I’m Running Too Fast to Do the Strategic Stuff

Linda and I recently attended a facilitator refresher session put on by the creators of Friday Night at the ER®, an experiential learning event we offer at Fulcrum. The first thing they had us do was experience the full event as a participant again.

For me as a facilitator, this was a good reminder of what our client participants experience when they “play the game.” Also, it helped me see the experience through fresh eyes and discover new or nuanced learning points to emphasize when I debrief it with our client groups.

The simulation is conducted in groups of four at a table. Each one of the four manages one of four units in a hospital: Emergency, Surgery, Critical Care, and Step Down.

I was managing the Emergency Room. Just like at a real hospital on a Friday night, it gets super busy. People are streaming in off the street and from arriving ambulances. There are staffing issues, shortages of beds, delays in moving admitted patients to the other units, and…you get the picture. Oh, and as a manager, I had financial and quality metrics to keep in mind.

I was scrambling while my three colleague managers were smoothly handling their departments. So, they decided to take a strategic look at the flow/process among the four units, rather than seeing things merely from a silo perspective. A wise move, chunking up to collectively manage the whole system.

Of course they wanted to include me in the discussion and kept asking my opinion. I wanted to join them but, maddeningly, I couldn’t. I had beds to manage and deadlines up the yin yang. Then they offered to help me free up some time and attention but I didn’t feel I could take a spare minute even to bring them in.

My experience here drove home to me how difficult, sometimes even impossible, it is to step back and take a strategic look at your operation when you are running on a rampaging operational treadmill. You can’t think beyond the next task or crisis at-hand.

We want our managers periodically to put on a strategic thinking hat. We want them to be able to see their unit as part of a larger system as they continually seek process improvements.

But first let’s make sure that their operation, as currently structured, isn’t overwhelming them to the point where the best intended manager can barely keep up.


The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt What I’m Reading

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

I love the way Haidt thinks and what he writes about. I was drawn to this book because of my interest in human motivation and employee satisfaction and especially what managers should understand about these. He covers a lot of ground but there are two tenets that stand out for me.

First tenet, he uses the metaphor of a rider on an elephant’s back to explain the dynamic relationship between our conscious and unconscious minds. The “elephant” is made up of all our automatic processes, including our gut feelings, knee jerk responses, urges, temptations and fears. The “rider,” our logical prefrontal cortex, advises and helps the “elephant” make better decisions by using its logic and its ability to envision future consequences and benefits of a particular behavior or reaction. While the elephant has the power to determine what we ultimately do, say, and decide, we are, in fact both rider and elephant combined.

Haidt’s second tenet is that our level of happiness is determined by three elements. First, a genetically dictated set point or range within us. Second, the conditions of our life, including race, gender, age–which are preset–and marital status, where we live, relationships, sense of control, etc. which we can influence. The third element comprises the actions, activities, and strategies in which we engage, such as exercising, meditating, learning a skill, taking vacations, and changing how we choose to interpret events and forces that we encounter.

Not a light read but it makes you think about the human condition, yourself, and–for leaders–those whom you lead.