Doug’s success as
a player is impressive. He demonstrates how experienced mainliners plunge in
with no need for preparation or planning. “By his second day on the job,
Doug is ready to take charge.” He probably spent his first day finding out
where his office was and how to use the telephones. By the second day, though,
he is ready for major action. It is this take charge approach that puts Doug
into a class by himself. He orders a reorganization of the accounting
department with no specific instructions other than to reorganize. This style
of play is the essence of his game. The casual observer may think that the
staff reductions and closing areas of the hospital are the main theme. No,
those actions are too obvious. The sweeping changes raise the most outrage, but
the little plays do in the hospital. The big actions take time and afford
people many opportunities to react. The small ones go unnoticed within the
bigger crisis but erode the organizational foundations. Even if the major
changes slow or stop, the infrastructure, the heart of the hospital, is
weakened and ineffective.
By the end of his
second day, Doug has set the inevitable and inexorable process into motion. As
astute observers put it, It is a done deal.
For Doug, the
process is primary. The outcome of the process is secondary. Look at the
process in relationship to the president’s expected outcomes.
“What are you
doing over there, Doug?”
doing what you hired me to do.”
explains, “I did not expect you to go charging like a bull your first
“This is no
time to change the expectations just because there is a little heat.”
What are the
president’s expectations? They go like this.
are not doing what I expect.”
Doug then says,
“I understand that you want me to do the job.”
says, “Yes, but take it a little easier.”
Doug then says,
“This is no time to tell me you don’t want me to do the job.”
With no definition
of what the job is, Doug wins unless the president says he does not want the
job done. Of course he is not going to say that.
An example of how
Doug does the job is instructive. He is a man of action. Doug never lets the
facts or the other side of the story distract or confuse him.
going to have to do something about this one.”
Without a second
thought, Doug calls the receptionist into his office. “I am immediately
suspending you for three days. . . . I do not want to hear it.
You heard what I said.”
Doug does not need
to hear the story, understand the facts, or figure out why the problem came up.
He just takes decisive action. One reason he gets away with this approach is
the way he deals with any repercussions from his behavior.
have to talk.”
to follow up on this one for me. . . . I have more important things needing my
attention right now.”
That a boy, Doug!
Leave the details to those who take care of that kind of stuff for you. Given
time, the accumulation of such details will overwhelm everyone. It will become
obvious that only drastic action will get the job done. And when it comes to
drastic action, you know that Doug is the man for the job.
To be an effective
mainliner, a player needs to stay above the details and away from day-to-day
difficulties and issues. If inadvertently pulled in, an experienced player
appoints a committee. Alternatively, he postpones action until he has consulted
with superiors or experts. This gives him time to revise his game. In a pinch,
he focuses on the details in agonizing detail. The best play, however, is at
the level of generalization or sweeping action.
conversation with the reporter from the Times is a worthy guide to
community knows, there are some serious problems. It is clear to me, though,
the difficulties are all resolvable. . . . It is strong medicine
but the medicine has to fit the problems. I have things under control and
expect things to be back to normal in a few days.”
Doug is a
mainliner who one day will be working for the State Department or as press
secretary for a prominent politician. Listen to Doug’s sweeping acknowledgment
of the obvious. “There are some serious problems.” Of course, Doug
gives no detail other than to say that they are all resolvable. How will he
resolve the problems? He will do it with strong medicine, whatever that is.
Doug asserts that he has everything under control. The trick is to act like a
winner so Doug simply declares quick victory.
Here is the key to
the play. How does he define victory? He says that victory is getting things
back to normal. Listen to it! The president may think he is there to get things
away from normal, at least away from what has been normal for the Rosewood
Hospital. No, not for a quality player like Doug. It sounds like his goal is to
get things back to where they were when he started. Perhaps the president
should know this. Maybe Doug will tell him. What do you think?
declare near-victory. It always lies just around the corner. Also, they must
ensure that everyone stays on board. People need to know they are on the
winning team, and the only way to victory is to stick with the mainliner.
says, “We need to take a close look at how you are handling this and at
what other options we have.”
The president is
unsure. He is thinking about whether he is on the right team. Doug is ready,
“We can back
off and let the hospital go the rest of the way down the tube. Alternatively,
we can follow through with what we have started.”
The use of we
helps further the team idea. Also note the reduction to one option: Doug’s
option. Of course, letting the hospital go down the tube is not an option at
all. The choices reduce to one choice. Doug’s game is the only game in town.
The president does
give Doug some pause for thought. This is the point at which Doug grasps the
straw that is his salvation and puts him in The Frustration Factor history
“It may be
time to bring in a systems analyst. . . . We have a real crisis here.”
Without drawing a
hard breath, Doug suggests that they get someone in who knows what he is doing.
Calling the savior a systems analyst is the key. The president might otherwise
think Doug should straighten things out himself. The skilled mainliner never
stays in a position where anyone expects him actually to get the job done on
his own. How easy is this for Doug? You only need to listen to the president.
“I knew it
was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”
It is just that
easy! In one stroke of genius, Doug is forever off the hook. Now, no one
expects him to succeed, least of all the president.
Does Doug know how
close he came to losing control of the process? He surely does. It is so close
that he has to stop and think for the first time since arriving at Rosewood
Memorial. “I have to do something. . . . Just do something! Poke at it
enough and something will happen.”
The way out
remains uppermost in Doug’s mind. He continues to poke, knowing his worst
mistake would be to let things settle down or for anything to be resolved. The
existence of the crisis is the best smokescreen he has to cover up his lack of
any idea about how to improve the predicament.
“I have not
changed my approach. . . . I think we may have to accept the reality the
hospital may not survive . . .”
The way out is at
hand: the hospital may not survive. The circle closes. Doug is there because
the hospital is in trouble and may not survive. Doug says that nothing has
changed. It is clear what he means by back to normal.
Once he locks onto
the way out, Doug stays on task. “We have to keep our focus on the big
picture. It is not just a combination of little things. It is a crisis about to
blow up on us. . . . We are just lucky the SRC group is there to help us out of
Doug goes out in a
flourish. He combines several techniques into a single complex play. He draws
attention away from the separate parts of the problem and from any possibility
of someone’s trying to fix things one step at a time. He generalizes by calling
his approach the big picture. The idea is that big people look at the big
picture and little people work on the details. His appeal is to the part of
human nature that wants to be a big person–a big shot, if you will.
Just to make sure
the technique works, he repeats himself. He says that it is not just a
combination of little things. So as not to seem repetitive, he next calls the
big picture a crisis that is about to blow up. It is a little like yelling Fire!
in a crowded theater. His hope is that everyone panics, with Doug standing
there ready to point out the exit.
In Rosewood as is
true in most places or situations, everyone does panic and Doug is ready. He
has the SRC Group in the wings to save the day. The result is that Doug is the
hero. He has pointed the way out of a crisis about to blow.
administrator to super hero in one quick and continuous flight to the top! Dare
I say that Doug made the trip by way of the mainliner? (You may know of the law
of conceptual inertia. It says that if you make any problem complex enough, you
will not be able to do anything about it, ever.)