Your Feb. 21 Commentary, "Training shouldn't be the first to go," is right on target. From 1972 to 1993 I taught more than 1,200 executive development seminars for the American College of Healthcare Executives. I can attest from that experience that there is no better learning experience than discussing current critical issues with peers. Sharing successes and failures is a benefit that endures in terms of career experience and wisdom.
When the pressures of economic stress appear, as they have currently, innovation and creative methodologies become necessary functions of hospital and health system leaders, who must encourage their teams to seek the sustained competitive niche that will ensure the viability of their businesses. Executives will not usually find career-enhancing lessons at home. Limiting tuition and travel expenses leads to negative morale and often to more consultant and recruitment costs. These expenses are usually far greater than the costs of a stimulating educational experience.
Sought-after competitive advantages and unique cost-saving projects are usually learned from a colleague during an informal networking session at a conference or meeting. Likewise, unique physician-hospital gain-sharing models that pass government agency reviews and stay within safe harbors will not be learned in-depth from periodicals. Those who miss educational sessions will likely miss cutting-edge innovations until the advantage is lost and the copycat syndrome takes over. When this happens, most organizations follow the lead wagon, often right over the cliff. We've witnessed this phenomenon for decades, and still it occurs.
Take a lesson from one who's been involved with executive education for many years and has seen today's leaders excel in their roles or be found out and removed. Mentoring and encouraging exciting learning experiences are not luxuries only for the good times when budgets are flush. They are necessities, which should be steadfastly supported during tough times when sustaining the organization is essential. Strong leaders know this.
Chief executive officer
West Lake Village, Calif.