Embracing Business Agility in Healthcare
Walk into any healthcare organization today, be it a bustling hospital or a nimble tech company serving the industry, and you'll find yourself immersed in phrases like "We have a consensus-building culture," or "We're just too busy, caught in the whirlwind," and so on. Healthcare, like many other intricate domains, is chock-full of variability. Unique in design, it often centers around the physician, not necessarily the end-user, the patient. This setup can potentially steer any transformational attempts toward setbacks right from the get-go.
But fret not! That's where business agility comes in, breathing new life into the domain. Business Agility, as stated by the Business Agility Institute, "is a set of organizational capabilities, behaviors, and ways of working that affords your business the freedom, flexibility, and resilience to achieve its purpose. No matter what the future brings."
Why Is Now the Time for Agility in Healthcare?
In the wake of the pandemic, the healthcare sector faced an unprecedented surge in demand. Coupled with the increasing need for innovation, a crisis of misinformation, and an overarching sense of burnout, it's becoming clear that we need to do more, often with less.
Figure 1: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Health Care and Social Assistance Sector Workforce https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES6562000001
Figure 2: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – Causes of clinician burnout: https://www.ahrq.gov/prevention/clinician/ahrq-works/burnout/index.html
The old rules may not apply in this new world. It's no longer about decision-making and accountability in a static, predictable environment. Instead, we need patterns to shift, not just problems to solve. And while Agile isn't a silver bullet, it's certainly a framework that offers a glimmer of hope for those grappling with complex problems in the healthcare sector.
What Does Agile Bring to Healthcare?
Agile is a mindset of intentional, iterative, incremental delivery of value, fostered through collaboration and continuous improvement. Triggered by the pandemic, it's helping healthcare organizations to deliver more, even with less revenue, fewer people, increasing costs, and higher uncertainty.
Agile Leadership: An Instrumental Role
Leaders in Agile organizations need to model the behavior they want to see and build a capacity for leadership agility. This can help sidestep the bureaucratic trap of endless subcommittees that can stall progress.
Modern Product Management
Keeping the customer, or in this case, the patient, at the center of product development helps to align efforts with the real needs and preferences of the people we're ultimately serving.
Teaming: An Agile Mantra
When healthcare organizations first adopt agile, it's normal to question how a team of people with different skills and abilities will work together. But it turns out to be the best possible solution. Agile gives teams the autonomy to decide how to tackle work collaboratively within a few guiding principles. It's a learning curve, but a worthy one at that.
Navigating the Pitfalls in Healthcare Transformation
However, as we wade through this sea of change, it's important to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Naming confusions can create unnecessary obstacles. Terms like 'Epic,' 'scaling,' or 'resources' can have completely different meanings in different contexts. Additionally, declaring victory too soon, confusing transformation with sustainment, or being guided by inexperienced coaches can all lead to setbacks. Remember, it's not about pursuing perfection but about continuously perfecting the process. As Kent Beck, the creator of Extreme Programming, aptly put it, "In software development, 'perfect' is a verb, not an adjective."
Agile is designed to tackle complex problems, making it apt for the healthcare domain. Embracing business agility can equip healthcare organizations with the resilience and flexibility needed to face future challenges. It isn't a magical cure, but it does provide a crucial shift towards more responsive and effective care delivery models.
So, if your organization is feeling the heat of stagnation, don't just stand there! Consider embracing the agile way of thinking, one small step at a time. In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, agility isn't just a choice - it's a survival skill.