I’ve never really been a “numbers” guy. They don’t allow enough legal/moral creativity for my interests. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect them. Numbers are vitally important to any business adventure. I just think that sometimes we place too much importance on them–especially when those numbers are just projections without much more than an office-based person using data to make an educated guess.

The focus on numbers is warranted. Healthcare is actually still pretty new to cost containment (hospitals were once reimbursed on how much they spent, can you imagine such a world?). So when the gales of the fee-for-service came crashing down upon the ship, numbers mattered more. They’re going to matter even more as we navigate through the bundled-payment storm. By mattering more, there will be more of them.

Ayyyy matey.

Joking aside, numbers are important. But so is everything else. (Like people.)

A recent work task combined with this Chris Guillebeau post have given me more perspective. Numbers are goals. Goals provide focus. Given the complexity of healthcare, focus is a rare element. Numbers provide a sense of control in an environment that is far too crazy to ever really have control. 

Goal numbers can be financial (a budget), performance (zero errors), or interest inducing (hmmm…).

William Taylor at Fast Company asks this question in an article, “So why is it that so many of the numbers we encounter in business–from endless Excel spreadsheets to bloodless calculations in business plans–make our eyes glaze over rather than set our minds racing?”

That’s been my struggle. Numbers have often produced a state of mind-numbing boredom for me. But Taylor notes that the right numbers can tell a compelling story. Like this one: “We’re in front of whiteboards 4 hours a day, but only use them for 4 minutes.”

Yeah, that’s because we’re all looking at the numbers.

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