Relevance of Medical Metaphor in Corporate Turnaround

Mike Teng

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Medical metaphors are applicable in corporate as people can comprehend their medical and health conditions much better than corporate matters.

Metaphor is a comparative figure of speech in which a term is transferred from the object it ordinarily designates to an object it may designate only by implicit comparison or analogy. It is a comparison of something familiar to something unfamiliar and used in this book to explain a common “corporate wellness" principle. It is an effective way for people to create meaning by using one element of experience to understand another. Or to use an analogy, metaphor is like a bridge, it spans the gap between what the turnaround manager wants the sick company to know and what the sick company already knows.

Metaphor gives us the opportunity to stretch our imagination, create powerful insights and deepen our understanding, thereby allowing us to see and act in new ways. Such medical metaphors couched into principles serve to enable the executives to draw parallels to their corporate issues and facilitate their diagnosis and remedies.

There are many similarities between a company and a person. Just like a human being, a company can get ill. Many companies are falling sick due to a whole host of factors such as the economic slowdown, competition and incompetent management. Sickness is a big business but nobody wants to be the patient or remain as the patient. Corporate ill health is also a big business, as in a declining and stagnant economy, there are more sick companies than healthy ones. Every company and individual wants to be in the pink of health.

It is important to keep your body healthy and well. Doctors generally only treat the disease and do not treat wellness. Individuals are beginning to recognize the importance of wellness which is becoming a big business. The pharmaceutical industry understands this as the drugs consumed for surgery and treatment are only for temporary demand. Whereas, the drugs consumed for healing and wellness are for the longer term. This is why medicines such as cholesterol lowering drugs, anti-depressant drugs and health supplements are in great demand. It is small wonder that there is such an enormous research on the Internet on health matters. Hence the growing trend is for companies to target wellness as a business.

Similarly, we will see an increased awareness for companies to target for corporate wellness. After decades of downsizing and delayering, companies have found that the state of health has not significantly improved. Morale and loyalty of the staff have deteriorated and companies are caught in a vicious cycle of restructuring to stay competitive. Companies have found that it is better for them to stay well and healthy, as one does not have to get sick to get better.

There are workable preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic steps to treat sick companies, and to restore as well as maintain their well being. Similar to handling of a person’s health, a company needs to monitor the five stages to sustain long-term health and wellness, namely, prevention, early diagnosis, proper treatment, recovery or rehabilitation and strengthening or health-boosting.

Dr Mike Teng (DBA, MBA, BEng, FIMechE, FIEE, CEng, PEng, FCMI, FCIM, SMCS) is the author of the best-selling business book “Corporate Turnaround: Nursing a sick company back to health", in 2002. In 2006, he authored another book entitled, “Corporate Wellness: 101 Principles in Turnaround and Transformation. " Dr Teng is widely recognized as a turnaround CEO in Asia by the news media. He has 27 years of experience in corporate responsibilities in the Asia Pacific region. Of these, he held Chief Executive Officer’s positions for 17 years in multi-national, local and publicly listed companies. He led in the successful turnaround of several troubled companies. He is currently the Managing Director of a business advisory firm, Corporate Turnaround Centre Pte Ltd, which assists companies on a fast track to financial performance. Dr Teng was the President of the Marketing Institute of Singapore (2000 – 2004), the national body representing some 5000 individual and corporate marketing professionals in Singapore


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