The Hidden Costs of the 'in' Brand



In addition to the foregone costs involved in the decision to go with the "in" brand and pay the luxury premium required, there are other downsides to consider. Current "in" brands of anything are almost invariably over-hyped, promising more with less effort. Management fads are like fads in clothing styles: surgical scrubs were last year's street look and the buzz is off Six-Sigma as a management panacea.

Management fads turn over for a range of reasons. Most of the time the evidence eventually accumulates indicating that benefits of the current management fad are marginal, attributable to other causes or actively harmful to other areas and values. When that happens, as it has with Six Sigma, the bubble bursts. The public and personal costs of these failures are rarely enumerated and even less reflected upon.

With repeated exposure to the fad-bubble phenomenon people become cynical about all change management. That is the real cost of the "in" brand premium. Once cynicism takes root it is hard to overcome. People are less likely to realize that generic improvement efforts locally sustained and reinforced is the truly cost-efficient path to better quality anywhere in the system. Access to the occasional consultant in focused topics will be helpful but is not essential. Basically, they can do it themselves. In cost-constrained public health care, that realization is priceless.

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