Friday, October 19, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Cult of the Consultant

There's a great IBM commercial out right now in which a man opens a door on a darkened room, discovering a slew of fellow workers lying in the dark, heads on pillows, doing absolutely nothing productive.

ideate from ax09001h on Vimeo.

What are they doing? They are ideating!! Innovating!! Changing how things are done!! Only, they haven't "ideated" just how they expect to accomplish these grand plans. This is a fabulous depiction of a company that has swallowed way too many glasses of Consultant Kool-Aid®. They are more interested in catching the next management fad than they are trusting their own observations and instincts in running a successful enterprise. The health care system is not immune from this particular form of indulgence --- in my experience, hospital corporations tend to imbibe Consultant Kool-Aid® with the gusto of a Hollywood pop tart just released from rehab.

Starting with est, it seems to me that the baby boomer generation ushered in a penchant for latter day gnosticism that has never gotten a proper smackdown --- there is no corporate or culture icon willing to call bullshit on the never-ending stream of business management fads. Large group awareness training (bullshit), neuro-lingustic programming (bullshit), Myers-Briggs (give me a break!), "team building" exercises (B.S.), personality typing based on "color wheels," ......... c'mon, let's be honest. This stuff is pure, unadulterated BS dressed up like the earnest, sweet homecoming queen from Tulia, Texas, but carrying the hidden costs and hangover of a Las Vegas marriage to a gold-digger from Highland Park (sorry, ladies, it just slipped out!).

This is, with apologies to Orac, corporate woo, or to put it in other words, the Cult of the Consultant. Unlike Indiana Jones, however, there is no self-respecting corporate leader willing to drop the whip, pull out the gun and put a bullet through its heart. I have unfortunately seen intelligent, well-meaning folks do everything short of sing Kum Ba Yah while holding hands in the name of "team building." Otherwise independent people reduced to sharing their most sheltered traumas feelings with co-workers so that "barriers can be broken down," notwithstanding the normal human need to share those experiences with only their closest companions. Adults -- ADULTS!!! -- reduced to acting like 9-year-olds on a soccer team when they are given a replica Topps® card with their name and picture on it after spending a day as "team members" of a local sports team (as if the pro teams don't already make enough dough, now they are cashing in on the management consulting BS machine). Wheeeeeeee! I have then had the opportunity to hear these very intelligent, motivated people return to the hospital, spouting whatever catchphrase happened to be en vogue at the most recent management retreat.

Perhaps in the spirit of helpfulness that is the sine qua non of the Aggravated DocSurg, it is time for me to start my own consulting firm. No, I won't butt in on the lucrative business of fleecing corporate America, I'll simply focus my energies on fleecing gullible hospital systems with my very own brand of merde du DocSurg, with a particular aim at getting as much cash as possible by putting on mandatory seminars requiring participants to sign up for Nigerian banking scams. In return, they will each get a 27 ¢ desk pen and pencil set emblazoned with one of those great motivational phrases seen on posters in cheesy mall stores: "ADVERSITY. That which does not kill me leaves me brain damaged and with one kidney." The money will fly from the corporate coffers with each new consultant phrase that comes so easily to the "scruple-challenged."

Or, I could be more altruistic, and speak the truth. It's not flashy, fancy, or anything to get excited about. But it is the truth. Most corporations --- hospitals included --- would do much better spending the grain silos full of greenbacks they now so generously pour onto new age consultant gurus on their employees and products. At the end of the day, a happy employee will be your best ambassador --- and that is particularly true in the hospital. Nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology techs, and an army of other folks interact with the customers --- i.e., patients --- of a hospital and influence their opinions to a far greater degree than any advertising campaign or feel-good management style fad ever can. Talk to them. More importantly, listen to them. And for goodness sakes, make sure they are on board with any new management scheme that you come up with. And the doctors? Treat them like business partners, not bratty third graders that need a new rule thrown at them on a weekly basis; act like you want their business, and they will return the favor.

As Edith Ann would say, "and that's the truth!"