A Pox on Millennium Talk

I DECIDED TO BE DIFFERENT TODAY. Most of you probably figured I would use this last opportunity before January 1 to make my millennium predictions and ruminate about the last one thousand years or so.

Not so! My contrarian nature says you’ve probably already had enough of the new millennium, and the old millennium as well. Other than some legitimate Y2K concerns affecting the laboratory and the hospital, I expect this December 31st will pass with no more fuss or bother than any of the others.

In fact, that is really what I would like to talk to you about today. I don’t always understand what the twitter is about when the calendar changes from day one to day two. After all, the sun still rises and sets on a predictable schedule. Certainly the IRS and our kids continue to insist on their regular contributions.

Just as our yearly calendar represents a predictable cycle of change, management of a laboratory and a pathology group also represents a similar cycle of predictable change. For all the decades I have seen come and go, this crusty curmudgeon can assure you that the management problems you deal with today are no different than those I dealt with throughout my career. People issues, payroll concerns, market share, product cost and quality—these occupied my business meetings decades ago, just as they occupy your business meetings today.

What is different about managing laboratories today than “way back when?” My guess is the one big difference from my days fresh out of college and the business meetings you hold today is this: the rate at which new variables hit your business, and require you to respond.

I believe most of this is related to the speed at which information can be gathered, assessed and communicated. Look, when I got out of college, only a few big companies even had computers. It was common to maintain data bases on 3×5 cards. There were no copy machines, no faxes, no cell phones, no pagers. Thus, information flowed much slower.

Seen from this perspective, probably the most daunting challenge facing you now is the stress of reacting to so much information, coming at you ever faster and faster. That might be why I say “Pox on the new millennium.” Our once-predictable cycle of change is undergoing radical acceleration by an unrelenting and growing flow of information.


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