Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Flywheel Concept

We all know as health care leaders, providers, Associates and administrators that the challenges in health care have gotten increasingly complex and will seemingly only increase in their magnitude and complexity for the foreseeable future.

This reality demands that we as health care leaders must be constantly developing new methods for addressing these challenges and hopefully transitioning into innovative delivery models with little disruption and seamless flows for the people in our organizations.

Because of the magnitude of these challenges and the constant feeling that the issues must be addressed totally and immediately, we often let ourselves believe that rapid change is possible and that the “miracle cure” or the alternate answer will become visible to us in a short period of time.

However, looking over my experience in making health care changes in the last 40 years, I constantly must remind myself that health care change is never linear, meaning that we don’t go from A to B at a constant pace. Rather, what we see is that health care change is extremely slow, as we are trying to develop input from the multiple constituencies both at the bedside and in administration to determine not only what they believe are the best answers, but also to develop ownership of the solutions.

This plays out as many steps of progress which are slow and arduous, and encompasses weeks or months--and in some cases, even years. The health care environment is a big ship, which is on most days slow to turn in a new direction. However, with continuing focus and attention to goals--such as those defined in our Journey to Excellence--it has been my experience that we will reach a tip point where the changes, although they are not necessarily as rapid as one would like, do reach an acceleration point which then speeds up the further changes which lie ahead.

My experience was recently reconfirmed in a presentation given by several members of the 6th class of our Senior Leadership Academy participants in their latest session this month. During this session, their required book review was Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it, he speaks of the flywheel concept, which in reality is the concept supporting my observation for health care change over these four decades.

It reminds us that initial change is slow, but with constancy of leadership and clarity of an organization’s mission, vision and values, change can be accelerated. Health care change is no accident—and although the flywheel process is the only process that will work at the end of the day--it is possible to achieve the metrics embedded in our Journey to Excellence. In fact, this has been already been demonstrated by several of our regions and business units.

In hopes that you will be as committed to this learning and energized by hearing Jim Collins’ description from his book, you can click here.

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