Not technology, but management

I took a longer break than expected from my reading over the holidays, so I’m only about halfway done with Porter and Teisberg’s Redefining Health Care. But despite that, I’m still finding lots of thought-provoking passages as I make my way slowly through their work.

I came across this one right before the holidays and have been meaning to write about it ever since: “We have come to believe strongly that technology is important, but that the major problem the [health care] system is facing today is not technology but management” (p. 100).

In my experience, this is an all-too-common problem at the organizations I work with inside and outside health care. Almost daily I bump up against leaders who are willing to absent themselves from the fundamentals of management in the hopes that a new technology will solve business problems.

If you don’t currently understand a process in detail, measure it with any precision, or track its performance, how will the addition of technology into the mix improve the situation?

The answer, of course, is that it won’t, and I’m certain that all of us have lived through expensive, painful technology implementations that at best had no effect, and at worst created a bigger mess–all because management hadn’t taken the time to do what they’re paid to do, i.e., manage the business properly.

This is akin to a couple on the verge of bankruptcy attempting to solve their financial worries simply by purchasing Quicken and loading all their finances into it. In the end, all their bad spending habits and poor financial hygiene will remain, just captured now in a tool that can chart it for them in living color.

In order to really improve their situation, in contrast, they need to understand their spending habits and what drives them to do what they do, measure their spending by logging all their purchases, and then tracking how they do over time. If they do that, and only if they do that, then using a tool like Quicken will have real impact.

The situation is the same in the corporate world: you’re better off managing a process better through lo-fi means (process analysis, measurements, and performance tracking followed by basic improvements and redesign) than throwing technology at the problem. In the end, to do a technology implementation right, you need to do this lo-fi work anyway, so why not start with it and see where it gets you? The improvements you’ll realize set the stage not only for improved operations in the here and now, but for an improved technology implementation down the line–a win win.

That’s my two cents…jump in and share your thoughts: would love to hear what you all think out there.

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One Response

  1. I could not agree more…

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