Avoid the “Black Hatters”

We are all familiar with Black Friday and the Mad Hatter, but what about the less popular Black Hatters? Unfortunately, the term “Black Hatter” does not refer to discounted shopping or a whimsical fairy tale character like the others. It carries with it a more negative connotation. Black Hatters are the “change agents,” interim executives and outside resources, brought into failing organizations to make quick and dramatic vicissitudes. They get their unique name because they are responsible for correcting red margins and moving hospitals and health systems back into the “black.” Black Hatters are known for their “slash and burn” approach to immediate improvement, resulting in substantial reductions in force through layoffs. They are charged with implementing financial turnarounds as well as identifying and achieving significant cost savings either before a change in leadership or a merger. They are also the driving force behind the bad reputation that productivity has gained in healthcare. While Black Hatters are not the grim reaper, they are often viewed as “death” to a hospital or health system by the management team and staff because they represent the complete upheaval of current practices and culture.

Avoiding “Black Hatters” is not an easy feat. The best and most obvious way is never to need them in the first place. Maintaining solid financial and operational performance requires collaboration, meaningful data, and accountability.

  • Collaboration: All levels of leadership and staff need to be engaged to develop and work towards practical strategic goals aimed at minimizing waste, increasing efficiencies, and reducing cost
  • Meaningful data: All improvement decisions should be data-driven to ensure they are realistic and achievable. Understanding where actual volume and staffing levels are, not where they are expected to be, is key to optimizing operations
  • Accountability: Holding all management responsible for meeting designated performance goals is critical to controlling the proper utilization of resources throughout the organization. Integrating staffing targets into the position control and budget processes helps build accountability and eliminate the dreaded FTE creep

Black Hatters provide struggling hospitals with the fast results needed to stop their bottom lines from hemorrhaging. However, they do so in a manner that is disruptive and damaging. Staff morale and trust in leadership are negatively impacted by the rash tactics these “outsiders” employ. A quick fix is not always the right choice. Instead, hospital executives need to be focused on long-term solutions that become the foundation for future success.  To leran more about how to effectively avoid the Black Hatters through performance improvement, productivity and workforce optimization services, contact ALTIUS today!

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