Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Transformational Leadership: Changing Ahead of the Curve

The average life span of Fortune 500 Companies is 40 to 50 years because many do not embrace transformational change ahead of the curve. Organizations that will stand the test of time will require innovative leaders who are able to change ahead of this curve.

This is most important in the health care industry, as more affordable health care will not come from an injection of more funding, but rather from innovations that aim to make more and more areas of care cheaper, simpler and more accessible to our patients.

This will require not only innovation, but resilience as well. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult or challenging experiences, manage pressure and adapt quickly to change while continuing to produce excellent results. Luckily, this trait can be learned and improved over time. I believe the four characteristics of resilient leaders are the abilities to:
1. Accept reality
2. Find meaning in difficult situations
3. Make plans for a better future and
4. Improvise quickly to solve problems

As we prepare to change ahead of the curve, we can no longer benchmark ourselves against our historical progress or our peers, but instead must know our new competitors like technology vendors and retail providers such as CVS, WalMart, etc. We must become increasingly skilled at predicting the toxic side effects of change, and become more comfortable with the controversy change can cause if we are truly to take our appropriate place in the future we are predicting to provide the highest quality care in the most convenient ways possible.

To become truly transformational leaders, we must embrace five key mindsets.

Mindset #1 is maintaining the right balance between market–making and disciplined execution. This is not an either/or, but a both/and mindframe, and will require flawless execution balanced with our future thinking (3 year planning, 10 year plans, our Futures Task Force). To develop this mindset, a leader must avoid false tradeoffs and commit to a dual focus on the present and the future.

Mindset #2 is obsessively identifying and multiplying talent. We must always be on the lookout for new talent and support our leadership training so we continue being a talent multiplier. To develop this mindset, a leader must invest a disproportionate amount of time in recruiting and developing people.

Mindset #3 is the commitment to continuing to use a selective scorecard to measure business performance with rising benchmark scores. We must continue to support total transparency, including our quality data, financial information and community benefit numbers. To develop this mindset, a leader must rely on simple, memorable ways of measuring success and use every occasion to share those success stories across the organization.

Mindset #4 includes continuing to recognize technology as a strategic asset. Our clinical performance, business strategy and IT strategies must converge, and we must carefully and thoughtfully evaluate our adoption of new technologies in a timely manner. To develop this mindset, a leader must invest in technologies that will demonstrably lead to better business performance.

Mindset #5 is an emphasis on continuous renewal and “must haves.” Leaders must be continuously alert for our own competitive softness and vulnerability, always be on the lookout for new market opportunities, demonstrate fierce pride in their organization’s history and articulate its relevance to a rapidly changing future. Storytelling is important to lift spirits, raise expectations and talk about the pain that accompanies change. A leader must put in motion the powerful mindset of continuous renewal so it becomes the self-sustaining engine for innovation and better ideas. To develop this mindset, a leader must ensure that everyone in the organization understands what to preserve in their current way of doing business and what to do away with.

Our greatest challenge as CHRISTUS leaders is that we must get 30,000 full- and part-time Associates and 6,000 physicians, in multiple countries from multiple cultures, to think in similar terms about the purpose of our ministry and what they individually must do to accomplish that purpose and be aligned. We must all share the same mindsets. We must believe nothing is impossible.

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