What does it mean for something to be holistic? Even though we’re in the business of holistic medicine, we sometimes forget what that means. Said simply – it indicates that each part of the whole is in intimate interrelationship with every other part. The unity of the whole is what gives the parts meaning.
When I see people studying marketing, or HIPAA, or executive management in isolation and getting frustrated with the results, I get frustrated. A business is much more like an ecological system than it is like a simple machine. Once you start tugging on one end, it warps the field of the whole damn thing.
So, change, and work on the business has to happen incrementally, and with a view to how each change impacts the overall functioning of the unit.
This is why I find five element theory, and the theory of the Chinese organ systems, to be helpful in discussing and understanding business. I think this kind of reasoning can go a bit far, frankly, but when you’re trying to orient yourself around a sticky issue or in the early stages of learning business and practice management, it can be very useful.
It shouldn’t surprise us to know that a holistic model of understanding the human body and the wider world would have relevance to the discussion of Chinese medicine business!
As I’ve discussed before, when I teach about business, I use a systems based view. A HOLISTIC systems based view. Discussed simply, the five interrelated systems of Executive (Fire), Facilities & Operations (Earth), Finance & Legal (Metal), Marketing vision (Water) and Marketing action (Wood) can all be the result of either excesses or deficiencies in the “body” of the acupuncture practice – leading to undeniable difficulties in making a living doing what we love.
But, just like when we’re treating a human being, if we see a fire deficiency, and just indiscriminately pour fire on top of fire on top of fire – nothing good will come of it.
The fire can flare, leading to a deficiency in the metal organ systems, or even drawing energy away from wood, or creating an overwhelming excess in the earth. The point is really not to get into the specifics, here, but simply to see – when you adjust one piece, the whole system turns in response.
Have you been guilty of this kind of thinking in your Chinese medicine based business?
Have you found yourself obsessing over the artwork on your walls to the detriment of your financial records keeping? Have you gone to marketing seminar after marketing seminar, but are so personally disorganized and out of whack that you don’t remember what was said the day after you leave? Are the more business-y systems rolling right along, but you’re really not sure that you are in the type of practice that feeds your soul?
There are ways to balance all of those things – and you KNOW I’m going to keep talking about them (and teaching about them eventually around these parts) – but the essence is simple.
- Use relevant tools to diagnose the problem in your acupuncture practice. This can be as simple as doing a systems survey – looking at every functional part of your business and writing a sentence about how it’s doing. The problem is likely to be multi-factorial.
- Step back and look at the whole system and where the problem lies in the interrelated web of factors in the business.
- Create a balanced “treatment” that addresses the fundamental nature of the issue while simultaneously honoring the integrity of the whole. Don’t shy away from any of the possible influences, even when they seem conceptually unrelated to the problem at hand.
There is something quasi-magical in this, by which I mean that I don’t understand how it works exactly, so it seems like magic.
For instance, frequently if I see a dip in my patient numbers, I’ll do a little analysis and realize I’ve been neglecting some seemingly minor aspect of my personal organization, or of my record-keeping.
It’s not clear how those things connect directly to the reality of patients walking in the door. But, sure enough, when I tidy up those little corners, the patients flow again. I’ve seen this repeatedly both in my own practice and in the practices of folks I’ve worked with – could be anomalous – but I don’t think so. A little holism, a little magic, a little success in acupuncture practice. I look forward to exploring this more in the near future.
About Eric Grey
Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.