With the myriad of issues healthcare organizations face, it is often easy to lose sight that they face the same decisions every business does. Advancing the organization and achieving business success require developing new products, finding new markets and building enabling systems and infrastructure. For healthcare organizations, this may mean offering e-visits, teaming with insurers to benefit from new payment models, or developing informatics capabilities. Regardless, keeping execution aligned with the strategy is one of the most difficult challenges in running a healthcare business. In the current environment the task seems more daunting than ever due to the following:
- Higher medical costs and harsh economic realities, including high unemployment, have resulted in a fall in service volume for many healthcare organizations as people delay or neglect getting medical care. The resulting environment of scarcity has often meant that those individuals once responsible for championing programs to implement and sustain process improvement, change management, and project management competencies are no longer with the firm or are dispersed across a newly reorganized and often fragmented organization.
- Along with organizational improvement efforts, many of the support structures meant to reinforce a culture of execution have also been disbanded or diminished. This has left the development, training and reinforcement of project management best practices, methodologies and systems floundering.
- With few exceptions, most industries are experiencing the aging of their workforce and the inevitable loss of critical human capital. Healthcare organizations have the burden of reining in employee wages and benefits to maintain operating margins as an additional obstacle to attracting and retaining talent.
- Tough regulatory requirements associated with legislation continue to impact the healthcare industry, including HIPAA and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The compliance mandates these laws impose require diverting resources to meet hard deadlines to avoid punitive consequences for non-compliance.
As with most challenges, they are not insurmountable and meeting them comes down to ensuring the basics are in place. Delivering desired outcomes depends on project-focused competencies and a culture of execution. The key professionals in your organization who are responsible for advancing your strategy through new products, new markets, and new systems must have a solid foundation of competencies and be supported by a culture and structure that drives execution.
1. Tried and true - start with people. Determine the skills and competencies required to execute effectively in your environment and assess your people to understand how they measure up. Pay particular attention to those project-focused employees who shoulder a majority of the responsibility for executing key initiatives.
2. Bring the organization up to a base level of competence. Creating a foundation of understanding is essential to ensuring that individuals share a common platform from which to build skills. Data shows that establishing even fundamental competencies in project-related skills can have an immediate and measurable impact on the business.
3. Create coaching and mentoring programs. Once talent walks out the door, it is gone forever. Leverage highly skilled resources while you still have them by establishing a formal coaching and mentoring program that is focused on building the next generation of leadership. Ensure that mentoring programs are integrated into your on-boarding efforts so new hires have a coach from day one.
4. Rebuild and re-engage your execution support structure. Organizational structures such as project management offices (PMOs) and business analysis centers of excellence play a critical role in ensuring that execution is supported by a culture of discipline and rigor. Start with inventorying and assessing your current support structure and look for ways to enhance and empower these organizations.
5. Focus on the business impact of development. Since the end game is to impact the bottom line while delivering quality patient care, it is critical that development efforts focus on measuring business outcomes rather than on the quality of the program. While this may be intuitive for business leaders, it may require a change in mindset for those responsible for delivering development initiatives.
For many healthcare organizations, the gap between strategy and execution continues to widen at a time when they can least afford it. These essentials offer a solid foundation they should use to develop their people so they can bridge this gap and meet their business goals.
Mark Bashrum is vice president, corporate marketing and strategic intelligence at global training firm ESI International.