Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad…. It’s Necessary In Health IT Consulting
by Jeff Urban
In 1977, Meat Loaf coined the phrase “Two out of three ain’t bad,” and the phrase has become a household saying, though many may have forgotten its origins. Although the singer was talking about a misguided relationship, the words hold a profound meaning when applied to the business world, especially the highly competitive world of health information technology (HIT) consulting.
In business, companies often feel that every goal, every benchmark must be met in order to claim success, but in practice, this is rarely the case. The real trouble comes not when one goal is missed but when all the other goals get thrown out after one setback. No company can expect to meet every goal every time or to achieve perfection in every new hire. Businesses often forget that perfection is unattainable, but two out of three really ain’t so bad, as long as forward progress is being made and the ultimate goal is realized.
The two-out-of-three HIT consultant. In the delivery of consultants to hospitals and health systems, those doing the hiring consistently look for three defining factors: quickness, cost containment and consultant quality. Hospitals ideally want someone who is timely, of high value, and available at a low rate. This is the hiring manager’s idea of a perfect consultant, but a consultant who has all three qualities simply doesn’t exist. Not unlike the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, the perfect consultant is consistently speculated about, and the idea is profited from, but his or her existence has yet to be proven.
The reality, on the other hand, has been proven time and time again by firsthand accounts with documented results. In the real world, an unmistakable majority of candidates will only have two of the three ideal qualities. Stop searching for all three, stay away from candidates with just one, and figure out which two factors — speed, price, or value — mean the most to your business.
A quick candidate with high quality is NOT cheap. A consultant found quickly that has the highest skill levels will rarely, if ever, satisfy a stringent budgetary confinement. If your company is able to find someone available now with a high level of expertise at a bargain price, that should raise a red flag. If this person’s skills are so in-demand, the question must be asked, why are they on the market at below-market value? Either their skills are exaggerated or they have no concept of their own value, which can raise multitudes of other questions. Did the hiring manager find a diamond in the rough? They may feel that way, but statistics and rational thinking lead to a far different conclusion.
True talent comes at a price, and that price tag simply can’t be avoided. Companies looking for top quality HIT consultants on a budget can’t expect to have all their wildest dreams fulfilled. Instead, such companies should focus in on the areas of their business that need the most attention and look for specialized consultants that can help with those specific areas. A consultant with a narrow scope or one who only serves your local area may come at a more reasonable price point and be just as useful to your organization.
A cheap candidate found quickly is NOT overly qualified. A consultant that can start immediately and isn’t asking for much is not likely to have the expertise needed to drive your business forward. Though the candidate may be better than your average warm body, he or she may be offering skills that are out of date or too general to be of any use. A candidate’s value is determined by the market, so if you are thinking of hiring a basement-bargain consultant, expect basement-bargain work.
As previously mentioned, a less-expensive consultant may be able to help your organization with a specific problem, but if your company is struggling in multiple areas, or worse, you have no idea where the root of your issues lies, it is probably worthwhile for your company to pay out the extra cost upfront for a high quality consultant that will help make your business more profitable in the long run.
A qualified, reasonably-priced candidate is NOT fast. One thing that impresses me about the strongest consulting companies is the attention to detail and patience they must have. The top consultants will only work with companies they trust and have a relationship with. This relationship can take months, even years, to develop and must be cultivated in an ongoing environment of mutual development. I have seen recruiters work with a single candidate for upwards of a year to facilitate the development of trust needed in order to create deep change and lasting progress. Thus, the most qualified candidates are usually just as interested in finding a good work situation as they are in being paid according to their worth. The likelihood of developing a relationship with a consultant that will lead to a maximum return on your investmentin an extremely short amount of time is just not realistic. Be prepared to settle in for the long haul if you want to find the perfect consultant for your business at the right price point. And once you find them, it is imperative to be able to make decisions quickly. Time kills deals, and hesitating when that candidate is found will ultimately cost more.
Two out of three … but which two? So which scenario leads to the best outcome? It depends on the end goal of your organization. If you have specific, immediate issues that need to be addressed fast, you may need to sacrifice a level of quality or be willing to shell out extra cash in order to make it happen. If you’re looking for long-term solutions to imbedded issues, speed simply cannot be a part of your consultant equation. It has been proven time and again: If your desired outcome is the absolute best product, there are no shortcuts. There are, however, compromises. Follow the advice of Meat Loaf and decide what factors are most important to your business. If you do that and arm yourself with the knowledge that, hey, two out of three ain’t bad, you’ll get your business where it needs to go.