Let’s face it, most healthcare organizations today are not replete with useless infrastructure and initiatives that can easily be discarded when resources become more constrained, or when a global pandemic turns everything on its’ ear. The cyclical budget pressures, reimbursement changes, regulatory changes, and market forces over the years have created an environment with less waste and less underutilized capital assets. That is not to say that healthcare in the US is the paragon of efficiency, far from it, but it has been getting progressively better over time. So what does all of this mean for the executive overseeing IT, Supply chain, or other strategic support services in these challenging times?
In a word, Focus. A simple concept that most organizations would like to think they have mastered, but the data says otherwise. It is not usually about clearing the decks and having a nice short and clear list of items, it is about being able to sift through a larger number of valid items and allocate time and attention in a very high-integrity, focused manner. Few among us cannot cite a recent, or even current scenario, where despite our best intent, constrained resources are not directly and fully aligned with the few key points of organizational focus. Many can site examples where the linkage is tenuous. Many can site examples where the prioritization is skewed. This is not to say that legacy wind-down projects, and infrastructure projects, and politically-driven projects are not a completely valid part of our reality. They have been, and will continue to be. The question is how much of the constrained resources, time, and attention, any given project is consuming relative to the strength of its’ linkage to the organizational foci. How do you filter the incoming? We often hear statements like “If any of the following people walk through that door right now, I will have a new top priority”, or “They are all high priority, I have not seen a low priority request in 8 years!”. These indicate that the process is broken, but our experience suggests that it might not be due to the suspect that first comes to mind. This MIT Sloan article provides some insight in to why Strategic Focus is a challenge for the CEO https://executive.mit.edu/blog/7-characteristics-of-effective-strategic-priorities. The entire C-Suite shares the challenge, but you may be uniquely positioned to lead the way.
At any given point, could you articulate the portfolio of activities and their linkage in a simple dashboard to whomever needs it? Is your Governance structure utilizing a developed rubric around this to re-balance existing activities and evaluate the next request, or is it the loudest voice or the last in the door? As critical as this is, do you have the bandwidth and resources to do it justice in this window of opportunity which will close sooner than you think? There is rarely a good time to introduce or dramatically revise your areas’ mechanism for sharpening and sustaining organizational focus, but the challenging and transformational forces in play at the moment in healthcare, may ironically make it as good a time as there has been in a long time.