Seth Godin and The Productivity Pyramid

The following quotation comes from marketing guru Seth Godin who somehow seems to formulate the essence of a contemporary problem in a few short words.
If you study the words carefully you will come to think that he is speaking directly to you as a pharmacist.
If the cap fits….wear it!

The productivity pyramid (give yourself a promotion)

“Productivity is a measure of output over time. All other things being equal, the more you produce per minute, the more productive you are. And economists understand that wealth (for a company or a community) is based on increasing productivity.

The simplest way to boost productivity is to get better at the task that has been assigned to you. To work harder, and with more skill.

The next step up is to find people who are cheaper than you to do those assigned tasks. The theory of the firm is that people working together can get more done, faster.

The next step up is to invest in existing technology that can boost your team’s output. Buying a copier will significantly increase your output if you’re used to handwriting each copy of the memo you’ve been assigned.

The step after that? Invent a new technology. Huge leaps in value creation come to those that find the next innovation.

The final step, the one that that eludes so many of us: Figure out better things to work on. Make your own list, don’t merely react to someone else’s.

It turns out that the most productive thing we can do is to stop working on someone else’s task list and figure out a more useful contribution instead. This is what separates great organizations from good ones, and extraordinary careers from frustrated ones.

The challenge is that the final step requires a short-term hit to your productivity. But, if you fail to invest the time and effort to find a better path, it’s unlikely you’ll find one.”

Pharmacists have long measured their productivity as the number of prescriptions dispensed per hour and pharmacy patients have come to expect a fast dispensing service.
Some pharmacies have conducted advertising campaigns around how fast their dispensing services are compared to their competitors, until the various pharmacy boards outlawed the practice.
Obviously speed of service is not always synonymous with quality of service.

Most pharmacies have reached an economic limit as to the number of pharmacists that can be profitably employed in a dispensary, and it has become an art form in “big box” pharmacies.
So the competition for the prescription dollar must default to a better quality dispensing product.
The first casualty in a new strategy is the pharmacist, who is replaced with an automated machine.
The next strategy component is to amplify the service content surrounding dispensing.

SMS message reminders and Apps for prescriptions due for dispensing have become more commonplace, with reminders down to a direction to visit the doctor because you have no repeats left.
Other enhancements include delivery services (some qualified as to day and time), late trading hours or some alternative (online?) for patient access, and enhanced patient counseling.
The trick lies in managing and coordinating all these services without adding to the level of general overheads, and in particular, increasing pharmacist hours.
Because of the assembly line repetitive nature of dispensing it has become easier to exchange pharmacist hours with dispensary technician hours, particularly as dispensing has become highly commoditised.
Note how closely these words follow the Seth Godin script.
So closely that as we move through his text describing “finding cheaper people” we find “invest in existing technology” (I am sure he means an automated dispensing machine here), before he moves on to his next point of “invent a new technology”.

At this point we hit a brick wall because despite all the obvious warnings by various industry commentators there has been no planning by leadership bodies to circumvent lack of productivity issues, and many loyal pharmacists are now facing “the chop”.
If not just now, certainly over the next two years, unless new technology investment comes to the rescue.
With new technology there is a need to invest, and with investment comes risk.
This is the point where you see a sharp separation in the various pharmacy management styles because pharmacy management skills have not been very sharp over the past decade.
Well all those critics that complained about pharmacy being non-competitive were right.
It’s been very cosy in a cocoon of legislation to become complacent in, and PGA and government both became complicit in this.

So we now have a bit of a mess to sort out and it will affect all of us.
Some of this shake-out has already started with bankruptcies and poor-performing pharmacies just treading water, pharmacy employees being discarded and no real direction being put in place by pharmacy leadership bodies.

Certainly we are seeing the early stirrings from leadership organisations, but it is not enough!
It takes a Seth Godin to provide that answer.
He says:Figure out better things to work on. Make your own list, don’t merely react to someone else’s.”

i2P has been providing this type of philosophy for a long time now, investing money and time in research to provide reasonable guidance for pharmacy managers and for pharmacists wishing to make their skills more marketable.
Without doubt it will take a “sledgehammer or two” before the right strategies are in place.
That will only happen when the right leaders are in place.
There has been some shift in that regard, but more is needed ASAP.

A new leadership will extricate pharmacists from the PBS task list and relegate that list to the “back-burner” where it is given minimal attention and investment.
Privately offered clinical services will need to take prominence as “our task list”.

The foreboding last sentence in the Seth Godin narrative says:
“The challenge is that the final step requires a short-term hit to your productivity. But, if you fail to invest the time and effort to find a better path, it’s unlikely you’ll find one.”

I would have to say that if that time and investment does not occur, I and many of my colleagues would desert pharmacy in droves, taking our skills and experience with us.
It might just prove to be a pyrrhic victory for those who have long held an opposite, and now-failed view.

It also leaves those sort of people with nobody to rule over and a profession with no remnants of pride.

Better get a move on!

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