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The business doctor: family therapist John Pagan is diagnosing and treating business ills.

Anchorage family therapist business consultant Pagan began making the connection about 10 years ago. Practicing then as a marriage and family therapist in California, Pagan began noticing a common ailment among his clients. Although most came to him for what they thought were family-related problems, Pagan realized that many of their symptoms pointed instead to work-related problems.

The connection between the two became so obvious, in fact, that after Pagan moved to Anchorage in 1980, he decided to expand his practice and to become a consultant to businesses eager to improve the general health of their organizations. Today he has crafted a private practice that is 30 percent family therapy and 70 percent organization development, sometimes referred to as organizational transformation or organizational effectiveness.

In the last few years he has helped oil companies, Native corporations, hospitals and non-profit organizations negotiate the passages of mergers, shifts in personnel and restructurings. His goal is to teach businesses how to handle change in a way that is both productive and healthy for management and staff.

Sometimes I call myself the organizational doctor,' says Pagan.

An intensely driven man who at age 42 is as focused on becoming a top master's tennis player as he is on succeeding professionally, Pagan and his wife, Kathleen Holmes, own Human Concerns Inc., in Anchorage. He recalls events that prompted him to expand his practice from family to corporate counseling: As I was listening to people come in to talk about their personal dilemmas, I began to see that there were some patterns that were emerging with people leaving their jobs.

It was difficult for them to keep jobs. I would hear war stories about how awful their work settings would be, the tremendous overtime and the work demands placed on the employees.'

Many of his clients expressed frustration over climbing - or the inability to climb - the career ladder. Employees didn't trust management. Managers didn't trust the people they supervised. As a result, no one was as happy - or as productive - as they could have been. 'I began to notice there was a lot of dysfunction going on in the work settings,' adds Pagan.

Soon he also recognized similarities between family life and life at the office. People who went home to chaotic families or to those affected by alcohol tended to get themselves into chaotic work situations. Many worked with peers who also had problems with alcohol. It was getting too frequent and beyond chance,' says Pagan.

His decision: to immerse himself in management literature, to offer a few courses in management training and to eventually return to school for a master's degree from Pepperdine University. While maintaining his private Anchorage practice, Pagan returned to the California campus periodically and completed correspondence work. He plans to receive his degree in organization development, a field gaining momentum throughout the country. The degree will complement his earlier master's degree in clinical counseling and psychology.

Pagan describes organization development as a common-sense, step-by-step approach to making businesses - and their employees healthier and more productive. The process can be painful at times, and the change doesn't come overnight.

Although many consultants say they practice organization development, Pagan notes he knows of only a handful of people locally who are professionally trained and practicing in the field. Local demand for their services is growing, and Fortune 500 companies have been consulting organization development specialists for years, he says.

Pagan likes to describe organization development as 'planned change." He explains, Organization development introduces people to start thinking on more of a people point of view. It fosters not so much linear thinking but more of a global kind of thinking of the whole organization. We're talking about change. It's how to manage change."

But change can come slowly, something most business people have a hard time accepting, Pagan points out. Most want results right now, and that's not realistic. Although Pagan can provide short-term assistance, he prefers to take on projects that span about a year, to allow adequate time for accomplishing the necessary steps.

Says Pagan, 'Organization development is major surgery in my opinion. And what I tell a lot of my clients is you have to decide if you want to go to the emergency room or if you want to go to surgery. If you want to change, it's going to be hard work - long-term hard work."

In the last few years, Pagan has begun filling a niche he says was just waiting to be explored. Companies here were hungry for suggestions on how to foster a better, more productive - and more human-oriented working environment. Some were in serious straits when they came to Pagan. Others were basically healthy but wanted help in dealing with sudden growth, shifts in management or the introduction of a new service.

The response was overwhelming," says Pagan of his initial ventures into organization development. I touched on a nerve.'

He has done organization work for corporations of varying size and function and is particularly interested in mergers and in helping family owned businesses survive and prosper into subsequent generations. Although most of his time is spent in Anchorage, Pagan's business consulting has taken him throughout the state and Outside. For the native Hawaiian, all the varied facets combine to form the perfect professional balance.

Pagan's daily fee for short-term, corporate consulting is between 1,000 and $3,000. Long-term project fees, in which Pagan may work with another specialist, run $25,000 and include everything from salary and travel costs to research and retreat expenses. Pagan admits his fee may seem high but says businesses eager to change consider the fee a sound investment.

Those Pagan has worked with agree that what he offers makes sense, both from a business perspective and from a human one. To me it's common sense, organizational common sense,' says Gayle Knepper, director of marketing for Anchorage's Charter North Hospital.

The hospital's management team began working with Pagan in November 1988, a month after a new administrator was hired. The group's goal: to build an effective working relationship among the new team.

We felt we were doing OK,' remembers Knepper.'What we wanted to do was do what we did better.'

After more than a year of team interviews, research and retreats, the group continues to work towards becoming more of a team. With maintenance as a goal, his direction now is designed to prevent groups from slipping back into old, unproductive and possibly unhealthy work patterns.

Says Knepper,'He's very valuable. Our group is very integrated now. We all seem to understand where we're going as a group.'

Alicia Iden, former president of The Anchorage Center for Families' board of directors, also praises Pagan's work: He was a wonderful guide through steps we needed to be taken through. He has a lot to offer.'

The non-profit family counseling center is the product of a 1988 merger between two existing social service agencies - Family Connection and The Center for Children and Parents. Several months after the merger, the center was still in transition - some involved would say turmoil - when the then-executive director, Peter Scales, decided to take Pagan up on what promised to be a win-win proposition. Pagan would offer the center's board and staff his development services free of charge for one year. In return, the center would become Pagan's research laboratory into the nature of mergers.

Says Iden, I felt it was real growing. I think we're better now.'

While Pagan admits that organization development isn't the answer for all businesses, he strongly believes it's the right approach - and good business sense - for many.

I support profit,' says Pagan unabashedly.'But there's a way to make profit that has dignity and respect for people and in a way that doesn't misuse the organization's resources and its people.' 10 Do-it-Yourself Diagnosis

Not sure if your organization needs the services of a business doctor? John Pagan suggests that you watch for symptoms such as these:

Energy, time and resources don't meet productive goals.

Recurring morale problems interfere with staffs ability to work.

High employee turnover disrupts continuity. Your company has difficulty building employee commitment to the business or to their jobs.

Conflicts occur and reoccur and attempts to correct the situation are unsuccessful. Because of a breakdown in work relations, one department is out of step and affects the entire organization.

The company is growing at a rate that creates stress. Things feel fragmented. You're operating in a crisis mode.

Your company is healthy, but you want to change values and attitudes, or set a a new direction; you want to change the management structure.

You recognize the need to practice strategic planning throughout your entire system and not just at upper levels.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on do-it-yourself diagnosis of your business
Author:Hill, Robin Mackey
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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