by adgrooms on June 25, 2019

I was having lunch last week with a friend who hand-makes guitars. We live in Nashville, which has long been known as Music City. We got to talking about two of the leading guitar brands and both of our experiences with their cultural differences. Both manufacturers have been around for decades and are essentially household names. Our conversation got me thinking about the different trajectories of the two companies.

The brand that got us talking is known for an inferior product. My friend knows some people who work there and had insight into the organization. The company treats its employees like replaceable cogs. The environment is an assembly line and work is driven by numbers. Employees who fail to hit their numbers are terminated. The work is solitary and the turnover rate is high. A few years ago, to cut costs, they let go 13 of their most experienced builders. This hit morale in every way that you would expect. The factory is ruled by a top-down approach with no avenue for employees to give feedback. Recently, they went through a bankruptcy, but have managed to stay in business.

The other brand is known for quality. I have visited their guitar factory in my rock and roll days. What I observed is very different from how the other factory was described. It is a clean, state of the art place with smiling employees enjoying their work and having fun together. Management offices are accessible and the management team interacts with the other workers. Even their website and social media feature employees at different stages of production talking about their work. They are focused on building great guitars for people who love to play music, and their culture shouts it. In recent years, its growth as a company has outpaced the market.

What can healthcare learn from guitar manufacturers? How is the culture in healthcare systems tied to patient outcomes?