Avoid having to check back and subscribe to Roll Away the Dew by email. It will take a whole pail of water just to cool you down!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The MBA Oath is just making me Swear

The MBA Oath was started in May 2009 by Harvard Business School students. The Oath was intended to serve as a Hippocratic Oath for MBA's, encourage students to start local Oath or Oathian clubs on their campus, and promote the emphasis on greater societal good. I blogged twice about my assessment of the Oath's progress and this post represents the eagerly anticipated third installment of the series. This is probably similar to how the public eagerly waited the second Chronicles of Riddick since they had no idea that a first version was released.

How is the Oath doing? It might even be similar to the Chronicles of Riddick
  • Since 2009, 6,303 students have signed the oat and the MBA Oath states that it has been embraced by about 300 schools and institutions. 37 schools were highlighted as working on significant events which I guess is kind of like getting past first base. 17 schools were highlighted as significant contributors which I guess is second base. Either the MBA Oath doesn't put out or it's not getting any action. Given that hundreds of programs graduate 150,000 MBA's per year, this is looking like less than 5% market share. From a volume perspective, it's not looking like it's impactful, making impacts, having an impact, leveraging, optimizing, or transforming. Value is not being created but at least no value was harmed in this process.
  • In my first post, I praised it's slick website which is the equivalent of a corporate business card in this day and age (not saying that I consider corporations to be people since Occupy Wall Street clearly disagrees). That's good when your website is in good shape. When your website's blog and media page haven't been updated since the last World Series, that's a pretty clear out of business sign. To be fair, it looks like they moved their activity to their Facebook page which I guess is either really a savvy move or lazy move. Since moving to Facebook, most of the MBA Oath's activity has been from one very critical poster who is riding them harder then then headless horseman rode Ichabod Crane. Based on that, I don't think that it's working out too well.
  • The MBA Oath's best opportunity was to position itself as a requisite for MBA's as part of a hopeful movement to provide some form of license or ways to guarantee that all MBA's come with some minimal standards. If they chose to position themselves as a resource and driver for socially minded MBA students, they would compete with Net Impact. Net Impact has a long track record of providing resources and opportunities to this segment. They seem to be trying to compete with Net Impact which is duplication of services at best but really an example of a lack of clear goals.
The last bullet point is what made this post timely for me since Occupy Wall Street is being charged with a lack of focus and having no clear goals. I have no shortage of snarky posts about wellness, ACO's, resumes, and job interviewing so it's not like I needed to make fun of the Oath for material. The parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the MBA Oath became fairly clear to me as I got more interested in the Occupy movement.
  • Both are good examples of excellent marketing campaigns that captured a key movement of their times. They both are good shorthand for these movements with Occupy representing angry leftists trying to salvage the American middle class and the Oath representing socially minded MBA's trying to salvage the reputation of their schools.
  • Both had clear goals but no clear way to get there. Occupy is about the end of corporate personhood (note the foreshadowing), boycotting national banks in favor of local credit unions, and a "Robin Hood" tax on investment transactions. They are trying to get there with human microphones, face paint, and funny hand gestures. The Oath is about doing financially well while doing good, responsible corporate behavior, and encouraging their classmates to take an oath to do these things. They are trying to get there with a petition. I would recommend adding face paint.
  • Both face a backlash from those who should be their most ardent supporters for appearing to be a marketing campaign with no clear goals that is capitalizing on popular sentiment
From my visit to the Occupy Portland camp, I have to say the main difference between the two movements right now is their personal hygiene of their participants. However, I am rooting for Occupy Wall Street's legislative agenda and hoping that the rate of voting in the 18-29 segment rises above 50% in the next election.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wellness Industrial Complex

My place of employment (no not this blog, luckily I have a real job), required us employees to do a biometric screening this year. They drew blood to measure our cholesterol and lipids, took our blood pressure, and weighed us. Opinions varied. I listened to one coworker ask what our insurance company was going to do when they got her results. She was assured that her results were just for her to better understand her health. Another coworker commented on how this screening was a great idea and she was really interested in seeing if behavior changed.

The coworker who was nervous about the insurance company probably got results that indicated she wasn't so healthy. The coworker who thought this was a great idea probably was perfectly healthy, knew it, and was acting smug about it. The coworker who was nervous about the insurance company was told a half truth. This first year, the results would be just for us to see if we improve our health on our own. However, in future years, our employer and insurance company will slowly but surely get more active. The first year is voluntary and a free service to show they care. Next year, a nurse will probably call us about our high BMI. The following year, it will be outcomes focused and there will be rewards for improving health. The next year, the carrot will be replaced by a stick and we will be beaten with it until we lose that weight.

I know that some of my coworkers who work for insurance companies refuse the reward to take biometric screenings for fear that their insurance company will no longer cover them if they have poor results. That's not true. The insurance company will just give them lesser coverage until they show improvement and have nurses harass them.

