Why doctors should do MBAs

This has been a pet subject of mine for years; well, at least since I did my Executive MBA at Leeds University Business School in 2003!  Good to see the King’s Fund catching on.

Here’s Why I did an MBA


Tips for confronting unknown jargon

Beware when using jargon; look out for quizzical facial expressions or surprised gestures in your audience.  Invite queries; say something like, “Does that make sense?”, or “You look like I’ve said something you don’t understand?”

If you hear unknown jargon, you can wear a surprised expression, or try:
“I’m not being funny, but what does …. mean?”
“At the risk of seeming ignorant, can you explain what you mean by… please?” 

Try and say these questions in a light-hearted tone of voice.


Clinicians and managers often rub each other up the wrong way.  There are a hundred and one reasons, but one common one is the use of jargon.  I have seen doctors become almost apoplectic when certain words are used by managers:  ‘robust strategy’, ‘congruence’, ‘going forward’!  This is all the more ironic when you consider how often doctors use their own medical jargon.   Indeed, sometimes doctors delight to use words they know the managers won’t understand.

 Jargon is useful short-hand when people have a shared understanding, but should be avoided with ‘lay’ people as it simply obscures meaning and raises suspicions.  Clinicians know this from their training, when care is usually taken to use straightforward words with patients.

So, be self-aware when choosing your vocabulary and check to ensure that you understand what each other means.  Don’t be intimidated by new words, but rather verify meaning by asking explicit questions.  Generally, people are impressed and pleased because some of them might not know what’s going on!  You will be seen as honest and open, which is a likable trait.

Sensitive projects

When people refer to ‘sensitive projects’ they nearly always mean dealing with difficult people. Usually, this means individuals who are described by colleagues as, ‘unreasonable’, ‘aggressive’, ‘opinionated’, ‘a refusnik’. There will also undoubtedly be a ‘personality clash’.

Thus, it is not the project that is ‘sensitive’, it is the people involved. Therefore, concentrate on the people issues and don’t waste time on the surface manifestation, which may be some narrow, clinical or technical issue. If you get distracted onto the surface issue you will get bogged down in expert opinion, which will become ever more narrow, leading to a dead end. Insist on working on the people issues and the technical ones will take care of themselves!

Tips for chairmen

Useful phrases to use during a meeting, (especially when dealing with people who love to hear the sound of their own voices!)

• “This meeting is about…… and by the end we should have clear actions for ….”
• “Let’s remind ourselves of the ‘ground rules’” (i.e. show mutual respect, one person talking at once, avoid shouting, let everyone contribute, be open and honest, etc)
• “I think we should hear from ……. on this”
• “Can we have some comments from …..on this, please?”
• “You’ve expressed your point very clearly, and I think everyone has understood. Is that right? Good, so let’s move on to….”
• “You obviously feel strongly about this. Can we talk more about it after this meeting?”
• “It’s difficult to concentrate when more than one person is talking at the same time”
• “So, to sum up that point…..”
• “Let’s take 5 minutes to freshen up”