It’s no surprise that healthcare is facing vast, systemic changes. The industry itself is transitioning from a business of fee for service to population and preventative health management, and with that shift are challenges across all levels of operations.
“The financial model is changing. Human elements are changing. More care is moving out of hospitals. Aging patient population demand on care is escalating,” says Mary Koloroutis, CEO of Creative Health Care Management (CHCM). Wariness among middle managers to meet the escalating human demands and be equally technically proficient accompanies the rapid changes. To meet these challenges, “Leaders are needing to lead differently. They need to design an organization that is strong, positive, and respectful of the whole community.”
Creating a positive organizational culture in healthcare using Appreciative Inquiry
Healthcare leaders who are looking to create a positive organizational culture turn to CHCM. The organization strives to help hospitals and other health care organizations develop their people and redesign their systems to be consistent with their own stated values. The organization is partnering with David Cooperrider, PhD, Fairmount Santrol - David L. Cooperrider Professor in Appreciative Inquiry and professor of organizational behavior at Weatherhead School of Management, to elevate the importance of relational connection in healthcare at the International Relationship-Based Care Symposium in 2017.
Cooperrider is encouraging CHCM to demonstrate more broadly the power of compassion and love in healthcare for healing and wellbeing. “He challenged us to go beyond innovations to strengthen daily operations and think about creating a movement,” says Ann Flanagan Petry, a Class of 2016 alumna of the Master of Science in Positive Organization Development and Change at Weatherhead. Petry has served with CHCM for just over a year and a half. She says the company embodies the work of positive organization development.
Finding "pockets of positivity"
“We look for pockets of positivity and how we can spread those within an organization and work unit,” Petry says. “When you enhance and amplify the good work staff members are doing as they handle the daily difficulties and suffering experienced with patients, it is life giving.”
After working with CHCM, Mary Del Guidice, Chief Nursing Officer of Penn Hospital, reported improvement across every indicator year-over-year. She wrote, “I see teams coming together to conduct safety huddles. I see nurses in rooms connecting and attuning with patients while the responsibility for holding moves from one nurse to another. I see inter-professional teams working together to protect patients from infections and falling. I see leaders and educators throughout the organization teaching, mentoring and supporting. I see the security officer welcoming patients and visitors into the hospital. I see the transporter who assures they safely transfer a patient into their car as they leave. I see nurses, physicians and all caregivers providing an environment of healing, knowing their presence has an impact.”
Del Guidice ends by writing, “I see a team that keeps the MAIN thing the MAIN thing.Let’s celebrate where we are and continue the pursuit of excellence in all that we do.”
A vital component of the organization’s success is each consultant’s ability to listen. “The biggest mistake we can make is telling [a client] all about X when they have spent five years developing X,” says Koloroutis. “Being attuned to the organizations and individuals we’re partnering with is at the heart of our connection with clients.”
“Our consultants aren’t afraid to be real,” Petry says. CHCM’s consultants make an effort to show up as partners with clients. “We arrive with expertise ourselves, but such expertise is grounded in respect for the knowledge and expertise of the health care leaders who have invited us in. Only then can we build a trusting and collaborative relationship in which the client’s success is our success.”
As a result, clients describe CHCM as humble, values-based company that adheres to core beliefs and acts with integrity. The company’s intention is to develop lasting, positive relationships with their clients to achieve their vision. In a recent survey, one client wrote, “The word ‘love’ always comes to mind. CHCM leads with ‘love.’”
Practice what you teach
The members of CHCM embody the same principles within the organization that they demonstrate with their clients.
“I never expected to be positioned where I could touch people all across the world while also being able to live and work and lead in an organization whose vision is to practice what we teach,” says Koloroutis, who has served with CHCM since 2000. CHCM is committed to a shared leadership model, operating with a board, two executive leaders, a financial officer, and a CEO. Self-directed teams made up of members within the organization advance innovation in products and services, operational effectiveness research and internal development.
“Up until three years ago, the team in the office had a supervisor who monitored and directed daily work. When that position was eliminated, the office team designed a beautiful framework for a self-directed system that has resulted in increased efficiency and creativity.” People have stepped up and into capacities that exceeded expectations. CHCM is committed to practicing the acronym “ACT”: High Accountability, High Commitment, and High Trust. By communicating who is leading and creating a mechanism for resolving conflict within teams, the organization develops a free and productive way of working.
Because the organization is a virtual company, with six individuals in the Minneapolis corporate headquarters and the rest of the 30+ staff all over the country, communication is a key ingredient to the organization’s success. The company’s monthly open telephone meetings and twice-annual retreats are a vital component to their success. These outlets provide a forum for everyone to meet and speak for the advancement of each other and the organization.
Although it’s rare, if a problem occurs in the field or within the organization, Koloroutis knows she must act quickly, because toxicity erodes morale and overall effectiveness. In this way, hiring for fit for both role responsibilities and culture is vital.
You can do well by doing good
Koloroutis wants people to see CHCM as an example of a for-profit company doing well by doing good. CHCM proves that a strengths-based management approach succeeds both financially and by making a real difference in the world.
“When we are at our best—when we take care of our people, when we stay true to the mission and values—the profits take care of themselves,” says Koloroutis. “You can take the risk to lead an organization like this and survive financially by living and working this way. You can be real and do the right thing, even in a for-profit organization.”
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