Mediocre Advancement or Transformational Improvement?

Improving your group’s performance might be the worst thing you can do.

There’s nothing wrong with the notion of getting a little bit better each day, month or year. That is, if you discount the fact that improving the current structure of your group might keep you from getting where you really could be.

We’re all familiar with the situation in which we spend considerable money repairing an old car, not a collectible, when all we end up with is an old car that leaks less oil. And, I’m all too familiar with a potential client who says his group does not need to improve because they increased their income three percent last year to an average per partner of $400,000. Perhaps income could be up 20 percent and perhaps average per partner income could be at $750,000.

There are several major defects in a plan based on incremental growth.

Incremental growth, or “planning” as it’s commonly known, is present-state focused. By definition, it’s not based on where you want your group to be but on where it is now. The improvement trajectory is low.

It’s also an extremely limiting mindset. Seen an ice deliveryman lately? In 1900, the future looked bright to the employees of ice delivery companies. The population of the United States was booming and food had to be kept cold. They had a lock on the market for the only solution. That is, until the invention of Freon in 1928 and the resulting birth of the home refrigerator which froze thousands of ice deliverymen out of their careers.

The better approach is to not rely on a plan of incremental growth, but to develop a strategic outlook – an outlook that is not present-state focused but which is based on your transformationally improved future. In essence, this is the difference between past-based “planning” and future based “strategy.”

The required process, Focusing on the Future™, does not ask how to get from here (now) to there (a future).

Instead, it first requires that you tell the truth about your current situation. Second, establish a “there,” an ideal future reality that you pretend is current. What is that future like? Third, use that imagined future to pull your group from the present, not from your current “past” which is the wrong starting point, into the actual future. What obstacles did you encounter and what were the solutions?

Your group’s future exists. Use it before it uses you. Focus on the Future™.

Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Mark F. Weiss

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Manage Your Practice

Management by Wandering Around (Someone Else’s Business)

Tom Peters popularized the style of business management in which the manager cruises the workplace observing and interacting. He referred to it as “management by wandering around.”

The same observational style applied to instances within and, equally or even more so, outside of your specific practice specialty, or business, or industry, provides a tremendous amount of information that can be applied to your benefit.

Henry Ford developed the automobile production line after observing the way that hogs were “processed” in a slaughterhouse.

Walk-in clinics owe as much, actually more, to fast food operations as they do to operating room operations.

The key is to always be observing and learning. A trip to the dry cleaner or to the pharmacy becomes fun: what can you learn, what can you see, what do you never want to allow to happen in your business operation?

For example, on a recent visit to a chain store pharmacy, I saw bottle caps strewn on the floor behind the counter, wadded up paper on the floor next to the trash can, overheard an employee complaining that the line of customers was unending, and overheard customers complaining that they were going to find a new pharmacy. A virtual treasure trove of business lessons.

Or for example, while touring an emergency room, I noticed this bizarre business goal (see the sign pictured below) touted by the hospital:

Very good care? Why not excellent care? What message does this send to the scared and nervous patient or to his or her family? That the E.R. staff is going to be doing good enough work?

The idea of course is not to simply notice and chuckle (or cry if you are waiting in that pharmacy line or your little Johnny is the E.R. patient). It’s to take what you observe on your wanderings and apply the lessons learned in your own business or practice.

It’s easy. That’s why no one does it.

Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Mark F. Weiss


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