American management – Funny or not so much?


Recently, I reposted (shared) an American management humor piece on Facebook. What amazed me was not that it was funny–it was. What amazed me was the number of reposts I got on my repost! Apparently a lot of people identify with this story, and bizarre ways our so-called industry leaders behave.

management humor

Here’s the story:

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.

On the big day they felt ready. The Japanese team won by a mile. Afterward, the American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommended corrective action.

The consultant’s finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.

After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team.

So, as race day neared again the following year, the American team’s management structure was completely reorganized. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.

The next year, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American office laid-off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.

Funny? I’m interested to hear your comments. Please tell us any funny (but pointed) management stories you’ve heard lately!

And as always, thanks for reading.


Today is the first day of the rest of your life.


The saying “This is the first day of the rest of your life” has been attributed to Charles Diederich, founder of the 60s drug rehab facility known as Synanon. It has also been attributed to a mid-60s group of anarchist street actors called the Diggers.

Pundits have criticized the well-known slogan. One criticism is that if today is the first day of the rest of your life, that would mean that tomorrow is the second day. The day after is the third day, and so forth. So that as a mantra for living each day anew, it fails.

As well (say the critics), if today is the first day of the rest of your life, that would mean that yesterday was the last day of some previous life–clearly an untenable argument. You only have one life.

Petty criticisms aside, I grew up in the 60s so a lot of the cultural accoutrements of the period have followed me in varying degrees. This particular saying is one that has stuck. Not as a daily prayers or mantra, but something I come back to at certain decision points or crises in my life. I don’t really seem to need it in times of joy or good fortune.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter might know, I’ve recently had a sort of career diversion. I took a layoff from a company I’ve worked with for a little over two years. Two years ago, that would have been less of a concern than it is to me know. I’m a couple of years older (read: a couple years closer to retirement). I’m disenchanted, disillusioned with my chosen career path. Healthcare, where I’ve worked the last 20 years or so, has become less about being a helping profession–the reason I went into healthcare in the first place–and more about being Big Business. Healthcare is no longer about the nurses and the doctors and their customers–the patients or healthcare customers that depend on their services. Healthcare is now more about the insurance conglomerates and so-called reimbursement–that is, how much much money can healthcare extract from the pockets of those it was intended to serve.

“The rest of my life” includes more work, to be sure. It doesn’t necessarily include healthcare.  When I’m thinking now of “today being the first day of the rest of my life”, I’m thinking of writing. I’m thinking of the fledgling real estate investment business that my wife Jan and I have started. I’m thinking of perhaps experimenting with some occupations and obligations that while I was in healthcare were overshadowed. I’m in a fortunate position in that I have some time to ponder.

If you had a day–today for instance–to start over–to reset your life, what would you do? A new occupation perhaps? Or to finally retire and spend more time with friends and family? To travel to new and exciting places?

What does the rest of your life look like?

Golden Hour


Photographers and other artists all know about the “golden hour”–that one hour of perfect, golden light every day.

The golden hour actually occurs twice a day. Sometimes known also as the “magic hour”, it is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky.

This morning on Lake Lorene there was just enough naked sun peaking out from behind the clouds to provide some of this magic. In the Pacific Northwest winter, the Golden Hour can turn out to be a “golden five minutes”, as the sun is always playing hide and seek.

So, you enjoy it when you can, snap a picture if you’re quick enough and if you have the time, share it with your friends.

Bacon-Jalapeño Cheese Ball

Found this little gem while I was browsing today.

cheese ball

Bacon-Jalapeño Cheese Ball

6 slices bacon
¼ cup chopped pecans
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 jalapeños (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
Crackers (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet set over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Allow to cool slightly, then crumble and divide in half.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, parsley, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, half of the minced jalapeños, and half of the crumbled bacon until well combined. Season the mixture to taste with salt.

On a large plate, stir the toasted pecans, remaining minced jalapeños, cilantro and bacon together. Moisten your hands slightly and shape the cream cheese mixture into a ball Roll. Then the ball in the pecan mixture until well coated.

Cover the ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.


A new adventure

MHS main campus

This week I embark on a new adventure.

I’ve been with the same employer, Multicare Health Services, now for a little over two years. During my tenure, I’ve gotten an MBA and a project management certification. I’ve learned a ton more about the EMR software that I’ve been working with for years. I’ve also experienced what it is to become totally embedded in an organization–its culture and politics.

Two years ago, if you would have told me I’d still be here at MHS, I would have said you were nuts. The job was wrong, the organization was wrong. The day I started I found out that the woman that had hired me had been terminated! Another analyst, who had been on the hiring team that had interviewed me (and who I became pretty good friends with afterwards) told me that when she interviewed me, she “didn’t think I was going to make it”.

Well, oddly enough, I made it. In fact, at two years, my stay with this organization was longer than my friend’s, by well over a year!

How it all came to an end

Multicare has a well-known penchant for hiring like crazy for a couple of years, and then when the financial fortunes of the firm take a downward turn, laying everyone off. It seems that human resources are the easiest, quickest things to trim from a bloated budget.

That was what happened with in my case. I was the business end of one of these trimmings. Fortunately, I was given an “option”–to take a “voluntary separation”. That is, I took a certain number of weeks of pay as compensation, and I agreed to leave.

I did this with eyes wide open. I wasn’t pressured or forced in any way to leave. However, I could see the writing on the wall–either get out now, or take a chance on being let go later with no “package”.

So what’s next?

