FF Daily #492: Culture-building lessons from Mayo Clinic

October 6, 2021: India’s imminent power crisis; Long-term thinking Vs Long-termism; Fringe benefits

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[Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash]

In What It Takes, Charles D. Ellis shares key lessons from his study of five professional services firms—McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Capital Group, the Mayo Clinic, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore. These lessons will resonate with leaders trying to build a strong culture within their organisations.

Take the challenge that a hospital like Mayo Clinic faces, for example. Ellis writes: “In medical school, studying and learning are solo activities. In school, getting help on an exam from another student is cheating. Excelling alone is how a resident got into a great medical school and then won a great residency. Then suddenly everything changes. To be a great Mayo doctor, the new resident must understand that professionalism at the point of care means solving problems as part of a team, not alone. Residents also find they can no longer depend as before on memory. Now they depend on discovery—on figuring things out. Radiologist Stephen Swensen contended: ‘Nobody who is at Mayo Clinic could ever have been as good outside Mayo.’”

What does Mayo do to bring the best out of its people? The answer might be blindingly obvious—it’s training. But, the institution takes it to a different level. 

Ellis writes, “Each year, the typical Mayo Clinic employee participates in 17 different courses, some lasting a few hours and some, several days. Before nurses can go into the operating room, they must practice for 12 weeks in a simulation center not unlike the Link Trainers airline pilots use. With thousands of courses on offer, annual course registrations for all three Mayo campuses run over 940,000.”

It’s not just technical skills. “Mayo courses cover a wide range of subjects. The many courses have two objectives: enhance the performance capabilities of individuals in their current positions and enable them to take on larger responsibilities. The objective, said Dr. Michael Brennan, ‘is to prepare the workforce of the future with Mayo values.’”

But, there’s more to it than training. Ellis concludes the section with these words: “When people come to Mayo Clinic and say, ‘We want to copy your process,’ we know it cannot be done. Patients often say things like: ‘Where do you get people like this who will always go the extra mile? If only I had people like this in my company, I could accomplish great things.’ What they do not recognize is that there’s a reason people on the Mayo Clinic staff are as they are: years of deliberate training by management and a strong culture in harmony with both recruiting practice and the Mayo mission.”

In this issue

  • India’s imminent power crisis
  • Long-term thinking Vs Long-termism
  • Fringe benefits

Have a good day.

India’s imminent power crisis

Despite all the push towards renewable energy, it’s coal that predominantly powers India. Seventy percent of India’s power comes from coal-fired plants. And now there is a shortage of coal supply. Over 50% of all power plants in the country have less than three days of coal stocks (against the good practice of having 15 days of stocks). 

How did this happen? Reuters explains: “India's industrial power demand has surged after the second coronavirus pandemic wave. On top of that, a widening price gap between lower domestic prices and record global coal prices has led buyers to shun imports. State-run Coal India, which produces over 80% of India's coal, on Wednesday said an increase in global coal prices and freight costs had led to a curtailment in power production by plants using imported coal, adding to the pressure on utilities using domestically mined coal to ramp up output.”

The immediate prospects look dire. FT reports: “The shortage now raises the prospect of imminent, large-scale power cuts, higher consumer electricity prices, or a hit to power generators’ bottom lines, in an economy where coal-fired plants now account for around 66% of power generation, up from around 62% in 2019.

“‘Fundamentally, we’ve been so laser-focused on demand recovery from the pandemic—that has been such centre stage—that all these supply-side issues haven’t been in the limelight until they started to bite,’ [Nomura’s Aurodeep] Nandi said.”

Dig deeper

Long-term thinking Vs Long-termism

In Current Affairs, Phil Torres highlights some of the dangers of giving too much importance to the far future at the cost of taking care of lives today.

“I should emphasize that rejecting long-termism does not mean that one must reject long-term thinking. You ought to care equally about people no matter when they exist, whether today, next year, or in a couple billion years henceforth. If we shouldn’t discriminate against people based on their spatial distance from us, we shouldn’t discriminate against them based on their temporal distance, either. Many of the problems we face today, such as climate change, will have devastating consequences for future generations hundreds or thousands of years in the future. That should matter. We should be willing to make sacrifices for their wellbeing, just as we make sacrifices for those alive today by donating to charities that fight global poverty. But this does not mean that one must genuflect before the altar of ‘future value’ or ‘our potential,’ understood in techno-Utopian terms of colonizing space, becoming posthuman, subjugating the natural world, maximizing economic productivity, and creating massive computer simulations stuffed with 1045 digital beings (on Greaves and MacAskill’s estimate if we were to colonize the Milky Way).

“Care about the long term, I like to say, but don’t be a long-termist. Superintelligent machines aren’t going to save us, and climate change really should be one of our top global priorities, whether or not it prevents us from becoming simulated posthumans in cosmic computers.”

It’s one of the key debates playing out globally, and Torres’ ideas are not without critics. Here’s a response from Olle Haggstrom, who says Torres has missed the nuances in the arguments put forth by long-termists. 

Dig deeper

Fringe benefits

(Via WhatsApp)

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Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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