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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Does Anybody Have Any Candy?

I was in a locker room, getting changed when a woman asked the above question. Someone offered a cough drop. "No," she said, "I'm diabetic and I'm starting to feel shaky."

Well, everyone went into overdrive. One of the staff managed to pull out a bottle of juice they keep on hand for just such an emergency. I offered her a nutri-grain bar that I had in my purse. (Always prepared!) She took the juice and turned down the nutri-grain bar. ("I'm allergic to wheat," she said.)

A few minutes later, I overheard a conversation between this woman and a friend.

Friend: I didn't know you were diabetic.
Diabetic Woman: Yeah, and I hadn't eaten all day. (It was 5:30 p.m.)
Friend: Do you control it with medication or do you have to do insulin shots?
Diabetic Woman: I don't do either. I lost my blood sugar monitor as well, and I haven't been to the doctor in a year.

Pause

Diabetic Woman: I suppose I should go.

Now, let's recount the facts. Woman is diabetic, she hasn't eaten for at least 8 hours, she has no emergency food, she's allergic to one of the most common foods (wheat) that someone might have on hand, she doesn't take her medication, she doesn't monitor her blood sugar and she doesn't visit her doctor. However, everyone and their dog rushes all over to give her something to eat when she "needs" it.

This has not turned into a medical blog. (If it did, it would be extremely boring, seeing how my medical stories are limited to regularly scheduled doctors appointments and the occasional trip to the ER where the offspring got her cast.) This is, however a business blog.

I think a lot of businesses run the way this woman runs her life. We know we have problems, but rather than monitor them (blood sugar monitor), work on solutions (visit your doctor), implement proposed solutions (take your medicine), make necessary sacrifices (eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals), and work for our own success (do all of the above, and carry our own emergency food supply), we work on the panic principle.

Aaack, my business is dropping. I must do something now! Hire a consultant, cut 10% of my workforce, slash wages and benefits. Something! Right now! Quick!

What if we worked to anticipate problems? What if HR did it's job and analyzed how people were working and what things were really necessary? What if we helped the business to reorganize before the "shakiness" set in. Then, we have lots of different options.

Yes, sometimes a diabetic has problems with blood sugar despite all their efforts. This woman made no effort until it was a real problem. What if no one had had any juice? She could have been in serious trouble.

What if we see sales declining or costs rising and we just sit around and wait until it reaches crises proportions? Then we panic, and make decisions that probably aren't the best. These decisions can be damaging in the future as well.

Sure, sometimes what we need is to cut headcount. I think sometimes layoffs are an important tool for business growth. But, sometimes, we use layoffs as panic measures to reduce costs without really thinking of what the consequences will be. How will the business function after headcount is down? Are you changing your processes or will you just make your remaining staff work harder? What good is having your remaining staff continue to do what has been done all along? The underlying problem (whatever it is) will not be fixed, and it will eventually rise up and bite you again. Then you'll be in a panic, searching for juice.

Don't rely on someone to save you or your business at the last moment. Make sure you have plan and are monitoring it. Make changes that are good for your business, not reactionary, and you'll avoid most of the blood sugar crashes.

8 comments:

rwellor said...

Alcohol, 'Candy' and Juice...

next post has to be about Heroin or Water...depending which way you're going.

;-)

William the Coroner said...

I call those people "patients".

Evil HR Lady said...

heh. I'm sure she'll be in really soon.

Evil HRISguy said...

Lets hope she keeps some candy in the car so william doesnt have multiple patients!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I work in HR communications and much of my day/work is spent on being proactive in anticipating solutions to problems that we can determine will occur. I hate being a Chicken Little, but as your example has shown, it's better to be prepared than to to be reactive.

JKB said...

At least the woman in the story gave a cursory thought to trying to see about the underlying cause of her crisis.

Many times in my career, after meeting the crisis, attempts to find solutions to the root cause were met with "Oh, we don't have to worry about that now that the panic is over". It's enough to drive a person to drink. And sure enough, three or six months later, another panic caused by the same root problem.

When did investing in resolving root causes become so passé?

Mother Jones RN said...

Medical noncompliance makes me crazy. I’m sure that the candy lady will be on dialysis someday. Great post. I wish our hospital administrator had your common sense.

MJ

John G Agno said...

If you want to make God laugh, make a plan, Evil HR Lady.

However, corporate management should expect the unexpected because we only see what we are looking for. Unexpected events--surprises whether good or bad--can make or break your business.

Management of the unexpected is to understand the perils of the current situation while, at the same time, having the vision to seize the opportunities presented.

The Chinese word for crisis is "wei ji"...the combination of two words: "peril" and "opportunity."

Just as "evil" spelled backwards is "live."