The Courage to Lead Change

Have you ever been in an organization that went through significant change? If you haven’t you are one of a rare breed in healthcare these days. Don’t worry, you will likely find yourself in the midst of change in the near future as healthcare moves from volume to value.

Change-uncertaintyIf you have been through a big change, how did it go? Whether it went well or not is due in large part to the organization’s leader. Leading change takes a Change uncertaintycombination of vision, interpersonal skills, communication skills, an understanding of organizational dynamics, and knowledge of the external environment. Most of all, it takes courage.

I had the privilege this week of attending the 10th Annual North America CEO Symposium hosted by Simpler Healthcare. A combination of 40 health care leaders and Simpler executive coaches gathered in Chicago to talk about leading Lean transformations in hospitals and medical groups.

Presenters on Thursday included:

  • Dr. Craig Albanese, VP of Quality and Performance Improvement at Stanford Children’s Hospital, presenting on executive leadership in Lean
  • Larry Gold, CEO of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, presenting on Integrated Facility Design (IFD) and its role in building two new facilities
  • Joe Sluka, the new CEO at St. Charles Health System in Bend, OR, presenting an overview of how he is leading that organization through its transformation, and
  • Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, presenting on his vision for the future of this large safety net system that is vital to New York City’s wellbeing.

A powerful theme that ran through all the presentations was the degree of change that each were leading.

  • Craig Albanese presented a bold vision for Stanford Children’s – “Let patient variation be the only variation in your system” – a statement that many physicians find counter to traditional physician culture.
  • Larry Gold demonstrated the power of IFD, taking a risk that is leading to the construction of healthcare facilities unlike any others in the country.
  • Joe Sluka became CEO less than a year ago. In his interview with the health system’s board of directors he told them that he intended to lead the system through a Lean transformation, and if they did not want that, they should not hire him as CEO. (Wisely they did.)
  • Ram Raju shared his vision to change the massive system from its volume focus and hospital-based organizational structure to a value-focused organization structured around ambulatory, emergency, and post-acute care services, completing the transition by the year 2020.

machiavelliOne of my favorite leadership quotes comes from the Renaissance political philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli. In The Prince he states, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

These Lean leaders are taking that risk in hand and assuming the perils of uncertainty. As Dr. Raju stated, “You can only mobilize the organization if the leader personally takes a risk. Without presenting a bold vision, your people will not engage in change.”

I applaud these leaders for their willingness to take big risks for something they believe in.

What do you think?

Have you ever taken a big risk for something you believed in? I have, and I know that I am the better for it.

I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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