10 December 2005

Parents: “Advocate” Means You are the CEO in a Turnaround Situation

In the business world, there are different kinds of CEOs: Entrepreneur CEOs are good are creating something from nothing, starting a company from scratch, and building it into an organization with people, products, and profit. But one who creates something that might not have otherwise been is not always trained to manage it going forward. In fact, most CEOs are good only at running stable, steady-state organizations that someone else created and that are not going through serious crisis and bring in specialists as needed – this is analogous to what your family pediatrician’s job is.

Then there are turnaround CEOs – those individuals brought into save a bankrupt airline, return a near-failing auto company to market success, or rejuvenate a deteriorating firm before it’s too late. Figure out what’s wrong, take control, make immediate and major changes to fix the root problems, garner a quick success, and then move on and let someone else manage it. Unfortunately, there is no medical equivalent to this necessary role. The US healthcare system is not set up that way.

As a parent with a child in the Hospital, there are two things you need to realize.

One, you are the CEO of your child’s medical care – not an advocate, or advisor, or team member. You are the boss. You don’t hold an MD degree, or aren’t an RN? That’s OK, many CEOs have no training or background in the field of the company they are running. (More on that in the next blog entry.)

Two, you are in a crisis turnaround situation. No matter how “routine” or “elective” the reason your child is in the hospital, once they are here they are in a potentially life-threatening situation – whether from the ailment that brought them here or from medical errors, oversights, allergic reactions, anesthesia, and infections.

As CEO, you have responsibility for the same things a CEO of an airline or bank (or hospital) should be doing: defining how the team is organized, who is on the team, what the performance standards are for the team, determining when someone should be removed from the team for poor performance, and so forth. What? You didn’t know you had the responsibility, let alone the authority, for those things? Well, you do. Hospital-based care for children is a far too serious business to allow us parents to merely think of ourselves as the customer or consumer.

If you want your child to survive this experience and thrive afterward, if they are already an inpatient, and you haven’t started doing your CEO job, then you’re already behind. Get moving. Hopefully you’re reading this prior to admission, so you can hit the ground running in your new job.

The next few entries to this blog will give you detailed steps for succeeding as CEO of your child’s turnaround situation. Stay tuned.

Note: Remember this is a blog, so you’ll need to read from the bottom up to read the series in the intended order.