By Steve Moran

I know this is a radical idea.

You are likely thinking a stupid idea, and I am okay with that.

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about how the company Bayer (yep, the inventor of aspirin) is struggling, losing around half its value in a year.

Their CEO, Bill Anderson, has a radical idea to fix the company. As the article puts it:

“Fewer bosses, fewer rules.”

How It Will Work

He will fire a whole bunch of “bosses” — enough to save about 2 billion euros per year. Then he will create teams in various departments that spend 90 days deciding what to work on and then get things done. At the end of the 90 days, teams will be reformed in different configurations, and the process will continue.

They will have somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 self-directed teams. It could be a complete disaster or a brilliant idea.

I can’t quite see it as a model for senior living, and yet, there is something here.

A Team Approach

I have this vision of a senior living community forming similar teams that operate like mini-businesses within the context of a larger business. Each one has profit and customer satisfaction targets, with bonuses for exceeding their targets.

In senior living it would likely be that teams would be cross-pollinated, so that the dining services team would also include the activity director and maybe the marketing director and servers. The life enrichment team would include those same people plus the driver, the front desk staff, and caregivers. The sales team would include life enrichment and dining, maintenance, and housekeeping.

Creating Ownership

The biggest benefit is that each team member would belong to at least one team and would have ownership in that team. They would be invested in the success of their team, which means success in the community. They would know they were making a real difference in the life of the organization and the lives of residents.

Recently I came across a Facebook post by an activity director who has been given temporary responsibility for the department while the lead director is off on some kind of leave. The interim director had suggested some new ideas that were good ideas but threatened the director.

When the director left, she created a number of sabotage traps for the interim, like taking the calendar schedule that shows what guests have been booked to come in and help with the program.

The activity leader has no ownership in the success of the program but rather in protecting her turf, to the detriment of everyone.

Creating ownership is one of the biggest opportunities we have to improve culture.