Leadership: The Secret Sauce for Organizational Success?

With many articles, books and all the hype about leadership, why am I calling Leadership the Secret Sauce?  As organizational leaders we are often looking for the next “shiny” thing whether that “shiny thing” is a new methodology, new technology, philosophy or even a newly emphasized competency or character trait.  What I have seen in my career is that no matter the approach, the solution or the new skill set, the quality of leadership and how leaders lead will determine the success or failure of the initiative.

Let’s take a couple of examples such as Lean or process improvement. You can fill in other words if you’d like, e.g. supply change management, ERP, Six Sigma, etc.  What these examples of approaches, philosophies and methodologies all have in common is that are powerful and they work. However, what often happens is that in many organizations they do not deliver their full potential value.  How does it happen time and time again that leaders don’t seem to get it? What does it look like?

  1. Leaders brought the approach or methodology in because that is what everyone else was doing – It’s the “thing to do” syndrome
  2. Leaders sanctioned organization-wide training on the new approach but it remained separate from the core business activities and strategies
  3. The approach was listed as a stand-alone strategy NOT an enabler to key strategy
  4. Leadership was supportive while it initially seemed to work. Once the going got tough, they quickly focused elsewhere.
  5. No changes to organizational structure or job design were made to accommodate the new approach and take advantage of the benefits – Basically nothing changed other than a new overlay of complexity and busyness.
  6. Once there were any challenges to the status quo with the new methodology, it was allowed to die a slow death.
  7. When someone new comes into the company and recommends that the approach be implemented again the response is, “We tried that before but it didn’t work here.” No wonder!

As a young process engineer, I was easily mesmerized by the power of Deming’s plan-do-study-act methodology as well as process redesign, lean, six sigma and countless other methods, approaches and philosophies.  I was even fortunate enough to see many of them be very successful.  Looking back over the years I realize that it wasn’t the wonderful approach, the brilliant team or my finely honed skills as a facilitator 😉 that led to success. It was ultimately the depth and breadth of the executives’ leadership sensibilities and capabilities.  Were they 100% behind the approach? Did they see it as integral to the organization achieving its mission and strategy and ultimately its success? Were they willing to support it during the dark days and doldrums that always come once the excitement and newness have worn off?

In my latest book, Organizational and Process Reengineering Approaches for Health Care Transformation, I devote as many pages to the role of leaders and organizational culture as I do to a methodology.  I purposefully stayed methodologically agnostic, e.g. I am not proposing any one approach over another. I’ve come to realize the simpler the better. The key is engaging the leaders. And actually they should be engaging us!  It is after all their initiative and responsibility.

Upcoming speaking engagements

At the Dallas Business Women’s Council Luncheon, Dallas, February 11th
Orchestrating Success: Growing Your Organization Against the Odds

At the Society for Health Systems Conference in Orlando, February 18-20th

Workshop — Mastering Your EQ – Emotional Intelligence – The Key to Change Leadership Success
Join me at the Society for Health Systems Conference in Orlando in February 2015. I am offering a 4-hour pre-conference workshop: Mastering Your EQ – Emotional Intelligence – The Key to Change Leadership Success. Better EQ will help you more effectively lead teams while facilitating organizational change. The workshop will be on Wednesday, February 18th from 1-5 pm. It will include a pre-assessment and a personalized development plan to ensure your success in leading change.

For more information on this engagement, click here

At the Society for Health Systems Conference in Orlando, February 18-20th

  • A panel discussion entitled: The Change Conundrum – Why do some organizations get it right while others crash and burn? (I am the moderator)
  • Using Appreciative Inquiry Techniques to Jumpstart Your Improvement Initiatives.

For more information on this engagement, click here

At the American College of Healthcare Executives Congress in Chicago, March 16-19th
Maximizing Healthcare Process Redesign Engagements – Improving Processes, Getting Results and Engaging Others (A 3 hour workshop with Derk Pronger, COO of Munson Medical Center in Traverse City Michigan.

For more information on this engagement, click here

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference: Chicago, April 13-16th

  • The Future of Healthcare Management Engineering: Improving Your Organization’s Processes, Outcomes & Technology Benefits Realization (I am the moderator)
  • A workshop on Managing Your Own Professional Transition

For more information on this engagement, click here

FREE webinar: Sept 25th Better Healthcare and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement through Systems Engineering

Free Webinar Better Healthcare and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement through Systems Engineering

An overview of the report from the President’s Council on Science and Technology

September 25th Overview:

This session is an overview and panel discussion of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Report (published May 2014) on Systems Engineering in Healthcare. The authors argue that more consistent use of Systems Engineering in Healthcare can help transform the healthcare delivery system as its use has transformed other industries. The session presenters will provide an overview of the recommendations, obstacles and opportunities as presented in the report. Lastly they will discuss ways that Management Engineers and PI Professionals can help implement these recommendations in their organizations.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the main points of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Report on Systems Engineering in Health Care
  • Explain obstacles and opportunities for ME-PI professionals as they begin to respond to the report
  • Illustrate how ME-PI professionals can use their skills to help health care organizations implement the 7 Recommendations from the Systems Engineering PCAST report

Join us on September 25th. For more information or to register click here


Five Reasons Healthcare Needs Process Redesign

Drawing empty diagram

Perhaps in your organization you are finding that traditional process improvement methods are no longer yielding the game changing results you need.  So what are your options? You may want to consider a fundamental redesign of your core processes. First, it should be noted that this process redesign approach is not intended to replace other process improvement methodologies. It is designed to enhance them and better position them at the appropriate time, giving them a jump start within the organization.  The process redesign approach described in this article provides a simple methodology that may be quickly learned and facilitated to help a team redesign even the most complex processes.

Maybe you’re grappling with your patient direct admit process. Or what about your revenue cycle or care management processes? No doubt you have already tried many different continuous improvement processes such as PDSA, Lean, Six Sigma, Change Acceleration or consultant’s redux of any of these.  As mentioned earlier, I am not dissing any of these approaches and many of them helped make my career.  However, there comes a time when you need more. And, the other more traditional and even more sophisticated tools can then be brought in and employed if and when appropriate.

So what are the signs that you may want to consider process redesign to increase the magnitude and speed to results.  The first reason might be that you’ve tried to incrementally improve the process – maybe more than once – and you are finding that it is not enough and does not produce the results you need.  Secondly, you may consider using process redesign when the fundamental rules of how the work is done are suddenly changed. For example, have there been markedly new federal or state regulatory requirements that will profoundly impact how the work gets done? Or you are implementing a game changing medical or IT technology?  These issues may lead to reason three which is when you know you have to create a brand new process – either due to new technology or perhaps because your organization has a whole new service line, market or group of customers.  Fourthly, if you need to get the team and stakeholders to think creatively, give up their tight grip on “the way we’ve always done it” and get on board with the details of the new redesigned process, process redesign may be the approach to use.  Once the goals and objectives of the new processes are determined and agreed upon by the stakeholders, sponsors and redesign team, the possibilities of who to get there are endless.

Last but not least, it is always good to consider process redesign when you need to redesign or improve a major, critical core business process.  Redesigning a core process will not only impact much of the rest of your business, it will also provide many other opportunities for continuous improvement along the way and in other processes.  This article has touched on just 5 reasons to have a process redesign approach in your toolkit.  You can no doubt think of others.