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A Contrarian Take on Change

Change is inevitable, right? Well, except in healthcare.

Historically shielded by a forcefield of politics, bureaucracy and complexity, the delivery of care is famous for its glacial pace of change.

But not anymore.

External forces, a global health pandemic and civil outcry for a more equitable justice system to name a few, have whipsawed our industry and our nation into a collective moment of change that will reshape our world.

These forces impact us as healthcare leaders, and they call for a new way to make change happen.

But consider this radical idea: To drive change in today’s world, focus on what’s not changing. Given the unyielding pressure, we all feel a deep loss of control. We’re craving predictability, normalcy (whatever that is anymore) and consistency.

So, our most important work – and frankly our biggest challenge as leaders – is stabilizing our stakeholders in a time of upheaval. By creating a sense of stability and consistency that our stakeholders aren’t getting in or from the outside world, we create the space for people to be open to change.

How to Stabilize in Chaos

In the pre-pandemic world, every healthcare leader was a “change agent” trying damn hard to disrupt, innovate and transform a broken system. We rallied people through a sense of urgency, creating tension around the consequences of not moving – moving more and moving faster –and driving people toward a bold vision for the future.

But now the world IS changing faster than ever. It’s hard to predict anything day to day, much less quarter to quarter or one fiscal year to the next. In response, it’s only human nature to hunker down, lock up and wait it out.

And yet, that’s the exact wrong move at this moment. These times call for systematic, far-reaching change, both for us as a healthcare industry and as a country. This collective inflection of chaos presents the ripest opportunity to do just that. We must lean into it, open our minds to the possibility of doing and thinking differently and then take action. This takes courage, and it’s our job as leaders to help create the space for people have courage to change.

So what’s the answer? I believe it all starts with the right questions. As you lead your organization through this era of chaos, challenge and opportunity, what are the questions that help you stabilize, center and ground your stakeholders? Here are three to start that conversation:

  • What are the most fundamental elements of your organization that will not change no matter what happens? Perhaps it’s your values, your mission and vision, your commitment to patient care.
  • What are the guiding principles or ground rules that your organization will use to make decisions during this time of chaos? I’d venture to say these are more readily available than answers, outcomes and final decisions.
  • Have recent events strengthen or changed the impact your company/organization is committed to making on healthcare? If so, why and how?

If you want to enlist your constituents in the army of change, working with them to answer – and communicate the answers – to these questions is the right place to start.

About the Author /

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A founding partner of Jarrard Inc. and its chief innovation officer, Molly Cate is responsible for opening new markets and service lines for the firm. Cate is also the national lead for the firm’s health services practice. Cate is a seasoned communications counselor with high-level experience in thought leadership, strategic positioning, change management, media relations, crisis and issue management and strategic partnership communications for healthcare organizations across the United States.