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Think outside the pharmacy box

So far, during my pharmacy career, I have had the privilege and honour to work in about 30 different pharmacies, visit hundreds more, and speak with thousands of pharmacists at various meetings and conferences. One thing I often run into is a resistance to change. There is an attitude to stick to what is currently working. 

Let me tell you a story about a time I was working in a pharmacy that I found to be highly inefficient. It was about as backwards as you can imagine. This was not a high-volume pharmacy by any stretch of the imagination, but the prevailing thinking of the time was to take the shelves that were closest to the dispensing/production area and load them with your fast-moving drugs. Perhaps you have something similar in your pharmacy? 

The general idea is that you would load your top 100 drugs on this bay of shelves and now you have improved your efficiency by some factor because you do not have to run frequently to the various corners of your pharmacy for these common items. 

I cannot tell you how many stores have had a “set it and forget it” attitude to their speed shelves. It was not uncommon to find products that hadn’t been touched for months on these shelves in some stores. So, one of the things I would do was to update the “fast movers” on the “speed shelves.” And pretty much no one liked it!  “What did you do to my pharmacy?!?!” was an outraged question I heard multiple times over the years. 

But this one may just take the cake….

I was working in one particular pharmacy and they had not one, but two, bays of shelves for fast movers. However, only one bay was being used for the fast-moving drugs. 

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

I looked at this and decided if it was good to have the top 100 drugs two to three steps away, it would be even better to have the top 200 drugs two to three steps away! It was a no-brainer.

Now I recognize that some readers may be having a hard time reading this. Some may have even broken into a cold sweat just at the thought of such a change. 

But I tell you this story because there is an important leadership lesson here, especially when leading through adversity. 

You see, when we face adversity, it can radically change the threshold at which decisions are made. And that radical change threshold is typically downward. What you may have previously struggled to decide on can now appear during adversity to be obvious and automatic. 

Adversity also prompts people to take action. Now, the action can be good or bad, but taking action happens more easily under adversity. 

Consider a building down the street that suddenly bursts into flame. That's adversity.  This adversity will cause you to take action – to either move towards it or away from it. 

I certainly hope it is not too soon for this example, but when the word of a lockdown secondary to a global pandemic came, it got some people to take action and go hoard toilet paper. 

I share all of this with you because we must be prepared to change. We need to question the dogma of how we are currently doing things and constantly look for better ways. 

Some people are very averse to change. There is some concern that the earth may spin off its axis and doom may be upon you if you make a change. Let me remind you, you are living through a pandemic! While there are likely other horrible things that could happen, what you have gone and are going through right now is way, way up the list. Essentially, the box we need to think outside of has for all intents and purposes been blown up!

So, what changes have you made? What changes do you need to make? What questions do you need to ask? What information do you need to gather? 

Opportunities are out there, and you may be only a change or two away from dramatically improving your situation.

I encourage you to set an alarm on your phone for any time you wish, but when that alarm goes off, take just three to five minutes and think outside the box. Look for those opportunities around you. 

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

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