Transforming Hospital Teams


Hospital Team Transformation – Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Makeover

(First in a series)

 The so-called, “makeover” movement is a multi-billion dollar, media-driven industry.  Flip through a few channels and you will discover a plethora of programs dedicated to total home renovations, closet overhauls and restaurant rescues.  We are a society captivated, obsessed even, by the notion that we can transform big, messy, old and neglected things in a matter of hours or days. At the end of each episode, when it is time for the big reveal, the “oohs” and “ahhs” keep us hooked and hopeful that we too may be swooped up from a hardware store parking lot by a well-intended handyman Houdini, complete with big ideas and bigger bucks to give us the dream kitchen we’ve always imagined.

 The dark side of the current “rehab this” preoccupation is that too often change is not easily sustained when the experts hop in their pick-up trucks and drive away.  They take with them their tools, their crews, and later, the motivation to keep things going. After all of the excitement has faded, the likelihood of backsliding to the way things used to be is statistically pretty high.   

 I use this analogy because over the past few years, hospitals have been inundated with mandates to transform (makeover) their cultures.  The laundry list of expensive, highly-involved, resource-intensive initiatives to improve access, satisfaction, outcomes, quality, costs, and customer service is mind numbing. For those healthcare leaders waist deep in change, the promise of a fast-track or simple fix workforce makeover may be music to their ears.  Caution:  Be suspicious of anyone or anything that promises such a miracle.  It does not exist. There is no seminar, webinar, training program or book that will transform culture. These are great and reliable tools used in the journey toward building a higher-performing team, but if not used properly or tossed in the utility drawer, they won’t get the job done.     

This past summer, my dad and I played a round of golf during which he confessed to me that in preparing to sell his summer home, he unearthed somewhere close to 60 of the exact same screwdriver model in his shed. As I queried him on the find, he assured me he didn’t have a screwdriver addiction; rather, that every time he couldn’t find it, he just bought another one to replace it, thinking it was lost.  This is exactly what so many hospital leaders do when it comes to organizational development.  Buy a tool, use it for a while, put it away (lose it because it’s not being used), and start all over again. 

 If you are a healthcare leader contemplating how to makeover your hospital culture, there is a refined, well-organized and thorough process that doesn’t come in a box, off-the-shelf, or in a series of formulaic seminars.  Just like the example above, these types of activities can’t bring sustainable change because they are typically designed to address flaws we can see.  Liken it to installing a new light fixture only to find rotted wiring behind the wall. Until you address the infrastructure, it will remain a hazard.

In this New Year series, I will continue to illuminate the core and essential components to transforming and sustaining a culture of excellence in communications, quality and service. Yes!  You can have it all.  My goal is to help show the interdependency of the following strategies, and move the discussion beyond the ‘should do’ to ‘how to’ make this all happen despite other pressing demands on resources and time. 

-Aligning leaders with leaders and with their teams  

-Improving optimism, morale and engagement

-Refining internal communications (the #1 area for improvement as reported in hospital culture assessment surveys we conduct)

-Shifting customer service initiatives to an emotionally intelligent-driven mission vs. motivated by financials

-Increasing provider and leadership team retention (including a process for better ensuring you hire for fit vs. fill)

-Building stronger and more meaningful community partnerships that grow volume and reverse outmigration

 Aristotle once said, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

 On the flipside, repeating unhealthy hiring practices, tolerating disruptive behaviors, dismissing concerns about poor communications, punishing transparency or allowing exemptions are just a few of the patterns that make a makeover mission impossible.

Next up: Aligning leaders with other leaders.   Let’s do this!

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