While a few live for their jobs, most work at them. As such, many are easily distracted from those daily tasks that give little satisfaction. One way this tendency exhibits itself is as a veritable craving for office controversy — any reason to start email or chatting with co-workers about the latest goings on in the executive suite. I’ve certainly seen and, to be honest, been part of this at times.
“Did you see them going into HR??? Meet you at Starbucks in 10!”
Knowing that the desire to know (and, short of that, theorize) is part of human nature, managers do well to keep controversy to a minimum, make personnel and other high-impact organizational changes all at once, communicate them well, and quickly re-focus the team on the tasks at hand.
I got to thinking about the cost of a distracted workforce while reading about the executive shakeup at Allscripts earlier this week, seemingly the result of post-merger issues following that organization’s acquisition of Eclipsys. When the merger was announced, I wrote that merging wasn’t actually doing, but rather a large distraction from the tasks at hand; that competitors — who continued to plug away while the mergees took what amounted to a gigantic pit stop to integrate their operations — could pull away. Considering hospital-HIT vendor relationships are more like real marriages than those of the Hollywood variety, the opportunity costs of such a pit stop are enormous.
Now, in addition to the underlying issues that brought on the crisis, and the resolution of the crisis itself, there is the difficult-to-qualify, but all too real, distraction cost to be absorbed. This is akin to the loss of productivity New York City workers experience during a Yankees World Series parade, or some such other celebratory event. One can only imagine how much less the well-meaning team at Allscripts was able to get done this week, as they fed their insatiable craving for information about the unfolding events.
Of course, the distraction was likely even greater to customers than employees. One of those customers, North Shore Long Island Jewish CIO John Bosco, was interviewed by our Managing Editor Kate Gamble a few weeks ago. In it, he talked about the extensive role Allscripts had in his mega-ambulatory rollout.
“The physicians are not comfortable with us potentially having access to the data, and so we went out of our way to say, ‘Allscripts is installing the system. They’re going to do the training, they’re going to do your ongoing support, they’re going to do the activation support, and they are hosting the helpdesk … ’ he said.
I wonder if some of the docs will now question whether Allscripts can now fulfill all those obligations.
Depending on your point of view, there may be an upside — the maintenance, reportedly by the slimmest of board-vote margins, of Glen Tullman’s leadership. It can be argued that his survival is good for continuity and clarity, that the battle is over and the dust will now settle. For the sake of the company’s customers, I hope that’s the case.
But I also hope it’s the case for Allscripts employees. Troops deserve focused leadership, a worthy and ethically sound mission, and the tools and support to get their jobs done. Gossiping over at Starbucks constitutes occasional harmless fun, and it gets old very fast. What makes this industry special is that even the HIT workers know it’s about the patients in the beds, and not, however compelling, the political wrangling in the boardroom.