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The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

If you're a fan of Dr. Seuss, or at least read one or two of his books when you were a kid, you may remember the "Cat in the Hat." The Cat was a creature who, although he appeared to have good intentions, always left behind more problems than he ever solved. In the book reported on here--the Cat's second adventure--he returns to the home of a couple of children while their parents are away. The Cat had been there once before. No one wanted him back, but he showed up anyway. When he entered the house, the first thing he did was to take a bath. Unfortunately, he left a pink ring of residue in the bathtub. Attempting to solve the problem he had created, the Cat wiped the tub with the kids' mother's white dress.

Naturally, the kids were worried about the dress now being stained. But the Cat had an idea. He wiped the dress on the wall, cleaning the dress but leaving a large pink stain on the wall. Now the kids were concerned about the wall, but the Cat had a solution for this, too. He took two shoes and wiped them on the wall, transferring the stain from the wall to the shoes. The children protested, so the Cat rubbed the shoes across a rug--cleaning the shoes but leaving streaks of pink along the rug.

The kids became even more concerned with the condition of the rug, so the Cat picked it up and shook it our over Dad's bed. Now the rug was clean, but Dad's bed was splattered with pink. The children demanded the bed be cleaned, but the Cat said he could not clean it alone.

"It's good for me I have someone to help me," the Cat said, pulling off his hat to reveal a smaller Assistant Cat. Off came the Assistant Cat's hat, revealing an Assistant Assistant Cat. Another hat off, and an Assistant Assistant Assistant Cat appeared.

In succession, the Cats broomed the pink onto the TV, into the fan, and out onto the lawn. Now part of the lawn was pink. Needing more help, more hats came off, and a total of seven Assistant Cats now were at the task. Taking cork guns, they shot the pink spots until the mess was over the entire lawn. Frantically, the cats worked and produced from under their hats a total of 26 Assistant Cats. They scooped raked, shot, plowed, and manipulated the pink stuff to the point where the lawn, house and every plant was pink.

Under the hat of the 26th Cat was something called VOOM. And, as the Cats claimed they knew, VOOM cleans up everything. Sure enough, the VOOM cleaned up everything (and blew all the Assistants back into the big Cat's hat). At which point the Cat in the Hat said:

"And so if you ever Have spots, now and then, I will be very happy To come here again."

We may, from time to time, notice that this is just what happens in some corporations. Someone comes in and creates a problem that affects others. The others, in their desire to remove the problem, ask the problem maker to decide how they should fix it. The problem maker tries various unsuccessful actions and eventualy enlists a multitude of people to find a solution. Pretty soon, there are several dozen people scurrying around trying to solve the problem (which may not have been a problem without the manager's creating it in the first place). Without coordination of efforts (each "Cat" is out doing his or her own thing, believing he or she understands what is needed), the problem worsens and grows.

Eventually, after a lot of wasted effort, some "Cat" finds the Voom, and the problem gets resolved.

This highly inefficient way to solve self-created problems reduces productivity and forward thinking. People spend extraordinary time and effort fixing what should not have occurred in the first place (had the original "Big Cat" not left the "residue in the tub").

The real message of the pink stain gets distorted. The "Big Cat" claims that the VOOM came from him, and therefore he must have saved the corporation. What he never realizes is that he caused the problem in the first place.

It is said that we learn from experience. The problem, however, is that "Big Cats" often do not experience the effects of the directions they give or the rules they make. The people on the front lines experience them.

I suspect that only managers who live under their own rules, or have to do their own work, really understand what they have done and how it affects others. The managers who never experience the effects of their directives and actions remain--unfortunately--ignorant of what they have caused.

In the end, when managers never experience their own orders, there is a form of "learning disablity" on their parts. It is something the good manager avoids.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:managing the medical office
Author:Burton, Richard M.
Publication:Physician Executive
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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