The Five Lessons of Leading Transformation
A Starting Point for Transformation in Healthcare
Transformation is a complex and arduous undertaking and firmly depends on unique circumstances and the readiness of an organization. Transformation is especially difficult in the healthcare space, where change may impact the quality of care, which in turn can literally have life or death consequences.
While we know there’s no such thing as a success formula or silver bullet, these five lessons are worth exploring by any healthcare organization seeking transformation in order to meet the emerging demands of 21st-century care delivery:
- In order to understand the scope of transformation, leaders must look for clues and early indicators beyond their industry boundaries.
Every transformation is the consequence of an unforeseen — or underestimated — external factor approaching a tipping point. That's why you may find the forces that will shape the future of healthcare looming at the fringes. If you only focus on competitive activity, best practices and industry news, you can be blinded from external forces. It’s crucial to understand how larger social, economic and technological trends are impacting the activities and daily lives of members and patients, and how these trends will shape their attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and expectations about healthcare.
- Small paradigm shifts can have an exponential impact.
Healthcare organizations are complex systems. The number of levers that need to be pulled to make an impact can be overwhelming. Start by focusing on the levers that can have the most effect: the system’s purpose and its relationships. Even a small shift around who the business wants to be can cause the entire system to flip.
- Rules, incentives and constraints must fully support the new paradigm.
You can eloquently articulate and communicate the case for change, and employees will most likely willingly accept the new manifesto. But success is absolutely dependent upon following up with changes in reporting and power structures, policies and reward mechanisms that promote and support the new kinds of relationships and behaviors necessary to execute the new vision.
- Transformation is a movement. Unless senior leaders constantly check and reinforce their efforts, the system will naturally fall back to its old ways.
When systems are left to their own devices and issues are not corrected, they tend to fall into disrepair, also known as entropy. Leaders must heavily invest their time in developing the vision, rigorously clarifying it and telling the story in clear and compelling ways at all levels — all the time. If it's treated as a standalone project in a sea of other pressing priorities, or delegated down to an oversight committee, the chances of success are negligible.
- Empower people to own the effort.
To achieve real transformation, it takes a “village.” Employees must see themselves as contributors to the change. Give people the leeway to let their personal styles shine as they embrace new behaviors rather than giving them a prescribed approach. An empowering culture can generate boundless opportunities for leadership and progress.
Learn more about transformation in the "The Transformation of Healthcare: How to Pull the Levers for the Most Profound Impact” chapter in Delta, Volume 2.