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Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to create structure, sense of purpose and emotional fulfillment.

Directly after returning to Oregon from Oslo, Norway, Matt was contracted to help Dr. John Haines, the Principle doctor at The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK. The initial scope of the project was to promote both organizations and meant to last three months. Upon beginning, however, it became obvious that there were clear issues of low staff morale within these two organizations which were causing significant inefficiencies in overall operations.

These inefficiencies were leading to reduced profitability. This low morale stemmed from a lack of clear organizational structure and methods to stimulate staff engagement. In addition, the sustained low level of morale made it clear that a significant portion of the staff were actively thinking about leaving the organizations. Due to the fact that the positions at The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK were highly specialized, this ensured that it was hard to find a suitable replacement for even one position. If there were to have been a mass exodus of highly skilled labor, this would have compounded inefficiencies, and quite likely have led to dangerous cash flow issues.

Luckily, such issues are not new to many, mature organizations, as continuously reinforced patterns sometimes become so endemic that no one knows how to question process any longer. This is where organizational myopia sets in and things seem to spiral. The Eye Center and/or Oregon iLASIK were no exception in this regard. Luckily Dr. Haines saw the wisdom in getting outside perspective before the challenges became catastrophic. Therefore, the decision was made in the beginning to resolve the issues of low staff morale before promoting The Eye Center and/or Oregon iLASIK before promoting the organizations externally.


The first step was to get a strong gauge on what was causing low staff morale. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a model, Matt put together a 80+ question survey that would measure staff satisfaction with structure, learning, emotional engagement and spiritual engagement (e.g. ‘How does my working at this organization serve the greater good?’). With the results of this study, it was determined that the potential levels of emotional and spiritual engagement were very high, but that structure and stability needed to be created, tweeted and then sustained before these premium levels could be achieved. The following were what Matt instituted to deliver stability within the organizations:

  1. Creating a “Manifesto” that clearly laid out the direction changes that would be occurring in the near future, as well as an inspired purpose behind the change management process.
  2. Creating an organizational framework which set the tone for the ”how we do things around here”. This consisted of:
    • Clearly outlining and continuous communicating organizational purpose and cultural identity (e.g. Vision, Values and What We Stand For)
    • General every day goals to strive for
    • An outline for how to communicate effectively
    • Organizational chart
    • Job descriptions of each position
    • Structure and discipline, which included:
      • Reporting procedures
      • Checks and balances
      • Meetings structure
      • Change procedures
  3. Preparing an online employee handbook
  4. Creating realistic, achievable and measurable goals for each position
  5. Creating a method to cut costs and maximize value with existing assets
  6. Creating performance review documents

Of course, the above could not be sustained without buy-in by the principles of the organization, as well as key employees within the general staff. Matt conducted several interviews and idea generation interactions with individuals and groups alike. Ideas and suggestions that were tenable were integrated into the overall initiative, which ensure higher levels of engagement and renewed enthusiasm among the staff.

In addition, several changes needed to be made with the staff that had become so actively disengaged that they needed to leave the organization. This was done, in most cases in a non-invasive way. The staff that were irrevocably disenfranchised were helped to see that it was best to leave the organization, on their own accord, to find greener pastures. There were almost not firings, yet over the course of the year-long turnaround, turnover was around 30% of total staff.

Also, a monthly newsletter was created to send out to an 8000+ membership base, informing them that the organizations were aware of the internal challenges that they were having, the myriad of solutions that were being implanted to turn things around, and the success stories that were experienced in order to create additional patient engagement in the process.

The Give Me Sight Foundation is a non-profit organization that Dr. Haines and his wife, Joy, founded in order to bring awareness to the philanthropic work done by Dr. Haines overseas. More specifically, over 20+ years Dr. Haines go on annual missions to developing countries to conduct free cataract removal surgeries for people who were/are medically underserved. These surgeries literally restored the lives to thousands of people around the world as it gave them back their sense of value and self-worth. Dr. Haines goodwill with the Give Me Sight Foundation went right to the heart of how his values were reflected through The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK. Matt helped to communicate this inspiring story through the effective promotion of the Night For Sight event (a fund-raiser for the Give Me Sight organization) through facilitating significant television, radio and newspaper PR. In addition, Matt helped to create a more tangible structure of the Foundation to take it to a new level of effectiveness.


  • Within six months, the same 80+ question survey was administered to the staff to see if any improvements had taken place in all the areas measured. In each and every area, there had been significant improvements. In one-on-one interviews, individuals communicated a dramatic turn-around in attitude and generally positive vibration within the work environments of The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK.
  • The Newsletter was creating a significant, positive buzz with the patients, with more than 30% actively looking forward to their release every month.
  • Through the PR generated from the Night For Sight event and the Give Me Sight Foundation in general, the numbers of new patients to The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK jumped and revenues also increased (financial results not disclosed).
  • Because of the above, The Eye Center and Oregon iLASIK were able to attract, and maintain, highly engaged employees, which further enhanced the reputation of the organizations.