Repeal and Replace

I was thinking about the whole “Repeal and Replace” issue this morning. Not from the political POV (I have promised myself not to enter those shark infested waters), but from a business POV. This was a “bi-partisan” one-on-self think tank.

As I understand it from listening to both sides, healthcare is somewhere between completely broken and definitely in need of repair. In the advertising world, the equivalent dilemma would be somewhere between “we have lost our way competitively and see no light at the end of the new business tunnel” (aka “we’re screwed”) and “unless we shake things up our every workday is going to be an ever-worsening grind” (aka “why am I doing this to myself?”) If you are in this business long enough, you will definitely face similar situations. Hopefully not often, but they are always closer at hand than we may want to imagine.

Now, based on my experience, when an agency faces such dilemmas there are usually only two primary options available in the playbook. The first is to fire the leaders of that office because quick and significant change sends a message to everyone who works there… “We know things are broken and we intend to fix them immediately.” Unfortunately, it also sends a bunch of other messages as well. This option sometimes works. It often doesn’t. Be careful what you wish for here, as the new team in charge has only done great things in the past.

The second option sees the leadership team caucus over sushi (fill in your preferred food option here) to define the issues and agree on the best course of action to get things sorted. The better leadership teams also reach out to various team members to seek their thoughts. Fresh eyes find fresh solutions, right? The bigger the problem, the faster this meeting needs to happen. The bigger the problem, the more determined this team needs to be to get it fixed. Depending on the quality of the leadership team, and their will to deal with the real issues, this option can also work. It is not guaranteed but it does have a fighting chance.

The third option (and seemingly where the healthcare discussions currently stand) is to gather everyone around the reception area, including your competitors, clients, and industry media, and tell them you have a massive problem on your collective hands and it needs to be dealt with ASAP. You even go on to share that it may be the most significant issue the office has had to deal with in a decade. However, at this time, all you have decided is what is currently in place is not going to work. The announcement confirms there will be massive changes (hopefully all positive) around 2 years from now. At this time, however, there is no way of knowing what those changes may be or whom they may affect. Such a meeting would normally end with “any questions?” and be met with blank stares of disbelief and confusion. Really, this is an option? It must be. A dumb, naive, fear-creating option, but still an option.

There is a lot our industry can learn from politics. This is not one of them. Business and politics need to align around common sense solutions. What is best for all needs to be the mantra. If healthcare was an advertising issue I would go for option 2, and I would get on with it TODAY!!

Havas has some simple clichés we believe would be most helpful here:

  • Leaders lead, managers manage, and anything less than that is an excuse.
  • Performance is measured solely by impact, not by time spent.
  • The answer is “yes”, the only question is “how”.
  • The only reason we have jobs is because we solve the problems our clients cannot solve for themselves.
  • Teams perform best when they remain calm while acting with a heightened sense of urgency.

Maybe these are clichés, but I personally believe they are clichés to live by. Salute’.