For Leaders: Turn “What’s in it for me?” Into “What’s in it for YOU?”

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By Michael “Mike” J. Jones

It seems we’ve become more self-centered and focused on personal gains and benefits, especially in today’s society. When narrowing our perspectives to “self,” we create resistance to change because our sole focus is “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM).

The realities of our professional and personal lives are that substantive changes and transitions are the norm. For everyone. Technology and the speed of connectivity to others has accelerated the pace of these transitions. Granted, it is human nature and a fact of self-preservation to filter changes, transitions, obstacles, and other events through a lens of WWIFM.

The healthcare industry is full of rapid transition and change. As technology and techniques evolve, so does the care we deliver to patients. No one – especially patients and their families – wants healthcare to be stuck in the status quo. Healthcare should always move forward with innovation to positively benefit patient outcomes.

The bigger picture

It is imperative that healthcare leaders engage key stakeholders and constituents during periods of transition. While the leaders’ first instincts may be to ask how the pending change will affect themselves, they must recognize and set aside the blinders created by their natural instincts to ask WIIFM and focus on the needs of the organization and the needs of key stakeholders (who will be mired in WIIFM).

To smoothly navigate change, leaders must create an organizational culture that engages key stakeholders to express their concerns (their WIIFMs) and interpret these concerns and resistance within the framework of a value-based vision for healthcare: delivering low cost, high quality, and customer-friendly (for internal and external customers) care.

Find balance

Healthcare governance and leadership structures need to support key stakeholders around this vision of value. Regardless of structure –– integrated clinical systems, independent practitioners, or some combination of the two –– this requires finding balance and making decisions at all levels of the system in line with what is best for patient care.

This is not the time for “command and control,” the do-as-I-say mentality. In a hypothetical example of a hospital acquiring a physician’s clinical practice, the hospital imposes a policy that patient lab work at this clinic must be done at a centralized location. They strip away the clinic staff’s ability to draw blood and process test results in the clinic as it had previously done. In so doing, patients incur higher costs and inconvenience going to a separate location for lab work. In turn, the physician is unable to deliver the same quality of care promptly because results aren’t readily available to make informed diagnoses. These decisions, made solely for financial reasons by the hospital leadership, are in direct conflict with a value-based approach to delivering care. Patients aren’t happy, physicians and their staffs aren’t happy, and as a result, the quality of care suffers.

There are exceptional times which call for “command and control”-types of decisions. Only rarely should leaders mandate change without considering key stakeholders and their WIIFM perspectives. For example, disciplinary actions may be taken with individuals who act outside acceptable norms, work contrary to policies, or behave inappropriately.

Stay focused on values

By understanding the perspectives of stakeholders (WIIFM) at all levels, leaders will be better equipped to anticipate questions, understand resistance, overcome objections, and adjust plans with an internal and external group.

Organizational change should move healthcare systems along a values-based path of performance excellence:

  • Engage people to bring them along with organizational goals.
  • Measure, monitor, and report KPIs so you know your data aligns with organization-wide initiatives.
  • Design processes to engage the expertise of key stakeholders to
  • Take action and
  • Achieve results.

Michael Jones is the principal and advisor for InnovateHC LLC, a healthcare management consulting corporation, specializing in interim leadership and management advisory services.  He shares his expertise on healthcare leadership and innovation at innovatehc.net.

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