Another Negative Report on Hospitals

Last Wednesday, the Ontario Auditor General released his report on the use of consultants by Ontario hospitals. The report contained the standard fare: ridiculously high expense report claims, the hiring of consultants without any competitive process, follow-on agreements without any supporting documentation, etc. But what was interesting about this report was a comment from the report that will probably never make it into the public's perception of the dealings. The comment was made in relation to the standards that were being used to evaluate the performance of hospitals – "At the time of our audit, the hospitals were not required to follow the government’s Directive on procurement." Yet the report was auditing hospitals against that government standard. So holding hospitals to a standard they were not yet required to follow seems unfair.

Unfortunately, this comment will be diluted by the screams for CEO firings and mismanagement of public funds. Of course there is room for improvement and some of the stories are so ridiculous you might think they are made up, but why would anyone want to become a health care leader in this province if this is the way that we treat the people running our hospitals? A call for more regulations in an industry where the leaders' hands are already bound by so many different rules, is acceptance that we are not really trying to recruit the best and the brightest for our Ontario health care system, just the ones that play best by the rules. Public procurement requires some common sense and some discipline, it does not require a long list of policies that provide no flexibility.

Sucession Planning Lessons from the Fortune 500

GE had a slug fest between three candidates before they chose Jeffrey Immelt, Xerox had a clear, transparent strategy before choosing Ursula Burns and HP had to scramble when Mark Hurd stepped down. So what have we learned about CEO succession planning from these Fortune 500 companies? That one thing is for sure – you need to have a succession plan for top management. That is called planning for the future. However, even though the three scenarios above are completely different, they provide us with three things an organization must do to ensure effective succession planning:

  1. Identify what are the critical roles in the business and ensure that the organization has a plan for those roles (who will take over, when, who is involved and what is the transition plan)
  2. Be open and transparent in communicating the selection process, the criteria and the time line for those critical roles. Everyone in the company should have advanced notice of when a new leader will be taking over.
  3. Know the future vision and direction of the company. This will help with the selection process so you can match the leaders' skill set with the direction of customers and the business.

It is important to remember that these lessons apply to any business, not just the ones we read about in the newspaper.

Will Google Take Over the World?

It seems that everything Google touches these days turns to gold. They epitomize what a successful company looks like. They wanted to dominate the search engine space, even though they were the third player in the market, and they did. They wanted to dominate the cell phone operating system market, again, even though they were late to the party, and their Android system is making huge inroads with consumers. They are the perfect example of a company that sets its' sights on something and goes after it relentlessly.

Now Google wants to take on price indicators and wind power. Take about a company looking towards global domination, they even have a chief economist! Google argues that the data that it can provide through trolling internet buying sites can provide up-to-the-minute data about what people are buying. The "Google Price Index" would not replace other common economic indicators, but would provide real-time data on online buying habits. That would be pretty valuable information considering the increase in online buying.

As for the wind power, Google is investing in technology that will use wind power to power residential homes. Why wind power you might ask? Why not? If we assume that Google wants to make the world a better place and make money at the same time (or at least make money), then wind power seems to be the right place to be. It is just amazing to me how many different influential businesses Google has become a part of, which leads me to the question "Will Google Take Over the World?"

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Google has also recently announced that they are developing a self-driving car. Chew on that for a while.

To Set Goals or not To Set Goals?

I was a part of an interesting discussion over the weekend about whether or not businesses, especially small ones, should be setting goals for themselves. The discussion came up because I have recently set a revenue goal for myself until the end of this year, and this is the first time I have done this. Through my philanthropic work, I have come to realize that the only way to achieve something extraordinary is to have an extraordinary goal. Through the discussion I realized that most of the successful people I know have set goals for themselves and/or their businesses, but those goals are not always financial (although the benefits of achieving those goals usually are).

Some people set revenue targets, others number of new customers, and still other the number of new relationships they will develop. These are quantitative goals, which I tend to be more comfortable with. There are others who set more qualitative goals…they want to be the best in their field or they want to drive a really expensive car or they want to make as much money as they possibly can.

No matter what goals you set, it is important to set goals. Once you have set a goal, your sole purpose in life becomes figuring out how to acheive that goal most efficiently and effectively. Without those goals, you have nothing to strive for. You can still be very successful, but definitely not reaching your full potential. Goals are important because they give us an outcome to chase down and help us focus on a way to move forward.

A School With No Textbooks?

My wife recently became a public school teacher, and we have many friends who are also teachers. As we were sitting around talking about the public school system in Ontario, it became very clear to me that many classrooms do not have textbooks for the students. I was dumbfounded to hear this…a classroom with no textbooks. Now, I am the first to admit that no one likes a teacher who just reads from a textbook to the students…that is not an effective learning method. However, without a textbook or some form of standard information, how can we ensure that all of the students are learning the same thing. I don't know if this is a money issues or a conscious decision by the school board, but I am not sure how we can run an effective public school system without textbooks. What if students want to read ahead and take initiative to learn more? What about those students who may be falling behind? How can a student study for a test without material?

In order to compete with the private school system, public schools need to offer at least similar opportunities for learning. Not having textbooks or providing tools for learning is not putting students in a position to succeed and is not providing the parents with the tools to help the kids succeed. We always talk about how important it is for parents to encourage learning in the children and help them thrive, but how can we do that if we don't know what they are supposed to be learning?

Too often I hear comments about the only real learning kids do is when they go to special programs or private schools. If this is the case, then what are public schools offering? Have they become just a place for kids to go to stay out of trouble? Does that not then make them glorified daycares? I hope I am wrong on this, but the anecdotal evidence is piling up.

Business Lesson from the Ryder Cup

Golf's Ryder Cup pitting European players against US players shows us what it takes to be successful as a team. In a game where individuals usually compete against each other, the Ryder Cup forces the world's best golfers to be part of a team and they can only be successful if the team is successful. The U.S. team has the two best golfers in the world on the team, does that mean that they are going to win? Only if teamwork prevails. So what are the business lessons we can learn from the Ryder Cup? That successful teams (organizations) support each other through good and bad. That putting the strongest people together does not always guarantee success, those people need to be able to work well together…ability does not always equal success (although it helps). That every successful team needs a great leader to inspire them and provide direction, as well as make smart decisions. That teams can feed off of the success of other teams within the organization…using momentum to increase the level of success for everyone. And finally, that the more cohesive the team, the more success it will have. Who would have thought we could learn this much from watching a simple golf match?