How to Live with Limitations

February 22, 2019

Everything is limited-including radiology resources.

An awful lot of us rad-folk make abundant use of the word “limited.” (Many wish we “limited” our dependence on it, truth be told.)

The fact of the matter is, however, that the vast majority of things are limited. Other than abstract concepts, it’s challenging to come up with more than a short list of resources that are truly endless and inexhaustible.

Such limitations can scale with the size of your operation. If you’re a solo radiologist, your resources and associated limitations are going to be quite a bit different than if you were in even a small group, let alone a big one. But even the most massive radiology operation out there has limitations. Sooner or later, for instance, VC backers or stockholders expect a return on investment-so no matter who is bankrolling the situation, pockets aren’t bottomless.

A universal priority is (or should be, for those wanting to survive and thrive) to make the best use of limited resources. And a good start is cultivating a strong familiarity with just what those resources are. As well as how they’re likely to change in the future, plus or minus various contingencies.

Right up there with knowing your resources and their limitations is how you might be using them. Unless you’re extremely fortunate or short-sighted, this will exceed what you have to work with. In other words, you will see that you can’t do everything you’d like because-surprise!-your limited resources can’t cover it all. Sort of like having a finite bank account, yet having a lengthy list of things you’d like to buy.

Reconciling the disparity between resources and uses for them is where success (or failure) will be built. Increasing the resources, or stretching what you’ve got, is nice if you can manage it. This pushes back those limitations so you have more room to breathe.

Probably of greater import is managing the list of things on which your limited resources are to be used. Prioritizing, that is. Chances are that there are a lot more things on that list that you want rather than need. Generally speaking, the needs should all be taken care of before you start splurging on the wants. Once the needs are squared away-and that means going back periodically and making sure they continue to be satisfied-the wants can be considered.

Related article: How to Cope with Limited Resources in Rural Practices

Some resources are less readily itemized and tracked, such as on spreadsheets, because they’re more elastic. Foremost being human resources (notice how much friendlier those two words are when they aren’t capitalized together?). People have a way of doing more or less than what you expected-or, for that matter, what they have historically done.

Thus, when it comes to stretching the resources you have as mentioned above, the people in your operation can be the biggest variables. The same individual, depending on how you make use of him/her, can be just another member of the team, a veritable superstar, or anywhere in-between. One of the variables being motivation.

Just as the tangible resources (including revenue) might be envisioned as a finite pie that gets sliced up according to the priorities previously set, so too might the contributions to the operation by the people in it. (Such contributions making the revenue possible.) And, since most folks work to earn a living, it tends to make sense to them that their slice of the financial pie will bear some relationship to their contribution to the pie of human effort.

Even if they don’t put such sentiment into words, on some level they’re aware of it. A sense of fairness results when the group senses that putting in more time, effort, and/or talent translates to a proportional boost in payment, recognition, and/or authority-as opposed to the sense of unfairness when some seem to regularly do more than others, yet receive less for it (such as with a radiology practice where senior partners don’t take call, read far fewer studies, etc., yet claim outsized chunks of the group’s income, year after year).

Thus, one way to stretch those limited-but-elastic human resources is to maintain a strong sense of connection between individual contributions and rewards (now, or reliably later) for such group-benefitting behavior. Which includes, every so often, reevaluating how well those two pies reflect one another-and a willingness to rebalance them.