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How Close To Insanity Is Healthcare Strategy?

“Strategic insanity is doing the same things as everybody else and expecting better results.” (A paraphrase of Albert Einstein.)

A recent Harvard Business Review article talked about overcoming hidden cognitive limitations.  “Strategic leaders must be practitioner psychologists who expertly analyze and manage their own and others’ thought processes…identifying successful strategies that are different, unique and distant from the status quo.”

Amen.  But not always a comfortable place to be is it?  Telling your organization that thought processes need to change, that they're outdated and predictable.   That the status quo should be avoided because of its limitations, not prized for its stability.

So the job of a strategist is to reframe thought processes and mental models.  

Let's do a deep dive into the weeds of health care thinking and modeling to see what shakes out.  And let's assume that you, dear reader, are serious about creating “strategic separation." About growing faster than the market. About delivering visibly better quality and customer satisfaction. Setting the EBITDA pace with each fiscal year.

You’re serious?   Good.  And yet, compared to everyone else, you…
  • Attend the same seminars as thousands of your peers, sponsored by the same organizations.
  • Read the same magazines.
  • Buy the same clunky IT systems from the same IT vendors. Sign the same contracts, embark on the same installation processes while letting the vendor escape anything resembling accountability for their kludgy system actually WORKING as designed.
  • Hire the same architects who build yet another “light-filled lobby” and for whom “innovation” means adding a waterfall.
  • Benchmark against other hospitals - ideally your competitor up the street, the competitor from which you're trying to SEPARATE.
  • Purchase the same shiny radiology gadgets and robots from the same vendors.
  • Buy syndicated market research, technology forecasts and packaged advice from the same think tanks and advisory boards.  You learn the same things your competitor does, at the very same time.  Great.  That'll help. 
  • Use the same state-supplied data systems to generate the same market share statistics to formulate more-or-less identical growth strategies. You’re growing cardiology? How unique! 
  • Hire one of a few pedigreed consultants to put pretty ribbons on it all.  "Our board wants someone with a pedigree to explain the future. (As if the future cared about pedigrees!)
  • Offer indistinguishable ad campaigns featuring undistinguished messages. “We care!” “We have a shiny new robot!” We’re a big system with lots of doctors and locations!” 
  • Strip the pathos and promise from vision statements, then compensate with “Pillars” because, as we all know, lack of employee engagement is just about terminology.
  • Oh right, you’re using the same 5 pillars as everybody else. Hard thinking outside of some consultant’s box, isn’t it?  "Quality, service, growth...  Yeah, but you're really sincere" 
  • Talk about “branding” as if the word has even passing relevance to organizations more comfortable being one among many instead of standing alone above the few.
So.  Do the same things as everybody else and expect better results.


Maybe you’re smarter? Better-looking? Harder-working?  Maybe you’re really sincere and they’re…not?  You communicate better, your troops really, really like you, like you better than their troops like them.  Umm-hmm.

To think outside the box you must first DESTROY the box!

Stay tuned. More tomorrow.

(By the way, I'm not sure how many times I used the word 'same' in this post.  A big shout-out if you can tell me.)


S said…
Using the words "healthcare" and "strategy" in the same sentence is often oxymoronic. It is far past time to change it up.
Crister said…
But... but... radiology gadgets are shiny and pretty. All joking aside, this is a great post. I think anyone who has ever worked for a hospital and believed in the "mission" of the organization at some point gets jaded. It all becomes talking points and similar formulas, just boxed differently. You're so right... throw out the box.

But when that box is (red)-taped up (yes, pun intended) with things as archaic as: making docs happy, internal politics, nepotism, "this is how we've always done it" mentality - things that need to be "reshaped in the though process, what do you do? Heck, it'll take a decade just to educate those people! Who wouldn't die of frustration?! Yes, there are those rare C-suite execs who aren't afraid to lead the charge in unknown territories, but those are few and far between.

Maybe instead of the box being thrown out, those red-tape items need to be thrown IN it.

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