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The sometimes painful chasm between vision and reality

I had an “interesting” experience a few months back that I’d like to share with you. Partly because it’s going to be cathartic for me, but mostly because there’s a nagging truth in the story that exists in all too many organizations.

I call the experience “interesting” because no better word comes to mind. ‘Perplexing”, “irritating” and “dismaying” all put too much spin on it when you’re trying to be PC. But how long should one remain PC while stifling an overwhelming urge to pick someone up and shake them back to reality?

The quick background is this: One of our Affiliate partners in the GTA – let’s call her Pamela for the sake of this article – Pamela’s dad is in a nursing home operated by one of the Biggies here in Canada. It’s a very well recognized name, and they have used their marketing dollars effectively to build a collection of respectable brands in that space.

The problem is that Pamela’s dad isn’t having all that good an experience there. Let’s just say there have been gaps in his care that Pam only knows about because she has carved out the time to check in periodically. A succession of bad experiences at the home prompted her to become active on the family advocacy committee, and it was through discussions with the senior management team there that she learned that they have long been struggling with several chronic staffing issues:

Not a pretty picture, and not one that anyone’s happy with, least of all the local management team. So when Pamela talked to them about HiringSmart, she was quickly referred to the Senior Recruiters at Corporate.

Now comes the “interesting” bit.

Pam brought me along. Shortly after our arrival we were ushered into a very comfortable boardroom. We weren’t there to sell any concepts, but rather to give them the background and see if we could get the corporate perspective on what’s working and what’s not.

Just as well, because we barely got a word in edgewise. From where Head Office stands, everything is rosy. Sure they could use more nurses, but who couldn’t? When it comes to hiring for fit and for quality, they have it nailed. The interview questions are all aligned with the corporate vision and values, so how could they go wrong? Turnover? Not here. Stress? Low morale? Gaps in patient care? Not possible – they have reports out the wazoo to the contrary.

It seems Corporate has it all figured out. As we left the meeting Pam and I were both at a loss. Not because we were taking the company off our prospect list, but because it all felt so wrong. There were two big questions we couldn’t reconcile:

We decided to take the high road and just walk away from it all. I don’t know whether Pamela’s dad is still in the same home, and whether anything has changed for him. I suspect not.

So, you might ask, what has prompted me to get this off my chest three months later? Tim, my business partner, began a cross-Canada speaking tour this week that will have him in front of several thousand health-care professionals over the next six months. Yesterday’s stop was in Vancouver. In the rush at the end of the session he received business cards from senior managers at three of this company’s homes, each insisting that he had to help them find some solutions to their problems.

Tim did not refer them to Corporate.

But that’s not the real story here either. To me, a much more compelling question for all too many of us is how there can be such a fundamental disconnect between the story at corporate and the reality in the field… and what will it take to repair it?

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