Hill-Rom was also well prepared for the assault. The company had not become a near monopoly because they easily gave up ground in their homeland. Hill-Rom had world-class information systems, with data that gave a complete view of the type and age of beds for every hospital in the country. They knew which hospitals may be in the market for new beds. Every time their sales and marketing leadership discovered that Stryker was in an account, they moved swiftly to block. There were many reasons that the market for beds with low-air-loss mattress and other advanced features had become a rental market: the fundamental technologies were expensive to implement and required considerable cleaning and maintenance.
Similarly, the iPhone, perhaps the greatest consumer electronic product ever launched, pushed the envelope just far enough. Apple took risks, but they were calculated risks. Stryker fell into the trap of the illusionist, attempting to go too far beyond the possible. But, when you believe in an illusion, the allure of it is incredibly compelling. Plans are developed and sold to senior management or investors, egos become attached to it, and the train inevitably heads toward the proverbial wall at the end of the tunnel.
Winning the endorsement of nurses in the emergency room or recovery room where the nurse managers frequently made the purchase decision was an effective strategy for stretchers. It also worked for specialty beds. On the patient floors, however, the nurses were ancillary to the decision-making process. Med-surg beds were a significant purchase, and hospital administrators, not nurse managers, were the decision-makers.
Similar to Confederate commander Robert E. After several years of struggle with frontal assaults and two wholesale changes in the bed division leadership, Stryker eventually found a path to success in the med-surg bed market. But, if they would have reacted differently upon recognizing the folly of their first flanking attack, it is likely they could have avoided much of the personal and career carnage.
Four years after their initial launch, Stryker found that flank and started having success. The sad part is that the technology needed to exploit this exposed flank was actually completed in the initial bed development program. Hill-Rom had a significant weakness: unreliable bed-exit technology that raised an alarm only after the patient had already fallen.
High numbers of patient falls from the bed-side, with associated costs and liabilities for the hospital, were a huge hidden issue. With Stryker at the forefront, the issues associated with falls gained heightened awareness. Progressive hospitals began to understand that falls were costing them and the healthcare system millions of dollars.
Over time, the secure bed saw Stryker gain upwards of 50 percent share in the med-surg hospital bed market. If the bed leadership from the original program had maintained a determination to attack a flank of the enemy, they may have been able to keep their jobs and see great success by adopting this approach years earlier.
Their path to victory was strewn with significant financial losses, ruined careers, and painful personal hardship. In all that carnage, there were valuable lessons from which planners and leaders can learn. If you base your flanking attack on developing new technology, ensure you go no further than the leading edge of what is possible.
Conduct brutally honest technology assessments and genuinely understand the capabilities and limitations of your team and of the technology extant in the industry.
Many great business plans entail pushing the technology envelope at the leading edge. However, many notable failures push too far and end up on the bleeding edge. Recognize the situation for what it is and find another exposed flank to attack.
Find another flank with clear differentiation that matters to the decision makers in the target market and go after it with vengeance. The success you are seeking will still come. Gary Morton graduated from West Point with honors and had a five-year career as a tank officer, the highlight of which was being part of an extraordinary unit that achieved unprecedented results at the US Army's grueling National Training Center—the only unit to ever win every simulated battle it fought.
Today, he is retired from Stryker and lives with his wife in the Midwest, where he writes and invests. For more information, visit www. What Is a Break-Even Analysis? Creating something innovative? Determine if it's at the leading edge, which is realizable, or at the bleeding edge, which is beyond your capabilities. Optimism in the Face of Uncertainty:… Next Article. Leading edge, not bleeding edge Often, executing a flank attack involves developing new technology. Find yourself at the bleeding edge? Case study: A hospital bed upstart mistakes bleeding edge for leading edge The battle for the hospital bed market began in the early s.
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