False logic of the quick fix

July 23, 2019

It has happened to all of us: Our boss (or worse yet, the CEO) goes to a big conference somewhere and returns giddy with the insights she received. He or she calls a meeting with the management staff. You walk in the room and at every seat there is a signed copy of a book that sports a title like, “How Unclogging Information Dissonance Buildup Can Transform Your Organization From Mediocre to Unbelievably Great!”

The CEO invites each of you to take your seats, dims the lights and shows a video featuring the author of the book telling his story. Almost without exception he showed up at an organization teetering on the brink of failure and, utilizing the methodologies contained within the book (at $24.99 per copy), transformed the place into the next Goliath of the industry.

At the end of the video, the CEO waxes eloquent about how, “We are going to implement these strategies here at XYZ Healthcare, and within the year we will have stemmed our current slide and be on our way to perpetual prosperity. Starting immediately, we will be forming focus groups and task forces to address the elements covered in the book. We will be rolling out the details in an email later today.”

You go back to your office, sit down, sigh and stare at the collection of books on your shelf — remnants of previous CEOs and their trips. You know what is about to happen — for a month the “next new thing” will be the topic of every conversation. Work groups will be formed. Projects will be identified and begun.

After a month, the buzz will have subsided. Reports of “progress” will be made by people, and some groups will be singled out for recognition. As time goes by, the conversation and activity will wane. By the one-year anniversary of the meeting, the only vestige of the “next new thing” is the copy of the book sitting quietly on your shelf among the others.

Another quick fix gone bad. Simply stated, quick fixes don’t work — for many reasons.

First off, when you read the book, you discover that the success of the featured organization came after several years of effort. What your CEO saw was a polished re-hash of years of effort, delivered in an hour-and-a-half by a now-professional speaker who has been paid a pretty penny to present and who will realize many more pretty pennies if the book sells. Books and speakers have a way of compressing time. You see the results. You don’t see the effort that went into achieving those results.

Second, assiduous research may reveal that the successes claimed in the book were not as great as claimed, and the “movement” identified may not have been exactly as described.

Third, it is extremely hard to replicate other organizations’ culture and experiences within yours. How many people have tried to copy Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson, and how many have succeeded?

Fourth, if the books behind these “transformations” are legitimate, the information they contain should be viewed as suggestions and things for you to consider, and add to whatever course you may be carving out yourself.

Finally, it is nearly impossible to emulate another person or organization’s zeal by simply reading a book. It took Thomas Edison years to develop a workable light bulb. It took years for Warren Buffett to build Berkshire Hathaway into a Wall Street fortress through “value investing.” And it took years for Jeff Bezos to transform an online bookstore into a retail and supply chain juggernaut that too many healthcare organizations want to emulate and achieve rapid results before the next strategic plan debuts. Who could read a book and know what those years of effort entailed, or how to go about replicating those efforts?

As you review the table I developed on the previous page, you will see that (1) no organization is in exactly the same stage, (2) all organizations have elements in many stages, (3) each organization will have to plot its own course forward and (4) there is no way to get there except by doing the work.

So if your CEO says she is going to go to a meeting where I am speaking, tell her not to buy the book — you’re working on the problem yourself.

Quick fixes don’t work.

About the Author

Fred Crans

Fred W. Crans currently serves as Healthcare Business Development Executive for St. Onge Co. He is a veteran industry observer and frequent HPN contributor with decades of experience as a hospital supply chain leader within hospitals, IDNs and GPOs. Crans can be reached at [email protected] and at [email protected].