Work and Life and Meaning–All Linked if We Do It Right.

“In primal times, work was essential to life because people lived in a world where everyone had to hunt or gather to survive.  People built and sustained shelter and protection and spent constant time doing things to survive.  People felt very right working because the link between work and life itself was clear and self-evident.    We live now in much more complex times.  We still need to do actual things that result in us having the resources and sustenance needed to survive–but the link between our functions and our survival are seldom very linear or clear. We still want that link to exist.  We want what we do each day to add value in some way.  We want to both function and have and build value–so we are happier and more fulfilled when there is a connection between what we do and an outcome that is worthwhile.   The very term worthwhile points us in the right direction.  It says  that something is worth our while.  Our while is the expenditure of our time.

This lovely and important website is focused on helping our activities be worth our while.  This website is about the meaning of work and it has particular focus on health care work whose value has the very clear potential to be highly obvious and real.   These are topics that deserve their own website and their own shepherd.  John August and I did very good work together to build a true values focused work environment and I know both his wisdom and skill.  The intellectual growth that will be stimulated by this work and website will clearly be worth while”.

George Halvorson, retired Chairman and CEO Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, and Founder, Institute for InterGroup Understanding

“John August has the passion, experience, and wisdom to guide us on a path to improving the quality of healthcare for all Americans and the quality of work for all caregivers.  This creative website is the place for all who share his passion to help realize this vision.  Let’s all contribute and learn together!”

Thomas A. Kochan, George M. Bunker Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Co-Director, Institute for Work and Employment Research

“In my over twenty-five years as a healthcare union leader, I have come to believe passionately that collaboration among healthcare executives, managers and frontline caregivers is key to transforming our healthcare ‘system’ from one based upon volume, quantity, and maximizing profit to one geared toward value, quality, and eliminating disparities, from one premised on sick care delivery to one focused on building healthy communities.  Healthcare executives can only hope to achieve the Triple Aim of lower costs, improved outcomes, and population health by engaging deeply and respectfully with nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines of care.  And if we are to be effective in engaging our members, building the union, and fulfilling our broader mission of achieving economic, social, and racial justice, healthcare union leaders must embrace healthcare transformation not just as a good program or secondary priority, but as a core strategy of our movement.

In a healthcare world filled with quality improvement consultants and organizational development specialists, John August brings a unique and exceptional perspective, breadth of experience, and skill set that are perfectly suited to supporting the innovative labor-management collaboration required for successful healthcare transformation.  His knowledge, expertise, and rare ability to understand and win the respect of executives, managers, and frontline workers alike have proved invaluable to our union as well as to our employer partners.  He is truly the nation’s foremost expert on designing and facilitating path breaking labor-management partnerships around healthcare transformation.”

Neal Bisno, International Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

“The Labor Management Partnership between Kaiser Permanente and a Coalition of Unions is almost twenty years old. John August led the union Coalition for almost half of that time. He was an effective partner leading the union and Kaiser Permanente into the setting up of front line work teams,  the establishment of a wellness program and conducting interest based negotiations. His focus remained on improving health care through better engagement between managers and employees.”

Jim Pruitt, Vice President, Labor Management Partnership and Labor Relations, Kaiser Permanente

“We live and lead in challenging times. The pace of change is unprecedented and the scope of our transformations is broader than ever before. The mission of health care leaders and careers has moved from providing excellent clinical care for an individual person to collaborating across teams to achieve the Triple Aim of better health for a population, improved care, and lower per capita costs. With the rapid introductions of new research and technology, and the changing structures, payment systems and complexity of care, our work is challenging in new ways. Patient expectations are rightfully expanding as we think about the co-design and co-production of care and health with individual patients and communities. And in my experience in leading the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and now serving as a Senior Fellow, I see the impact of these changes both in the US and globally.

One thing stands out as the critical lever to thriving in this changing world, and that is leading a skilled and joyful workforce. For the first time in history, we have five distinct generations working together in the same workforce. The professions are still largely trained separately but expected to appreciate the assets, knowledge and skills of the others as they come together in teams. And the workforce is as diverse as our patient population, but understanding the views and values of cultures and backgrounds is often left to chance.

The key to leading today is joy in work. Leaders who support the health, resilience, skills and teamwork of their team will get the results they desire, from better care to lower costs. This requires a new view of leadership and an appreciation of the connections between building meaning, mastery and camaraderie for all who everyday care in stressful situations.

This way to connect us all, the Work and the Future site, on this vital issue is such an important resource for us all. John August has long been my hero on these issues. He deeply understands the challenges and has a powerful way to work through to the solutions we need. Together, we can make the cultural and structural changes we need to support our teams. Thanks, John, for connecting us. Let’s go!”

Maureen Bisognano, President Emerita and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement


“I’ve had the privilege of working with John August at the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution for a number of years.  John is one of the nation’s leading experts on contemporary developments in healthcare.  In Pittsburgh, for example, he has led an innovative and successful effort to develop collaborative relationships between the management of Allegheny Health Network and its unions.  John has done related work at Kaiser Permanente, and in New York City with Doctors Council.  John is truly an expert not only on union-management relations in healthcare, but also on human relations in the industry more generally.”

David B. Lipsky, Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution, Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, ILR School, Cornell University