How do you plan? Obviously, you have to. Obviously, you can’t.
For your organization, and for you as a health care leader, the rapid and, at times, chaotic changes in the payment systems, the purchasers’ strategies, your population base, new technological possibilities, and the competitive landscape mean that you must plan for the future and act vigorously to make that future happen — or you fail. At the same time, those very same factors render traditional planning methods irrelevant, impossible, even deadly.
The movie line that comes to mind is, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” But we can’t just forget it. We must figure this out.
Let’s step through it: the shape of the complexity we are dealing with, how the process must change to deal with it. Then we get to a core issue that often gets overlooked: What kind of mind do we need for this new thinking, and how do we cultivate it?
It’s been two years since I first started my new practice. I have successfully avoided driving my business into the ground because I am a dumb-ass doctor. Don’t get me wrong: I am not a dumb-ass when it comes to being a doctor. I am pretty comfortable on that, but the future will hold many opportunities to change that verdict. No, I am talking about being a dumb-ass running the businessbecause I am a doctor.
We doctors are generally really bad at running businesses, and I am no exception. In my previous practice, I successfully delegated any authority I had as the senior partner so that I didn’t know what was going on in most of the practice.
The culmination of this was when I was greeted by a “Dear Rob” letter from my partners who wanted a divorce from me. It wasn’t a total shock that this happened, but it wasn’t fun. My mistake in this was to back off and try to “just be a doctor while others ran the business.” It’s my business, and I should have known what was happening. I didn’t, and it is now no longer my business.
This new business was built on the premise that I am a dumb-ass doctor when it comes to business. I consciously avoided making things too complicated. I wanted no copays for visits (and hence no need to collect money each visit). I wanted no long-term contracts (and hence no need to refund money if I or the patient was hit by a meteor or attacked by a yeti). The goal was to keep things as easy as possible, and this is a very good business policy.
It is often said that the one and only constant in life is change. This is certainly the case in business where every change in the external market or new initiative or idea brings some type of change to the organization. As leaders, our success or failure can hinge upon how well we are able to facilitate change and how well we help our members of our team adapt to and appreciate change.
As president of a large, national health care organization, like many other business leaders, I am involved in important decisions related not only to performance today, but also preparing the organization for what will be required in the future. This means I spend a lot of time thinking about change. What can we expect with change? How will people react to change? How can I help my team work through the change? How will change affect the way we operate or service our members? What will it cost us?
The reality is most people don’t like change because it can be stressful, especially when change happens unexpectedly. Change can be scary, and understandably so. It represents the unknown, taking us out of our comfort zones. Any time an organization embarks on a new initiative there is the risk of failure, which could have significant financial consequences. Yet, if we don’t change, failure is certain. As society evolves, we must too. Organizations that not only understand the importance of change, but embrace change, are the ones that will ultimately be most successful.
Disruptive leadership. That’s a thing now? I’m told that this is a kind of leadership—I thought it was a market dynamic.
What does it take to be a “disruptive” leader?
Does it mean talk like a pirate when explaining how the company will be cutting benefits?
Does it mean dress like Ali G and try to imitate him but only muster a WASP accent?
I suppose it does…but that’s the easy part.
Job #1 in leading a true market disruptive: FIND AND FERTILIZE THE HIDDEN RAGE AT THE STATUS QUO THAT LIES WITHIN ALL OF US. Find it in yourself and feed it and then find it in others and attract them to work with you.
I’m constantly looking for change in my personal life. For example, I just bought a Tesla. My other car is a 1983 Land Rover. Why? Because in 1983 you didn’t need to sell cars with a seatbelt dinger and airbags in the front seat andD because Tesla is the first ATTACKER disruptive car maker to make it past the fetal stage in my entire life. I must feed them. I HATE the established car industry! I have been trapped inside a small number of culturally (and occasionally financially) bankrupt brands that have lost any interest in fighting the over-regulated morass that constraints.