Culture, Strategy, and Purpose – Triple Threat in Healthcare Leadership

I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review by Hubert Joly. The article clearly and concisely bridges the link between culture, strategy, and purpose. If you want a successful company, culture, strategy, and purpose must be linked.

When my company is retained to help organizations improve patient experience, we drill down into strategy, culture, and purpose. Most times, we find that, like many things in healthcare, the three sit in their silos with patient experience in yet another.

Modeling the Behavior You Want to See

Common sense dictates that leaders must role model the desired behavior, but that is not always the case. Joly states, “The way you change behavior is by changing behavior.” In other words, the leaders’ behaviors are what signals change and shape culture. Whatever you want the culture to be, starts with how the leaders behave. Is it aligned?

In addition to the silos mentioned above, I often see a well-articulated business strategy that doesn’t factor in the culture needed to achieve the strategy. It also doesn’t show how to connect to purpose. If your core strategy doesn’t link to purpose and culture, your odds of success diminish significantly.

One example is the hospital executive who continually preached and even threatened staff about survey score goals. There was no connection to patient experience with the hospital’s mission, vision, values, or purpose. Because she didn’t make the connection, she couldn’t expect the frontline team members to make it. Instead, people saw patient experience improvement tactics as a burden. They did not see it as a way to deliver the mission, vision, and values. They were tasks to check off.

Executing Strategy

Putting strategy on paper is one thing. Successfully executing strategy is very different. To implement strategy successfully, you must consider how the culture is positioned. Does the culture support the strategy? I worked with an organization that touted the desire to be the employer of choice in their region. It sounded good, but it was a lofty dream. The culture was unsupportive, punitive, and generally dysfunctional.

Overall success in any organization requires that healthcare leaders recognize and consciously connect culture, purpose, and strategy.

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