We are well into 2001 and yet we are still searching for the answers in terms of reimbursement, market potential and definition of responsibilities. We are continuing to look outside of our companies for the answers to the majority of questions, when in reality, the answers or solutions may just come from within.

The organizational development of a company in the future may be predicated on its employment capabilities and position fulfillment, including the retention of key employees. All the statistics point to major employment concerns by the year 2005. Many articles are being published on the various human resource issues facing U.S. companies today and most of the articles are focusing on the lack of qualified personnel and the importance of retention. I have found that most durable medical equipment companies and home health care agencies do not really have a good photograph of their company in terms of culture, leadership style, people development and employee satisfaction.

We can compare this photograph to the physician who is asked to provide a prognosis without completing the diagnosis. The physician's diagnosis of a condition may require treatment, surgery, more testing or additional medical equipment and medication with an extensive follow-up periodically to determine a real prognosis. Don't we want a real prognosis? Why are we so afraid of looking in the mirror and seeing the real image that our company presents?

Why are we so afraid of looking in the mirror and seeing the real image that our company presents?

Many owners or company executives cannot diagnose their company problems relating to current organizational structure, current leadership style and the true culture of their organization. To provide a real prognosis and develop their organization to meet the needs of the future, the company and its executives need to look into that mirror and not be afraid of the image that may appear. Employers need to understand the job descriptions and responsibilities of all employees and the organizational controls that limit their actions. They need to determine how flexible their policies and procedures are to meet the demands of their mission, vision and core values. Many companies do not have a clear understanding on how their employees view their leadership style in terms of team orientation, motivational style, empowerment, closeness of supervision, and most importantly, the communication style of the company. Most companies and their executives also do not have a good reflection of their company's culture. The end result is one that exhibits the fact that the employees often do not identify with the organization resulting in distrust of the management team, eliminating the potential for internal cooperation and innovation.

Organizational assessment tools are one of the instruments available to provide any management team with a real photograph of their company today, and also allow them to let the employees paint the picture of the company that they would like to see in the future. These assessment tools are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of employee turnover, especially on the management level. The Organizational Needs Inventory (ONI) is an example of such an assessment tool that provides a comprehensive analysis of an organization from the perspective of its employees with regard to the three areas that management experts regard as critical: predominant leadership style, organizational culture and structure. These assessments are usually unbiased, confidential, and provide a comprehensive diagnosis of the organization today through the eyes and ears of the employees. Any management team worth its salt will welcome a snapshot of their company so they can properly determine the appropriate course of action to en hance performance in the future. This assessment tool will allow the management team to establish training and development programs that will not only produce the skills required, but the attitudes and work habits needed to move the company in the direction of its mission and vision. It is not an easy task to change an organization and its people swiftly; you need to commit your organization to a time investment. The most important factor to remember is that this change is being planned, rather than just randomly happening.

Most DME companies and home health care agencies do not really have a good photograph of their company in terms of culture, leadership style, people development and employee satisfaction.

It also is very important to learn the dominant leadership style present within your company. Once your predominant leadership style is acknowledged, the velocity of change will be proportionate to the support and direction offered by the management team of the company. The first step is to establish a goal - setting measures with appropriate target dates to ensure the proper direction of this change and to increase motivation internally.

The determination of your organization's culture should provide management with a better picture of the organization's effectiveness, and allow them to develop an implementation plan that can be achieved in a reasonable time frame, while promoting teamwork at the same time. The organization's culture today may reflect a low trust level. The results of this assessment will help you work on the cause and develop methods and plans to improve results, enabling the company to succeed in its overall goals and objectives.

The opportunity to change the structure of the company toward a more versatile or bureaucratic structure can now be determined by the management team. The importance of the way your employees perceive your company to be, and the way they think it should be, cannot be denied. These gaps between the actual and the ideal should be given special attention, and can provide your management team with ideas that can be developed and expanded in strategic planning sessions. These assessments can provide a most valuable tool that does put the management team on notice and causes them to consider change within the organization. This is certainly needed in our highly competitive environment. Isn't it about time you got your camera out and took a snapshot of your company?

Published in the March 2001 issue, Vol. 9, No. 3, page 12

This article originally appeared in the March 2001 issue of HME Business.

About the Authors

Dr. Klaus Vossenkaul studied chemical engineering at the University of Aachen in Germany, receiving his PhD from the university's department of chemical engineering on "module design and new operation modes in ultra- und microfiltration." Vossenkaul was head of the "water treatment with membranes" sector of the department of chemical engineering two years before his receiving his doctorate. Besides his research work and his numerous publications, Vossenkaul has gained recognition among experts through the initiation and establishment of one of the most important German conference on membrane technology for water treatment in Aachen. In November 2001 Vossenkaul co-founded PURON as a spin-off from the University of Aachen. In November 2004, it was acquired by KMS International LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Membrane Systems Inc. of Wilmington, Mass. Vossenkaul is currently managing director at PURON and is responsible for marketing, sales, and research and development.

Lori Bolas is director of marketing communications for Medline Industries Inc. (847) 643-3011.

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