I am being a little apocalyptic since the scenarios above are probably unlikely. However, they are unlikely because of employers and insurance companies ability to make these hard decisions about when to start the more punative measures for poor employee decisions about their health. Employers don't really want to be in the health insurance business let alone run weight loss centers. These more draconian measures of hiring companies to make employees give them their candy in exchange for fruit (a company really does this) will result in hard conversations and distraction. Most employers don't want to deal this. However, their desperation to reduce medical costs have resulted in the Wellness Industrial Complex.

We have an endless choice of Health Risk Assessments from all kinds of company that ask about our health based on the theory that we will take these tests and suddenly discover that we have unhealthy behaviors and stop them. For example, "Oh I thought it was 5 servings of bacon a day not 5 servings of vegetables!" or "I will certainly stop snorting cocaine off my Iphone while driving in traffic and go back to snorting it off stripper's chests. That is much less risky." Thanks Health Risk Assessment for showing me the light.

The Health Risk Assessments are followed up by Health Coaches which are often non-clinical, non-licensed staff who talk with you on the phone about your bacon consumption. These Health Coaches are coupled with Incentive management programs who are solely dedicated to mailing gift cards or horse's heads for those who do well or do poorly on their health scores. This is all complemented with Wellness in a Box campaigns that include some lovely marketing material such as vegetable of the month of how to start a walking club at your work.

That sucking noise that you hear is the cost of the Health Risk Assessments, Health Coaches, Incentive programs, and material to celebrate National Pedometer Day. What's the ROI on that readers are probably all shouting like the Timbers Army at a Portland MISL soccer game.

The ROI in terms of medical costs saved is as elusive as a moderate Republican. It isn't really there and hard to find even it is. That's because the whole implementation of the Wellness Industrial Complex was foisted on health insurance companies. For insurance companies, the ROI is based on medical cost savings. Their business model does not reward them for improving wellness, productivity, or making employees happy. For an insurance company, the ideal customer is the one who dies in their sleep of a massive undetected heart attack after using no medical services for the year and not the client who manages their diabetes with monthly doctor visits and 3 prescription medications.

Provider groups or even unions are more logical candidates for hosting Wellness programs because they have different interests and are looking for different results. Both get rewarded for keeping workers happy and productive. That's where there is potential for ROI as opposed to the very indirect connection with medical costs.

Employers, in their insatiable desire for vendor consolidation, assigned Wellness programs to their health insurance companies because they thought incentives would be aligned and because they could. Insurance companies saw a market differentiation and revenue opportunity and grabbed it. However, the marriage of insurance companies and Wellness is proving to be as awkward as Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars. It's proving to be an added expense for insurance companies and the medical cost savings aren't there.

Since I like to offer solutions on this blog, I am pleased to say that I have one that should help all parties. Since employers are interested in vendor consolidation, they should have their Waste Management vendors run their Wellness programs. Given that most Waste Management companies can tell what employees are eating at work by going through their trash, they have the information. No need for a Health Risk Assessment. More importantly, since most Waste Management companies are mob run, they should be very successful in this endeavor. Their loan sharking and enforcement arms can easily handle the health coaching and incentive programs. The medical costs may rise in the first year due to some broken knee caps but I am confident, they would show a better ROI then health insurance companies.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corporate Jargon, dead yet?

The MBA admissions season is starting to tail off. As usual, I spent at least 25% of my time pulling corporate jargon out of client's essays. Words like "value extraction" or "create value" are replaced with what the person actually did. "Leverage" and "optimize" are replaced with real verbs rather than name of a TV show and a Transformer. "Tool kit" is replaced with an actual description of skills unless the person is describing a carpentry project. "Impactful" or "Impacts" is changed to the humble original word of impact. I also pull out the word unique, profound, and deeply because they are just another way of saying "very" and suggest that they use real adjectives instead.

Given that MBA admissions cracks down on corporate jargon, I wonder if this effort will eradicate impactful value streams from future MBA's vocabulary like the invasive species that it is? I had further hopes during a conference call with a vendor that was trying to cross sell us their products. Since we were on mute, we spent the call laughing at phrases like:
  • To be honest with you
  • As the risk of sound sales-y
  • I don't want to get into the weeds
  • In order to wrap your arms around this
We spent the time trying to use as many of those phrases in one sentence. The winner announced "At the risk of being honest with you, I really want to wrap my arms around this project while I am down in the weeds." These corporate jargon phrases caused the person's stock to plummet as fast as the actual stock market in August.

After these observations, I was feeling hopeful that standard English was making a come back at the expense of corporate jargon. Real words and adjectives were the new black. Or is it the new pink? My hopes were dashed after receiving this email from a current MBA student. I had expressed an interest in writing for their newsletter and this was the response that I got:

Thanks. Will be in touch. We are refining a plan based on the responses we have been getting so we can optimally leverage the talents and enthusiasm of all those interested in a high level of engagement. We would like to "share the wealth" such that the time commitment for any single individual is manageable and to have a full queue of content throughout the year to maintain momentum as each edition rolls out.
For readers who don't speak corporate jargon, the response was "We are trying to get a lot more writers so we have enough material to produce at least a few issues." FML. MBA student's writing ability is a lost cause just like Rick Santorum's hope of ever solving his Google problem.
Related Posts with Thumbnails