In high school when my mother thought I needed to come down a peg or two she would call me, “Never Wrong Roemer.” Today I prefer to go by, “Dr. Knowledge” or “The Voice of Reason.” You can just call me Paul.
During my senior year of track I competed in the pole vault and I anchored the mile relay. In the interest of transparency, I think it more appropriate to say I ran the fourth leg of the mile relay—anchoring implies more speed than I actually possessed. On good days, we fielded a mediocre team.
I never enjoyed running the 440. It is for sprinters, and I am a distance runner. One day however I unwittingly became a sprinter. We were in a dual meet against Wilde Lake High School. As always, the mile relay is the last event. If we won the relay we would win the meet.
The fourth runner from Wilde Lake received the baton several seconds before me and had me by twenty yards. I made up the distance between us midway through the first turn. One inconsequential factor I did not know at the time is that two years later he would be participating in the Olympic trials in the 440.
It turned out not to be so inconsequential. What happened after I pulled alongside of him remains a bit of a blur; the same kind of blur the Wile E. Coyote saw each time he thought he had caught the Road Runner. Turns out I had outsmarted myself. I was caught up in the moment which is nothing like being caught up in the reality of the situation. I was in a competition I couldn’t win and I did not know it until it was too late.
Business is a lot like that. Leaders get caught up in the ferocity of what is going on around them. You’ve seen them; you work with them. These are the same people who don’t have an opening on their calendar for six weeks, the same people who are busy putting out last month’s fires, who are hurriedly building defenses for whatever may be around the next corner.
Some of those intelligent and well meaning leaders are so focused on catching the runner in front of them that they lose sight of the race, lose sight of their role as leaders. Some leaders approach healthcare strategy as a series of directionless sprints while others view it as a marathon in a pack of lemmings. If everyone is running in the same direction, how wrong can their strategy be if they stay with the pack?
I think we will discover in the next several years many of those marathoners will drop out or be disqualified. They are approaching a poorly marked turn, and if they fail to take it they will be overcome by one or more of a multitude of factors that will eventually lead to their demise.
While it is impossible to disprove a negative, time will tell. My advice—next time you see a fork in the road, take it.
Then there was the time I asked my mother to drop me off a half mile away from my girlfriend’s house so she would think I ran the full eight miles to come see her. But, we will leave that story for another time.
Paul M. Roemer
Chief Imaginist, Healthcare IT Strategy
1475 Luna Drive, Downingtown, PA 19335
+1 (484) 885-6942