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Some healthcare organizations are struggling with change. They never anticipated the speed with which the transition from volume to value would become a crisis, with declining inpatient admissions occurring much faster than expected.
As anthropologists, we work with organizations that need to change. We know that the brain hates change. Added to that, people are driven by the power of habits. We realize the demands on our time and energies have changed and doing the same old thing is, in a very Darwinian sense, mal-adaptive. You don't want to find you and your institution extinct, do you?
As the research clearly shows, few people are taught how to innovate or respond to changing times with appropriate solutions. Most people are looking to mimic best practices from others who have experimented before them. If you are going to change you need to focus on creating a shared vision and developing the necessary skills, on the social network and of the individual performer--a lot of things all at once.
In today's fast changing healthcare environment, that is just not happening. You are now going to have to create your own best practices and hope that they work before your competitor mimics them and out-competes you for the same customers or services or patients.
To make this simple and easy, hospital leaders should pretend they are in a theatrical production and have been for many years. They have been playing, for example, "Macbeth" (think healthcare) for decades. They know their roles well, the scripts and how to perform each day as if they are on a stage. They are clinical and administrative experts and can truly perform brilliantly. The only problem is that no one is coming to the play anymore. No audience is like no patients.
How do you find a new audience? Write a new play? "Hamlet"? "Romeo and Juliet"?
You are improv theater. In fact, you have to write your own script and figure out where to stand on the stage and direct yourself to perform the new play.
The metaphor may seem farfetched. But indeed that is exactly what is taking place. What is the new script about the new story you are writing as you perform? How can you draft one to start rehearsals? Who should be in the play?
Let me share five easy things that might kick-start you in the right direction:
Most of all, watch out for what we call FUG: Fear, uncertainty and greed. The times they are a' changin', whether we want them to or not. Better to create a new healthcare system that works than compete in an old one that is fast-moving into extinction.
Andrea J. Simon, Ph.D., is a former Marketing, Branding and Culture Change Senior VP at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich. A corporate anthropologist, she also is president and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants.
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