Doug’s success as a player is impressive. He demonstrates how experienced mainliners plunge in with no need for preparation or planning. “By his second day on the job, Doug is ready to take charge.” He probably spent his first day finding out where his office was and how to use the telephones. By the second day, though, he is ready for major action. It is this take charge approach that puts Doug into a class by himself. He orders a reorganization of the accounting department with no specific instructions other than to reorganize. This style of play is the essence of his game. The casual observer may think that the staff reductions and closing areas of the hospital are the main theme. No, those actions are too obvious. The sweeping changes raise the most outrage, but the little plays do in the hospital. The big actions take time and afford people many opportunities to react. The small ones go unnoticed within the bigger crisis but erode the organizational foundations. Even if the major changes slow or stop, the infrastructure, the heart of the hospital, is weakened and ineffective.
By the end of his second day, Doug has set the inevitable and inexorable process into motion. As astute observers put it, It is a done deal.
For Doug, the process is primary. The outcome of the process is secondary. Look at the process in relationship to the president’s expected outcomes.
“What are you doing over there, Doug?”
“I’m just doing what you hired me to do.”
The president explains, “I did not expect you to go charging like a bull your first week.”
“This is no time to change the expectations just because there is a little heat.”
What are the president’s expectations? They go like this.
“Doug, you are not doing what I expect.”
Doug then says, “I understand that you want me to do the job.”
The president says, “Yes, but take it a little easier.”
Doug then says, “This is no time to tell me you don’t want me to do the job.”
With no definition of what the job is, Doug wins unless the president says he does not want the job done. Of course he is not going to say that.
An example of how Doug does the job is instructive. He is a man of action. Doug never lets the facts or the other side of the story distract or confuse him.
“You are going to have to do something about this one.”
Without a second thought, Doug calls the receptionist into his office. “I am immediately suspending you for three days. . . . I do not want to hear it. You heard what I said.”
Doug does not need to hear the story, understand the facts, or figure out why the problem came up. He just takes decisive action. One reason he gets away with this approach is the way he deals with any repercussions from his behavior.
“Doug, we have to talk.”
“You’ll need to follow up on this one for me. . . . I have more important things needing my attention right now.”
That a boy, Doug! Leave the details to those who take care of that kind of stuff for you. Given time, the accumulation of such details will overwhelm everyone. It will become obvious that only drastic action will get the job done. And when it comes to drastic action, you know that Doug is the man for the job.
To be an effective mainliner, a player needs to stay above the details and away from day-to-day difficulties and issues. If inadvertently pulled in, an experienced player appoints a committee. Alternatively, he postpones action until he has consulted with superiors or experts. This gives him time to revise his game. In a pinch, he focuses on the details in agonizing detail. The best play, however, is at the level of generalization or sweeping action.
Doug’s conversation with the reporter from the Times is a worthy guide to effective play.
“As the community knows, there are some serious problems. It is clear to me, though, the difficulties are all resolvable. . . . It is strong medicine but the medicine has to fit the problems. I have things under control and expect things to be back to normal in a few days.”
Doug is a mainliner who one day will be working for the State Department or as press secretary for a prominent politician. Listen to Doug’s sweeping acknowledgment of the obvious. “There are some serious problems.” Of course, Doug gives no detail other than to say that they are all resolvable. How will he resolve the problems? He will do it with strong medicine, whatever that is.
Equally flatly, Doug asserts that he has everything under control. The trick is to act like a winner so Doug simply declares quick victory.
Here is the key to the play. How does he define victory? He says that victory is getting things back to normal. Listen to it! The president may think he is there to get things away from normal, at least away from what has been normal for the Rosewood Hospital. No, not for a quality player like Doug. It sounds like his goal is to get things back to where they were when he started. Perhaps the president should know this. Maybe Doug will tell him. What do you think?
Mainliners simply declare near-victory. It always lies just around the corner. Also, they must ensure that everyone stays on board. People need to know they are on the winning team, and the only way to victory is to stick with the mainliner.
The president says, “We need to take a close look at how you are handling this and at what other options we have.”
The president is unsure. He is thinking about whether he is on the right team. Doug is ready, though.
“We can back off and let the hospital go the rest of the way down the tube. Alternatively, we can follow through with what we have started.”
The use of we helps further the team idea. Also note the reduction to one option: Doug’s option. Of course, letting the hospital go down the tube is not an option at all. The choices reduce to one choice. Doug’s game is the only game in town.
The president does give Doug some pause for thought. This is the point at which Doug grasps the straw that is his salvation and puts him in The Frustration Factor history book.
“It may be time to bring in a systems analyst. . . . We have a real crisis here.”
Without drawing a hard breath, Doug suggests that they get someone in who knows what he is doing. Calling the savior a systems analyst is the key. The president might otherwise think Doug should straighten things out himself. The skilled mainliner never stays in a position where anyone expects him actually to get the job done on his own. How easy is this for Doug? You only need to listen to the president.
“I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”
It is just that easy! In one stroke of genius, Doug is forever off the hook. Now, no one expects him to succeed, least of all the president.
Does Doug know how close he came to losing control of the process? He surely does. It is so close that he has to stop and think for the first time since arriving at Rosewood Memorial. “I have to do something. . . . Just do something! Poke at it enough and something will happen.”
The way out remains uppermost in Doug’s mind. He continues to poke, knowing his worst mistake would be to let things settle down or for anything to be resolved. The existence of the crisis is the best smokescreen he has to cover up his lack of any idea about how to improve the predicament.
“I have not changed my approach. . . . I think we may have to accept the reality the hospital may not survive . . .”
The way out is at hand: the hospital may not survive. The circle closes. Doug is there because the hospital is in trouble and may not survive. Doug says that nothing has changed. It is clear what he means by back to normal.
Once he locks onto the way out, Doug stays on task. “We have to keep our focus on the big picture. It is not just a combination of little things. It is a crisis about to blow up on us. . . . We are just lucky the SRC group is there to help us out of this.”
Doug goes out in a flourish. He combines several techniques into a single complex play. He draws attention away from the separate parts of the problem and from any possibility of someone’s trying to fix things one step at a time. He generalizes by calling his approach the big picture. The idea is that big people look at the big picture and little people work on the details. His appeal is to the part of human nature that wants to be a big person–a big shot, if you will.
Just to make sure the technique works, he repeats himself. He says that it is not just a combination of little things. So as not to seem repetitive, he next calls the big picture a crisis that is about to blow up. It is a little like yelling Fire! in a crowded theater. His hope is that everyone panics, with Doug standing there ready to point out the exit.
In Rosewood as is true in most places or situations, everyone does panic and Doug is ready. He has the SRC Group in the wings to save the day. The result is that Doug is the hero. He has pointed the way out of a crisis about to blow.
From interim administrator to super hero in one quick and continuous flight to the top! Dare I say that Doug made the trip by way of the mainliner? (You may know of the law of conceptual inertia. It says that if you make any problem complex enough, you will not be able to do anything about it, ever.)