As a healthcare industry consultant, I’m often asked by senior executives for ways they can better equip their organizations to spring back from setbacks, respond more quickly in times of uncertainty and perform decisively when opportunity arises. In the current climate of uncertainty, more and more senior executives are seeking solutions that can help their organizations (whether commercial or government) be more resilient and agile.
The list of forces contributing to uncertainty is long. There have been pockets of cost relief for some consumers, but overall costs of health care have continued to rise at unsustainable rates. As the industry shifts away from fee-for-service towards outcomes-based healthcare, increasing costs are coupled with a changing regulatory and policy environment. Payers, providers and patients would all benefit from clearer policy direction at the federal and state levels. However, the fate of efforts to change the Affordable Care Act in Washington remain uncertain at best and the outcome of those changes, if enacted, unclear. Meanwhile, large pockets of the country are plagued by an opioid epidemic that does not distinguish its victims along partisan lines. For officials on the front lines of protecting the American public, the threats to public health include combatting the spread of infectious diseases, biological terrorism and the environmental impacts of a changing climate, to name but a few. With so much cause for uncertainty, what can leaders do to help their organizations cope and succeed?
From my 25 years of experience as a business executive and consultant, I believe organizations survive if they possess both resiliency and agility. These two words are the cornerstone of our name, Resigility, and why we donate at least a week of our staff’s time to volunteering for organizations in our community that build resiliency and agility. Resilience and agility can be applied to many facets that drive an organization’s success. Since many of our clients grapple with challenges on the Information Technology-side of healthcare, we work to apply the principals of resilience and agility to the People, Process, Technology, and Data elements of their businesses.
So, let’s focus on resiliency. Is it something you can teach someone? Or do they just have to gut it out in tough situations to acquire it? Like leadership, there are many who believe resiliency can be taught and others who believe it comes from experience. Whatever side of the debate you may be on, there are key tactics leaders can demonstrate that enable their organizations to move forward in times of uncertainty or opportunity.
First, as leaders we must continue to see the opportunities in front of us. The majority of my strategy and IT consulting work these days is spent working with senior executives on creating clarity when the path forward seems “as clear as mud” and building enthusiasm for new possibilities when their teams see only the impossible. It is very easy to focus on the challenges that hinder our progress but our teams need leaders who find opportunity in chaos, challenges or market disruptions. Next, we need to create clarity around what needs to be done. Leaders can provide clarity by breaking-down large initiatives into manageable portions. Tackling a big problem in “bite sized” chunks enables teams to build on their smaller successes and persevere. When teams are struggling, leaders must create the clarity for their teams that they desperately want and need.
Removing obstacles is also critical. Successful leaders know if they can enable their team’s success by overcoming challenges they are creating an opportunity to build resiliency. But overcoming challenges isn’t enough to build resiliency. Leaders must enable revitalization of their teams by encouraging time- off, volunteerism or walks outside. Trying hard, stopping, reflecting, revitalizing and trying again are the key components of resiliency.
Lastly, leaders must create enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm for moving forward will be watched and assessed by your team members. Without opportunity, clarity, revitalization and enthusiasm, teams will not prosper in these challenging times. With them and with a strong leader to model these qualities, teams will be able to weather the storm and reach their peak level of performance.