Digital Pathology Blog

Change Management: Feed Mayonnaise to the Tuna Fish

Tuna_fish_and_digital_pathologyEver had a good idea that you wanted to see implemented in your organization? Ever had that idea actually implemented and succeed and make a difference? Or have some of those ideas been criticized by personal attacks, death by delay, folks making excuses that the problem that needs to be fixed does not exist or that the solution was tried before and did not work? These are common strategies employed by those who are resistant to change unless you can make convincing arguments to the contrary. Pathology departments, groups, hospital laboratories and pathologist-owned laboratories are not immune to this. All of these organizations require new ideas and idea people to help identify new opportunities and improve upon established models when needed.

Long before he was Batman or Mr. Mom or Hunt Stevenson, Michael Keaton played a character by the name of Bill Blazejowski in the movie “Night Shift”, directed by Ron Howard in 1982. He stars with Henry Winkler who plays a character by the name of Chuck Lumley who appears to be a nice, unassuming man. Despite having an aptitude for finance and business, he left his high stress job on Wall Street and takes a job as the night shift city morgue attendant to escape from his neurotic fiancée.

Enter Bill Blaze who is also assigned to work the night shift at the city morgue. Bill is much more extroverted and his head is full of ideas, which he records into a tape recorder to presumably follow up on at a later time. One of his ideas is edible paper as an idea to eliminate garbage. Into his tape recorder he records “This is Bill. Idea to eliminate garbage: edible paper. You see, you eat it, it’s gone. Eat it, it’s out of there!”

Within a short time Bill convinces Chuck that in their relatively unsupervised status working the graveyard shift at the morgue that they can use the facility as a brothel. It is part of Blaze’s constitution. In the movie he says “I’m an idea man Chuck, I get ideas, sometimes I get so many ideas that I can’t even fight them off!”

One of my favorite quotes in the movie has Bill recording “What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tunafish? Or…hold it! Chuck! I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED ‘em mayonnaise! Oh this is great. Call Starkist!”

How many Bill Blaze’s do you know? How many people do you know who would consider running a brothel out of a morgue or feeding mayonnaise to tuna fish? Idea people? Big thinkers? Perhaps not only out-of-the-box thinkers but also perhaps a little freer flowing than just the corporate box analogy?

I think the organizations where we live and work, such as hospitals, pathology groups, and laboratories, need idea men/women. They need someone thinking about what is around the next corner, the next opportunity, and the “next big thing”.

It is becoming an increasingly popular idea in businesses, including hospitals, to have “idea boards”. These boards are replacing e-mail message strings, Sharepoint sites, and annual meetings for “Strategic Planning” as a simple vehicle to exchange views on what’s needed to get to the next level. 

Much like the handheld tape recorders of the early ‘80s, these idea boards provide a running record of who said what when and the idea, concept, change or modification within their organization they would like to see.  Regular “huddles” around the board discuss the ideas, advance or reject them or place them into another “nice to have” category with necessary resources that may take some time.

For leaders, it is a critical component of change management; getting your colleagues, staff and employees to “buy in” to the change. They have ownership of it, have a voice and a say in the matter from the bottom up and as part of a team. As a leader, you get new ideas; perhaps even some ridiculous ones like how to re-invent tuna fish sandwiches, and you also get the ongoing dialogue between colleagues to vet those ideas.

And who knows, perhaps even tuna fish sandwiches wrapped in edible paper.


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Posted by Keith Kaplan, MD, Chief Medical Officer on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 @ 11:56 AM