among departments. Highly engaged participants are more likely to advocate for the necessary changes and take ownership in a collective effort to reduce failures. Although cohesiveness is one of the critical factors for team effectiveness, it is essential to ensure alignment with the broader organizational goals, values, and performance expectations. One of the problems associated with excessively cohesive teams is the phenomenon called groupthink. The teams affected by groupthink tend to overemphasize team loyalty and apply immense pressure on anyone who expresses disagreements and doubts about the team decisions. Individual creativity, unique perspectives and independent critical thinking are sacrificed in the name of team cohesiveness. Consequently, groupthink often results in irrational team decisions, failure to critically examine and evaluate underlying decision-making assumptions, and inadequate analysis of an alternative course of action. To reduce the likelihood of groupthink it is important to provide opportunities to critically examine team decisions and apply strategies to encourage expression of unpopular views, doubts and disagreements without fear of being ostracized by the team.
Depending on the complexity of issues, team composition and prevailing team dynamics, it may be a good idea to use an external FMEA facilitator that can steer the team in the right direction, ask difficult questions, effectively deal with controversial issues, and challenge assumptions, biases and preconceived notions. The external facilitator may need more time to understand the issues and become familiar with the key stakeholders, but it is important to bring fresh perspectives to the discussion without having a vested interest in supporting any particular decision. In general, the role of the FMEA facilitator is to:
- Bring a sense of common purpose, monitor and evaluate team progress against goals and make necessary adjustments to the plan
- Identify roadblocks to success and recommend changes to improve team effectiveness while maintaining a neutral position
- Facilitate effective team discussions and ensure participation of all team members
- Observe interactions among team members and take steps to defuse potentially destructive behaviours
- Detect inconsistencies in the work and provide constructive feedback to the team
- Keep team meetings within the prearranged time limitations
- Foster a safe, positive and respectful work environment
- Make it easier for the team to arrive at its own decisions, solutions and conclusions
- Identify gaps in knowledge and assist in the development of required competencies
Ability to select, interpret and use the right quality tools and techniques for a given situation is often essential for successful FMEA completion. However, having technical skills alone is not enough to achieve desired outcomes. Soft skills are equally important because they help maximize team performance, enable effective collaboration, maintain motivation, build an environment of trust, support generation of innovative ideas, and capitalize on the wealth of knowledge within the team.