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Seeing the Forest for the Trees
The objective seemed daunting – how to best help hospitals fix themselves. Brainstorming over many options, a colleague, who had remained silent through much of the meeting, finally laughed and said, “You’re making this harder than it is.” She then spoke for the next 20 minutes of her deep experience in driving transformational change for a region of a well-known Health System.

It’s not magic. We had a Team comprised of from Administration, Operations and Clinical – each tasked with helping member hospitals address deficiencies in their programs. The trick was getting department heads or even Administrators to permit us to help them. The hurdle we need to get over is ego. Ego was a killer masquerading as self-sufficiency.

business teamwork - business men making a puzzleShe was part of a Rapid Response Team which could quickly be deployed to locations to assess current situations, identify under-utilized talent and efficiently re-task those resources to create internal implementation Teams. This permitted much quicker acceptance of the Team and its objectives by capitalizing on existing relationships. These folks understood better than anyone external the history, needs, culture and politics of the organization. They knew where the bodies were buried. They knew where the levers of power existed. What was missing was the Project Champion – someone external that had the “permission” to change things.

Here it meant the unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of problems and a resistance to accepting the help from external resources in dealing with them. While Corporate Headquarters had access to information and resources to improve revenue, contain cost and improve outcomes, many of their members refused it. The COO would not force an unwilling hospital to embrace the offer for assistance. He would, however, hold the Executive Management Team accountable for hitting their numbers.

Eventually, a member hospital accepted and performance rapidly improved in several areas. Within a short-period of time, other members requested assistance. It’s worth remembering the old adage that success has no orphans. This program ultimately became a very effective vehicle for change.

My immediate question was scale. How was a small Team of consultants going to drive performance improvement across many hospitals? Her answer surprised me. It required no more than five people. Think on that. I did – and for days afterward. It fascinated me then. It motivates me now.

Your Teams are Deep in Underutilized Talent
Transformation occurs under similar principles of alchemy, typically heat, pressure, time and a catalyst. Within any organization change seems impossible as no need exists to embark on a new path. Under current economic conditions, heat and pressure are certainly applied. The catalyst is often clients or suppliers pushing for greater service or reduced cost. If an organization does not change under those conditions, it will suffer harm.

Organizations embracing and exploiting the changing conditions can emerge from business transformation in a far greater state of viability than their competitors. Lean does not necessarily apply only to processes, but also to thinking. How does a company or Team change itself to deliver upon its commitments as a large organization, but behave with the agility of something far smaller? That’s the key. That’s the discipline.

Hire a Coach, but Consider Leave the Team of Consultants on the Bench
Executives of Management Teams often believe that they must rely upon external consultants to help shepherd their organizations through the shock to culture and process change. I would agree to the hiring of a Coach or Mentor, but leave it there. Spare yourself the cost and inherent waste of a large Team of external consultants parading through your halls as messiahs. They will never live up to the hype and will only reinforce that the Management Team does not have faith in its people. This is not only wasteful, but insulting to your Teams. Your people know far more than any Consultant does about what does and does not work. These men and women possess greater capability then most Executives fathom, so consider the option of re-tasking for the necessary work and reap the benefits of heralding latent talent resident within your organization. You create future leaders by doing so and open lines of communication across the enterprise.

Having spoken to four large healthcare organizations about their change efforts, the rationale and the struggles to attain it, I was amazed at one immutable truth in each story – their people made the difference.

Though this oversimplified for the purpose of brevity, the keys to change are getting the right people “on the bus”, defining an organization’s core competency, aligning all efforts to it, and getting on with evolving for superior results.

It’s that easy. It’s that difficult. But always rely upon your Teams. Your latent talent is deeper than you realize.

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