I love to talk about organization culture and leadership. What I like even more than talking about it is working on it. In my experience, they are inseparable. You cannot change one without simultaneously working on the other. What happens when we are talking about changing the culture of an entire industry?
Healthcare Finance Management Association (HFMA)
HFMA is in its second phase of an ambitious effort to help healthcare organizations prepare for the monumental changes that are occurring in (or, “to”) the industry. The result of this research will be a series of recommendations and road maps to help healthcare organizations navigate the structure, reimbursement, and organizational changes that will be required as a result of healthcare reform. In the end, healthcare organizations are going to have to change, and deliver more value to their patients and their communities.
What I found interesting is that I was one of few Chief HR Officers to be interviewed in this project to date. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity, and I had a few suggestions and opinions to share regarding the project’s focus on “Culture and People.”
After a robust, high-energy, and 75-minute conversation, one of the researchers summed up my “radical” rant like this: ”Building the culture to drive this change must include building the leadership capacity to manage conflict.” My response was, “Yes!” I’ll take it one step further: this work is going to require healthcare leaders who thrive in a world of continuous conflict.
Change is Not a Program
One mistake that we often make in leadership and organization development is that we try to reduce the change work that we need to accomplish into neatly defined programs and initiatives. We develop strategies, timelines, and metrics to fit into our strategic plans and organization dashboards. Trying to codify change elements into concrete business deliverables sometimes comes at the cost of really understanding the human side of change. It is difficult to plot the steps of behavioral evolution onto Gantt charts.
Radical change will always be rooted in messy and emotional people issues. Conflict is inherent in change work. But, it is in this conflict where human innovation, strength, and diversity lie. The answers to our problems will be found in the conflict and debate that hasn’t yet occurred. Leadership is about creating this conflict where it doesn’t exist, and effectively leading people to contribute where it does. Change is not a program, it is a set of relationships and social structures. Changing an organization, or an industry is a contact sport.
Back to Reality
As much as I like to debate theoretical constructs, it still comes down to the day-to-day actions of leaders to move their organizations (or industry) through change. Here were a couple of my recommendations about the Value Project:
- Involve more CHROs in the research. There are some smart, radical, and strategic thinkers in the HR profession and the industry;
- Do not underestimate the importance of organization development and social science research on change. The real work of healthcare reform lies with the people who are providing care to our communities; and,
- Challenge traditional business logic and assumptions. As one of my colleagues often says, “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic will not change the outcome.” Focusing exclusively on re-aligning the financial incentives and payment systems will not in itself drive the behavioral changes necessary to create value in our country’s healthcare system.
What are your thoughts about healthcare reform, and the people side of the change necessary to address it?