Creating a Culture of Disruption, Change and Innovation

By The SHSMD Team posted 02-16-2021 01:34 PM


Addressing the major challenges facing hospitals and health systems now and in the future will require significant culture change, according to one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the subject. Health care leaders will need to create a culture that embraces change, innovation, employee and physician engagement, and quality care, according to Nancy M. Schlichting, FACHE(R), the former president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System.

Schlichting shares her ideology for change driven by innovative leadership during difficult times. “Employees and the medical staff are central to the success of any hospital or health system,” she emphasizes. “They frequently know of a problem that requires change before leadership does, because they are closer to it. That insider’s perspective often enables them to recommend the best solution. I’ve found that putting people first inspires clinical and operational teams to create a true culture of high performance.”

Focus on employee and physician engagement. Organizations that are truly engaged with their employees and physicians are doing well in these trying times, Schlichting says. “Every job in health care is important, and every job is hard. People need to know that you appreciate what they do, you care about what they think and you’re looking to really understand what they deal with on a day-to-day basis. There’s probably never been a more important time for that than right now with COVID.”

Lead with quality. Quality has to come first in health care, and patients and customers depend on providers to deliver that quality, she notes. “When you really pay attention to quality first, it sends a message to people in the organization about what we value and what we’re willing to invest in. That’s how you get the engagement, and that’s why people put in 110% of effort every day.”

Be strategic and opportunistic. “Everybody always thinks, ‘Well, you have to have a strategic plan,’” Schlichting says. “You do, but the truth is that things change constantly in health care. So your plan has to be very dynamic, and you have to have agility. The reality is that a lot of things are opportunistic.” She adds that some of the most exciting strategic initiatives at Henry Ford were ones that were not planned, and she encourages strategic planners to be open to opportunities and to seize those that come along.

Be visible and accessible. “In the current situation with COVID, you have people every day who put themselves in harm’s way and who put a tremendous amount of mental, physical and emotional effort into their work,” she says. “It’s so vital that they see their senior leaders being visible, accessible and there for them.” For Schlichting, that can mean walking the hallways of the hospital, participating in internal events, personally answering emails and inviting concerns and alternative points of view. It is an approach that builds trust and helps foster transparency by all leaders.

Create a climate of positivity. Schlichting believes it is incumbent on C-suite executives to lead in a way that creates a positive environment and communicates that everyone is important and can be part of the solution. “People need to be lifted up in health care,” she says. “So coming in with a positive attitude, being calm in a storm, believing in the people who do the work every day are critically important for leaders.”

Schlichting encourages health care marketers to find ways to reach out and talk with patients and other customers to understand their needs. “The more you learn, the more you’re going to be effective in those roles,” she says. “Strategies are important, but connection is really important.”

She also says that current success does not ensure future viability, but certain axioms always stand the test of time. “The most successful health care leaders care deeply about creating an environment in which people can deliver great care. A leader who is committed to fostering change through innovation and engaging the entire team in quality improvement will capture the hearts and minds of people throughout the organization.”

Learning More

SHSMD members can read Schlichting’s article on fostering a culture of disruption, change and innovation in Futurescan 2021-2026: Health Care Trends and Implications, the annual publication that explores key forces transforming the future of health care. Nonmembers, learn more about SHSMD and join. SHSMD members can also share resources, ideas and questions with peers in the MySHSMD community.

In a recent episode of SHSMD’s Rapid Insights podcast, Futurescan Spotlight: Creating a Culture of Disruption, Change and Innovation, Nancy Schlichting discusses in depth the ways health care leaders can position their organizations for success in the disruptive new health care environment.

On February 24, 2021, renowned futurist Ian Morrison, Ph.D., will host a free webinar, Futurescan 2021-2026 Insights: Transforming Health Care While Responding to a Pandemic, where he will discuss trends in the field of health care, including fostering a culture of disruption.

SHSMD members can read The Power of Purpose-Driven Branding in the Age of Disruptive Innovation, an article describing Florida Hospital’s new brand purpose and key messaging about its innovators, leaders and medical experts as they set new standards in care and access.