The absence of normality, or “business as usual,” over the last two years of the pandemic has shifted the power dynamics, giving employees more autonomy to innovate and unleashing creativity. However, organizations with more traditional designs and operating models, such as those in healthcare, have struggled to adapt and capture the benefits of this new reality.
Rupen Babhania, RGP’s Vice President and Solution Lead – Business Agility & Project Services, and Rod Walker, Chief Growth Officer at Kotter, Inc., recently hosted a webinar, “Accelerating Meaningful Agility in Healthcare,” to explore this disconnect, as well as how healthcare organizations can move toward agile principles that ultimately drive agile outcomes.
Moving from ‘Survive’ to ‘Thrive’ with the Right Culture
Rod Walker shared that many healthcare organizations are struggling with understanding that they’re stuck in survival mode, executing on the work in front of them, instead of keeping their eye on where the market is going. Without a balanced culture that creates room for creativity and empowers innovation within the workforce, potential goes untapped and opportunities to thrive in a shifting landscape are missed.
He clarified that while business agility is driven by culture, leadership, strategy and governance, the culture component often goes neglected. Most organizations are designed for reliability, repeatability and control, not for agility, adaptability and speed. When these businesses do attempt to drive change—particularly those in traditional industries like healthcare where employees may have served in their roles for decades—they tend to focus their energy on addressing the resistance of the laggards, rather than empowering the innovators and early adopters.
Tradition is a powerful force. Leaps into the future can slide back into the past. We keep change in place by helping to create a new, supportive, and sufficiently strong organizational culture. A supportive culture provides roots for new ways of operating.John Kotter
Walker stresses that the organizations that will thrive in the post-COVID paradigm are those that “go where the energy is,” engaging innovators and early adopters to bring the early majority along to new ways of working. They must start with a powerful “why” the operation needs to change, demonstrate some short-term wins that support the strategy, and empower all team members to participate in a meaningful way. When an organization gets to the 51% tipping point of employee buy-in, it can soon become a wave of urgency and overall workforce activation.
Achieving Business Agility by Adopting Agile Principles
Achieving business agility requires a new mindset, one that empowers employees by decentralizing decision-making. Instead of organizing work around functions, agile organizations focus on value streams; create reasonable expectations around work priorities and throughput, and organize people into skilled, cross-functional teams able to work, learn and react quickly to drive optimal results. Key to the success of enabling agility within any organization is reducing layers of information flow. Organizations can only become nimbler and more dynamic by ensuring everyone has real-time access to relevant data and insights to react and calibrate their activities and outcomes accordingly. This shift must happen at the leadership level and cascade through the organization’s structure, processes, workflows, and tools. The outcomes of adopting agile principles can be transformative.
RGP’s Rupen Babhania suggests that companies start small, with a single, highly visible cross-functional project or initiative that is moving too slowly. They should build a squad of multi-skilled team members, where everyone has a role of active contribution. Team members should be empowered to make decisions within guardrails to best deliver on the core objectives of the initiative and encouraged to use agile principles. And most importantly, leadership should remain accessible throughout the project, supporting the team in creating short-term wins that drive long-term change.
For a deeper dive into a roadmap to enable business agility, and examples of healthcare organizations succeeding in creating transformative change, watch this on-demand recording of RGP’s webinar, Accelerating Meaningful Agility in Healthcare: