Adaptive change is about adjusting quickly to new challenges either within the organization or in response to the ever-changing needs of patient populations. While once it was thought that good leadership was part and parcel of strict management, today’s theories center on taking the power to change out of the hands of the management and into the hands of the workers “on the front lines.”
Those healthcare workers who encounter disruptions in processes are best at problem solving when pressure mounts. Waiting for management to understand and address the problems wastes valuable time and resources. Worse, more adaptive providers will have addressed changes in the meantime, leaving your healthcare organization behind the times and growing in inefficiency.
So what is the role of leadership when innovation is largely left to on-the-ground workers? “It must design, align and coordinate rapid front-line decision-making by its employees,” says healthcare consulting firm CEO John Kenagy, MD. The successful CEO will work towards integrating a culture of adaptability system-wide. They will replace old models of top down management to bottom up innovation. Here are 3 key skills of adaptive leadership in healthcare.
1. Clarifying goals
You may think that setting a standard of something like “high quality care” is sufficient for your staff. After all, it’s simple. But if a leader doesn’t define quality or give a clear and concise picture of what that comprises, then the goal is purely subjective. A good adaptive leader will set more specific parameters in terms of things like costs and patient outcomes so that when those levels fall below expectations, the staff is able to begin the problem-solving process.
2. Empowering people
It’s never safe to make assumptions about what staff feels is appropriate. Instead, leaders must imbue workers with a sense of self-efficacy and let them know that they are relied upon and trusted as first responders to disruption within the organization. Adaptive leaders create an environment that welcomes input and awards innovation. Says Kenagy, “when employees know the organization is a safe place to test ideas, they develop trust and optimism.”
3. Challenging the norm
“Great managers opportunistically and relentlessly challenge the status quo,” says Kenagy. They don’t stop at redesigning problem areas but instead determine the best processes for all areas, whether seemingly faulty or not. A good adaptive leader will have instilled a new company culture of innovation and adaption and that will lead to improvements across the board – and better systems and processes mean better fulfilment of organizational goals.
The success of any organization depends upon the ability to grow and change in real time response to outside pressures. What may once have worked may be holding the organization back as goals and circumstances change. A great adaptive leader will foster an environment of innovation by empowering staff to address clear goals.
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