I read a lovely farewell email from our CEO, Bill Robertson, this morning. The keyword was “farewell” and Bill emphasized the blessing hidden in the word “farewell”, and closed his email with the now-famous Irish blessing:

“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

I am taking Bill’s comments to heart, taking the “best of our shared memories, the best of our good will, and the very best of our hopes” along on my journey. I wish the best to those I am leaving behind.


Farewell will also be my mantra. This organization as been a great educational experience. They say that the best teacher is experience. Those experiences can be good or bad and both sorts of experience can be huge assets.

I will be using those experiences, those human connections and those ideas as I move up the road.

Healthcare treks onward toward the 21st century

Despite the recent ICD-10 fiasco (stalled again!), the healthcare industry is headed for big change. Kicking and screaming perhaps, but moving forward anyway.

The biggest drivers in healthcare progress right now, as I see it, are technological advances that empower patients–the so-called healthcare consumers! These include things like powerful new social media tools (such as the barrage of new health-related smartphone apps that is flooding the iOS App Store and Google Play); as well as a host of new devices that you and I can wear to help us gauge and maintain our own health.

Recently, I purchased a Jawbone UP24 health tracking wrist band. It tells me (via an associate iPhone app) how much physical activity I’m getting (in step per day), how many calories I’m taking in and how much sleep I’m getting.

Jawbone UP24

Also, through other compatible apps, my UP24 can help me track my walking/running program, my weight, my blood pressure, and so on.

The UP24, and its cousins from companies such as Fitbit and Garmin, are enabling a whole new movement. The essence of this movement (buzz word “Quantified Self”) is empowerment through self-observation, self-measurement and connecting with others through social media–Facebook, Twitter and a host of others that are also springing up on a weekly basis. For instance, the UP24 has its own community of UPsters, connected to each other via the UP app!

So, what does this have to do with healthcare? I am diabetic. I have another app that I use to record my blood sugars. The device I used to measure my blood sugars talks to this app. If my blood sugars are out of whack, I have a record I can share with my healthcare provider (doc) to show him or her what’s going on. In some cases, you may have a device that monitors your heart rhythms, and the that device’s signal connects to system that provider can see in real time what is happening with your heart (or your breathing, or your sleep patterns).

This isn’t science fiction, folks. It’s all happening right now. And in the near future, you can anticipate that this self-quantification and connectivity will change the face of healthcare forever.

Telehealth and telemedicine are terms that are now common in the vocabulary of the doctors and nurses that are caring for you and your family now. mHealth (mobile health) and eHealth (electronic health) are no longer the stuff of Star Trek. Recently, a company called Scanadu introduced, not too different in function from the one that Bones, the Star Trek doc) used frequently to diagnose the crew member on the Starship Enterprise. Of the course, the Scanadu Scout is much more elegant than the “old Tricorder” and it does much more.

Every day new devices like the Jawbone UP24 and the Scanadu Scout are appearing on the market. Innovation and empowerment–two trends healthcare must prepare for.



When good #hashtags turn bad

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been experimenting with Twitter hashtags. For those new to Twitter, or unfamiliar with hashtags, the idea is that the Big Ideas on Twitter (including brands, ideologies and pretty much anything!) can be grouped or categorized by using the “#” sign and the name of the category. For instance, tweets about about healthcare can be tagged “#healthcare”. Folks on Twitter who are searching for healthcare related tweets can then search the hashtag–#healthcare–and presumably find a great deal of information about healthcare. Over time, communities of Twitter users can become organized around a hashtag. From the #healthcare example, folks that work in healthcare or have a passionate interest, could follow the #healthcare hashtag, and engage with others that share the interest.

The problem with hashtags is that over time they become polluted, or perhaps diluted. The hashtag “#healthcare”, for instance, is now used not only by people with a true and legitimate interest in healthcare, but also by those with a political agenda to, for instance, undo healthcare reform. Or slam the President or the government. Topics and ideologies that have little to do with healthcare.

Hashtags can also be used by spammers. If I search the hashtag #healthcare now, I will also gather in my search, the Twitter feeds of companies and individuals that are peddling pills and creams for wide variety of ills. Again, the gist of these tweets has really very little to do with healthcare, and more to do with making a buck.

Recently, as the use of hashtags has become more popular and more prevalent, several “hashtag aggregators” have appeared. These are websites that attempt to categorize and/or curate the myriad hashtags that are being used. Some sites, such as Simplur, specialize in certain types of hashtags. Simplur’s specialty is happens to be healthcare hashtags.

My observation, about sites like Simplur, is that such sites (and their owners) may have an agenda as well. Like certain hashtag users, as in my #healthcare hashtag example, the owners of these hashtag aggregator/curator sites, may be simply capitalizing on the current popularity of hashtags, to either push their own business or political agendas. This further dilutes or weakens what originally may have been a very powerful idea–that a hashtag can be used itself to organized or categorize vast amounts of knowledge.

What will happen to hashtags? I think that over time the hashtag will evolve into something more useful than what it currently has become–a device to draw in interested users, but not necessarily for the “highest and best” purposes. I think that hashtags, even in their current state, can be useful, but only if you are using them knowledgeably. That is, with the knowledge that hashtag environment is rapidly becoming complex to the point that a hashtag does not necessarily help you know more about a given subject, or join with others who have an interest in the subject.

Like most other services and devices on the internet (and in life), when it comes to hashtag, the advice is “Caveat emptor” — buyer beware.

I’m interested in your comments. Please feel free to comment here or on my Twitter feed — @gerrywieder

Thanks for reading.

Registered Nurse | Senior Real Estate Specialist® | Realtor®

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