Online Edition - January 2000
Views for a Change
John Runyan Responds :
--Your question is a challenging one. First, because you are asking for the consultant's equivalent of the physicist's "multi-part field theory" that will explain a wide variety of variables and phenomena in a given universe. Second, because I share your instincts that says there must be linkages between these three sets of data.
--I have to begin by saying that I do not know of any comprehensive research that will confirm our instincts. This "truth in columnizing" disclosure flows from both my limited knowledge of the state of the organizational action research field-and my own immersion in practitioner concerns that keeps me largely out of the loop of what may be going on elsewhere in the most current research and writing.
--That said, I want to comment on what I have seen and not seen over the course of my career. While I can't "positively prove" the linkage between all of these variables, I believe that not investing in people and a positive corporate culture is costly. At the same time, I know targeted investments in human resources can't guarantee success because there are other variables at work in the marketplace that can impact business outcomes.
--I have worked with nearly a hundred organizations, at least seven in the health care field. These seven have included several major hospital-based systems, a large community-based cooperative system, a consortium of local clinics and a public health department, among others. My case starts with what I have not seen and then moves to the following observations of people in and around these systems:
--1) I have never seen an organizational culture conducive to productivity and creativity that did not have strong, caring and supportive leadership. In fact, just the opposite has been true. Leaders who have been clear, strong, caring and willing to learn have been able to initiate and foster changes that have re-directed and re-motivated employees into co-creating more constructive and positive organizational cultures where employees are more content in their work.
--2) I have never seen unhappy and dissatisfied employees provide high quality and satisfying service to their customers. In fact, I have seen just the opposite. Only professionals and front-line employees with at least a moderate degree of self-esteem, confidence and job satisfaction have provided the quality of care needed to sustain positive relationships with their patients.
-- 3) I have never heard patients in any health care setting say they received satisfying service from employees who were frustrated and disgruntled. In fact, they have said just the opposite. Time and again I have read the results of health systems customer surveys in which patients have said that they were turned off and turned away by providers and support personnel who were evidently unhappy with their working conditions and took it out on these patients.
--These personal, situational and anecdotal observations convince me that not investing in improving organizational culture and employee satisfaction can only lead away from success with patients. As a result, I conclude that investing in and connecting progress in each of these three areas is worthwhile.