Consider these substitute players at critical moments in your health care game
Pinch Hitters are unsung heroes in baseball. Most know that a pinch hitter is a player who bats in place of a teammate, typically at a critical point in the game. In health care, when you mention the term “Interim Management,” I feel this represents the pinch hitters of our industry. There is a misperception of the what, why, and when of bringing in a manager for the short term. Especially amid the dollar-conscious health care climate of today, what many leaders think is “can we afford it…”
What these leaders miss is the opportunity for a fresh perspective as well as quick and effective action. Simply put, interim managers can be the game changer you need at just the right time. Unfortunately, and all-too-often, pieces of work get parceled out to a mish-mash of existing management. In trying to “save money” you spend more and realize inconsistent results on a partial solution because the project, daily work, or crisis is managed by a number of different people.
When to send in a substitute: Hint…It’s not just to fill a vacant position.
Let’s start by defining what it means to be an interim manager. These are experienced, hands-on, highly effective, pragmatic leaders, with the talent, knowledge, and skills to deliver immediate and lasting impact. There are many reasons to bring in a qualified, practiced hand for a finite period of time:
- Project management: Maybe you are amid a major project and your team is buckling under this added responsibility. It’s becoming evident you don’t have enough staff to pull it off. The project, process, or change is at great risk if you do nothing.
- Gap management: You suddenly lose a leader or discover your candidate recruitment process will take much longer than anticipated.
- Start-up management: You are starting a new service line or division and need to plug someone in until you figure out the total skill set and talent capabilities needed.
- Turn-around management: You are amid a management crisis or need to effectively manage under-performing divisions.
- Management through mergers and acquisitions: When you specifically don’t want to hire for the position, but you need effective leadership during the transition.
One of the great benefits is that you will often find someone who is over-qualified for the role you want to fill. Moreover, they are not constrained by company politics. They can speak with candor because they don’t have to worry about long standing relationships or fear of repercussions. They can come in without the handicap of internal perceptions. That’s part of where you get your ROI benefit…they can often identify opportunities that were over-looked or rejected due to being too close to the scenario to see it objectively – whether the people or the process.
Measuring the ROI of Interim Management
As in baseball, health care statistics are everything. Statistics and metrics are ruling our reimbursement models, demonstrating patient medical outcomes, effecting provider compensation models, and driving best practices within organizations. Measuring the return-on-investment (ROI) of your “pinch hitters” in health care is another must have metric when using interim management services. At the outset, ask yourself what is the objective you seek and how will you measure it? For example, let’s say your team is stretched too thin and your new clinic opening date is at risk. Don’t just count the cost of paying an interim manager to step in, add in the revenue loss of delaying your opening, compounded over time. Compare that cost to the benefit of opening on time and within budget.
Many leaders reject interim management solutions, outright, with the argument the fees are cost-prohibitive and it’s impossible to incentivize the interim manager. You can incentivize an interim manager. True, it’s easy to calculate things like revenue loss. However, along with that, be sure you’re counting the cost of burnout due to the anxiety of no solid direction when projects languish or change is not being managed correctly. How do you count loss through turnover or unengaged employees? Or, how do you quantify the lack of productivity because those staff members juggling multiple add-on priorities are unable to get their core work assignments accomplished. Whether hard dollar costs or the soft dollars lost in morale, turnover and political implications, add them up and craft goals for the interim manager. Then align the goals and objectives with the compensation of your interim manager.
Key benefits of interim management
After my experiences managing interim managers and serving as one, myself, I’ve found a few key benefits these “pinch hitters” bring to any health care team.
- Value for money: An interim manager is NOT an employee; therefore you have no other associated benefits to pay. Moreover, it is someone uniquely suited and often over-qualified for the role providing added knowledge base and resource.
- Results-Focused: An interim manager offers both immediate availability and a quick solution to your problem. Politically, the interim manager possesses the gift of objectivity. He or she offers a specific clarity to the job that comes without a need to respect the boundaries and turf of well-entrenched team members.
- Highly-committed: The goal of an interim manager is to do the work on-time, within (or under) budget because his or her work is based entirely on word-of-mouth. If the assignment fails, it’s a lost reputation. Conversely, when objectives and ROI are met, along with the obvious benefits, the interim manager passes along a knowledge transfer to the team that extends far beyond the end of the arrangement.
Interim managers offer a specific opportunity to aid your team in the transformation of your health care business. Time after time, I’ve found the project management piece successfully fills that gap between current situation and desired state. Are you ready? You can almost hear your pinch hitter connecting with the bat for a home run! Thinking about interim management for your team? We can help.