Friday, August 14, 2020
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James R. Auvil, OD, MBA, FAAO, CPC

     On the same day the Federal Optometric Society began accepting memberships, the 43rd Army Surgeon General, LTG Patricia Horoho, released an article entitled "Commander's Thoughts" in which she covered several concepts to promote adaptation and evolution of existing business models for Army Medicine.  Her article is very timely and I draw several parallels from it that I believe apply to optometry.  In many ways, federal optometry is way ahead of Army Medicine, and leads the profession on many fronts such as clinic quality, peer review, and credentialing.  We lag the profession in many ways, too, in areas of business analysis and integration of data systems into our electronic records.  These two problems are difficult to solve because of the inherent challenge of describing a socialized healthcare system using capitalist metrics and complicated security and certification processes for our patient diagnostic equipment.

     In her article, LTG Horoho referenced the "Blue Ocean Strategy" which highlights an organization's focus on differentiation and cost controls.  These two concepts are clearly in place within the culture of the FOS – this organization is different than others in that it is apolitical and focused on in-house expertise to deliver high-quality education at a lower cost.  Over time, the costs will decrease further as the membership increases, allowing the FOS to leverage its weight in membership numbers to negotiate reduced rates for our conferences and meetings.

     On the concept of change, LTG Horoho states, "If we stagnate, and continue to wed ourselves to what we know, the status quo or business as usual, then we will find ourselves missing a very small window of opportunity that likely will never come again."  The FOS is not a remake of the status quo – the organization strives to do things differently and better.  It is legally bound and structured to be a direct reflection of the members who choose to join, lead and participate in the organization's activities.  The window is here, it's open, and you are seizing it.  Greater than 50% of members are registering as Founding Members.  I wonder how many members of other organizations choose to pay more than double the dues required for membership?  I think the response to the FOS is telling: we should have done this a long, long time ago, but the window of opportunity must not have been open in the past like it is now.  The FOS is here to stay and grows by the day.  These are exciting times, to be sure.

     Finally, LTG Horoho mentions the concept of "collective ambition" covered in the December 2011 Harvard Business Review.  The term refers to how "leaders... think about why they exist, what they hope to accomplish, how they will collaborate to achieve their ambition, and how the "brand promise" aligns with their core values."  As written in the Executive Summary article on the About page, the FOS brand promise is to become the "premier, in-house venue for federal service optometrists to share their knowledge through member-taught COPE-approved continuing education, member-taught mentorship education and member-taught professional education."  We are building this organization, following our core values and are well on the way to fulfilment of our "collective ambition".

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