File Under: Worst Case Scenario

Posted on February 27, 2012


Mercifully, I finished a built-in shelving project at my house last week. In the process of consolidating book storage afterward, I came across my misplaced copy of “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook”.  This book was on all the cash register shelves and all the usual places around 2000, and spawned a lot of genre imitators over the years. While some of the scenarios depicted in it are outlandish (I wondered how someone could have gotten themself into such a predicament), I enjoy the Boy Scout nature of the solutions:  they were practical and doable.  I had completed a vacation out West a few years before, so the concept of being stuck in a desert with no food or water was not so outlandish at the time.

Fast forward to 2012. Amid the worst recession many have experienced, healthcare providers are living out some of their own worst case scenarios now. I suspect on some level, we all are.

Specifically, project planning and execution can be a nightmare. It is not uncommon for a project to get sideways in relation to projected goals for schedule, budget, quality, safety, or even politically. And when the project is eventually finished, it may not perform as intended, which is perhaps an even greater disappointment. With a new project on the horizon, hospitals and systems with one or more bad project experiences in their recent history can leave them gun-shy at choosing a team when so many architects and contractors are available, affordable, and courting them for work.

Or worse, some hospitals may be already engaged with a team or two of consultants, and things are not going well right now. Boards and administrators debate whether to cut ties with their failing team or ‘suck it up’ and suffer through the project with gnashed teeth. Too often, leaders are loathe to jump off the sinking ship under the guise that ‘the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t’.

Well, don’t panic. You have options. Consult your hospital or system’s worst case scenario handbook. What—you don’t have one?!

If you did, it should read “Hire Haskell” under “How to Save a Bad Healthcare Project”. Some companies make a living out of swooping in to save a project by cutting quality and overdelivering on quantity. Despite such desperation, this is not always the best solution. Digging out of a worst case involves some specialized tools….like integration to process information quickly…a single team that can shoulder risk, make actionable decisions, and tackle issues without fear of stepping on other consultants’ toes…and a company that has proven history in disasters.

Haskell has made a name for itself as a first-responder. A couple years ago, Haskell’s Food and Beverage Division was called to the scene of a Fortune 500 client’s factory that had experienced an explosion. Our integrated team of professionals handled the site, managed inspections, structural analysis, clean-up, redesigned food processing systems, permitted, and built the required pieces needed to get production back on line as quickly as possible. We were literally living on-site to get this done and received client commendations for our responsiveness, while other consulting engineers were still getting sign-off from their corporate risk management teams to even step foot on site.

Likewise, another client in Mexico had the facade of its building crumble during an earthquake. Haskell mobilized to assess and stabilize the building, temporarily secure and cover the facility, set up temporary operations elsewhere, design, engineer, permit and begin construction on a new exterior wall with the least amount of downtime for the client.

And right now, Haskell is working with a nearby hospital to step in and help them do damage control on a project (not ours) that has gotten out-of-hand for them from a cost and managerial perspective.

Putting out fires, especially other teams’ messes, is not a glamorous aspect to project work.  Yet it is an essential tool to have in your toolbox.  Having a team to call with the:

  • Company structure and resources, to…
  • Provide comprehensive and critical insight…
  • At risk, with a…
  • Fast response and…
  • Capabilities to implement the necessary steps (design and build) as needed…

…is a powerful partner.

The next time you and your hospital find yourself in a worst case scenario, don’t hope for the best:  consult your handbook, and know you are doing all you can to save yourself.