Recently in Decision Making Category

If You Think Worst Is Over, Take Benjamin Graham's Advice, the offering in Jason Zweig's Intelligent Investor column in The Wall Street Journal print edition of May 23, provides some thoughtful guidelines to managing an investment portfolio in uncertain times. Interestingly, and perhaps inadvertently, the same guidelines hold for managing a leadership portfolio in all times. And truthfully, what times aren't uncertain? In today's economic upheaval we are simply more aware of the same uncertainty that exists in "good times." So read this with an expansive mind, with an eye to leading health care organizations today....and tomorrow...
As soon as I saw the title of the May 25 Business Week's cover story (How the Mighty Fall: A Primer on the Warning Signs) I knew I'd found my mark for today's post. I didn't even realize at the time that this was an excerpt from Jim Collins' (Good to Great and Built to Last) new book that turns his prior work literally upside down. As the title implies, it's the quick guide to how high performing companies lose their edge and end up in the toilet. And while it's about companies, it's also implicitly also about leaders. Perhaps even more about the leaders than the companies. And while it's not about health care, it's all about health care. Having worked for at least one of those "great to ashes" leaders myself, I can vouch for the soundness of the analysis and its relevance to health care leaders. Read the excerpt and when it is published, read the book...
Bill Taylor's Practically Radical online column in Harvard Business Online on May 4 poses the provocative question: MBAs vs. Entrepreneurs: Who Has the Right Stuff for Tough Times? It made me wonder whether it matters for health care leaders. The answer, as I learned early in my own MBA classes is "it depends"...
It's one thing to have sharp vision about where you want to go. It's another thing to maintain visual acuity when conducting oversight over where others want you to go. How Group Decisions End Up Wrong-Footed, Jason Zweig's column in the Wall Street Journal of April 25 examines the myopia exhibited by some corporate fiduciaries during the financial crisis as they considered the selection and recommendations of "expert advisors." Health care leadership teams, often using clinical and technical experts, determine strategic organizational direction. Financial advisors, architects, strategic consultants, and executive recruiters among others can contribute substantially to this process. But the checks and balances between leadership teams and their advisors must remain intact. We can learn something from Zweig's insights into what went wrong for these teams in the recent economic turmoil...
Splitting hairs? Not really. Read Hanging Tough in the April 20 print issue of The New Yorker (while not really business press it is the press commenting on business). This piece by James Surowiecki examines the nuances of leadership decision making in both risky and uncertain times. While covering some of the same territory as R&D Spending Holds Steady in Slump, April 6 Wall Street Journal - and the subject of this blog's April 8 commentary Health Care Leaders Should Preserve R&D Spending in Down Times - Surowiecki focuses squarely on characterizing the strategic investment dilemma currently faced by senior health care leaders...
The April 13 Wall Street Journal exploded with news about the impact of the economy on jobs which for the first time included bad news about health care. Major articles on health care job losses and adverse nursing employment trends provide concrete reasons for health care leaders to seriously consider contingency strategies for downsizing should these trends expand. Today's Journal contained a discussion of personnel reduction strategies in industry. Weighing Furlough vs. Layoff, by Cari Tuna, addresses one aspect of the problem that is worth a read by health care leaders...
The March 15 issue of The Wall Street Journal carried another one of those "business" articles that health care leaders could easily overlook as too corporate. But Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis, written by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and a member of several mega corporation Boards, is important reading for both physician leaders and executive health care leaders - especially these days which are anything but crisis-free. George dismisses the technical causes of the current economic crisis (poor regulation, bad investment decisions, risky investment vehicles) and lays the blame squarely on people just like us: "The root cause is failed leadership....[It] can only be solved by new leaders with the wisdom and skill to put their organizations on the right long-term course."
On March 20 The Economist (web edition only) published a short bio of the late Herbert Simon, 1978 Nobel Laureate in economics, who is considered to be one of the leading management thinkers of his time. As I read about this, it seemed to pretty well sum up the conundrum health care leaders find themselves in - and why former clinicians can feel really conflicted as managerial leaders...

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