I’m about 50 pages into Redefining Health Care by Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmstead Teisberg, and while I’m a long way off from a review, it’s already providing lots of food for thought about leadership generally.

The most significant thing that’s struck me so far is the strong, almost relentless, focus on results in the book, and it’s gotten me thinking about the role of results in corporate decision-making and execution.

Porter and Teisberg talk a lot about how any health care reform initiative needs to be coupled to results throughout its entire lifefcycle, from planning and design, through execution and implementation, to maintenance and monitoring; otherwise all the hard work may end up doing nothing…or at least nothing more than implementing superficial changes that have no real impact.

But beyond simply being results-oriented, Porter and Teisberg remind us that it’s critical to choose the right results. Doing so helps ensure that reform achieves the goals that inspired it in the first place; otherwise, the reform might succeed in the sense that it achieved the desired results, but ultimately fail in the sense that the results had nothing to do with why reform was undertaken in the first place.

So much for Porter and Teilsberg on the role of results in health care reform–I’ll dig more into their work once I finish the book. But I think their approach has a broader applicability business operations generally.

No doubt we’ve all witnessed corporate initiatives where just getting some piece of technology in place (or getting a six sigma team established, or adopting a new methodology for some process or other) seemed to be management’s ultimate goal, never mind whether it was going to positively impact how the organization does business in the long run.

The problem in these cases isn’t the initiatives themselves, but the confusion of means with ends.

Process re-engineering, technology—these are not ends in themselves: they need to be put in place in order to do something beyond simply “provide a new application” or “change a process”. What they need to do is deliver results that are tangible and meaningful to the organization and that align with enterprise goals, vision, or mission; otherwise we’re just doing work for work’s sake, work that will fall by the wayside (if it isn’t undone first once it fails to deliver meaningful results).


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