Dinnertime: Henry Mintzberg

Today for dinner, the genius of Henry Mintzberg.

Mintzberg in his 1994 HBR article titled “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning” (there’s a book by a similar title) (the article is basically an examination on the fallacies of “strategic” planning) describes two types of planners in the planning department: the extremely analytic, order focused, right-handed planner and the more creative, quick and dirty, left-handed planner.  He then writes:

Many organizations need both types, and it is top management’s job to ensure that it has them in appropriate proportions.  Organizations need people to bring order to the messy world of mangement as well as challenge the conventions that managers and especially their organizations develop.  Some organizations (those big, machine-like bureaucracies concerned with mass production) may favor the right-handed planners, while others (the loose, flexible “adhocracies,” or project organizations) may favor the left-handed ones.  But both kinds of organization need both types of planners, if only to offset their natural tendencies.  And, of course, some organizations, like those highly professionalized hospitals and educational systems that have been forced to waste so much time doing ill-conceived strategic planning, may prefer to have very few of either!

In 2008 he sat down with The Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business to discuss the financial collapse.  The problem, as Mintzberg sees it, is too grand a focus on individualism and not enough on community building in organizations.  Hallelujah:

We should focus on building institutions and we should focus on building strong institutions and focus on building those strong institutions through what I prefer to call community-ship. In the United States particularly, they just make such a huge fuss over leadership, it has become an absolute obsession. Everything is leadership, leadership, leadership. It is not coincidental that the more fuss that Americans make about leadership, the worse their leadership is whether it is corporate or political or anything else. Their leadership is dreadful in recent years and with all of this fuss on leadership. Leadership is about individuality, leadership is about me. Even if leadership is designed to encourage and to bring along other people and engage other people, it is still the individual driving it. So, show me a leader and I will show you all kinds of followers and that is not the kind of organizations that we want. That is not the way that we build things up. I think that we need to put more emphasis on what I prefer to call, there is no word for it but I use the word ‘community-ship’, which is the idea that corporations and other organizations, when they function well, are communities. People care for each other, they worry about each other, they work for each other and they work for the institution and they feel pride in the institution.

Dinnertime: Coach John Wooden

You know that question, “If you could have dinner with (some number) of people, who would they be and why?”  (Or something similar).  It is an intensely difficult question to answer, especially when there are no parameters.

So, starting today some insights from the best; from people worth having dinner with.  In honor of the March Madness apex this week: Coach John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach (teacher?) ever.  His definition of success, “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”


The video is from a speech at TED in 2001, the insights of which can be deployed in your health care world:

Three rules he used to govern his team, insight he received from his father:

  1. Never be late.
  2. No profanity.
  3. Never criticize a teammate.

Another set of three, also from his father:

  1. Don’t whine.
  2. Don’t complain.
  3. Don’t make excuses.

A couple of more thoughts:

In whatever you do, you must have patience.
There is no progress without change.
Things will work out as they should providing we do what we should.

While all very good, the never be late may be the most poignant lesson for health care.  Oh the possibilities.