In the United States we are encountering the limits of our traditional organizational change strategies, especially in health care. As mentioned on the front page of this blog, the results of traditional methods speak for themselves with 50% to 80% of change initiatives failing due to problematic execution, 70% of workers reporting they are disengaged, with this disengagement costing between $450 and $550 billion annually in lost productivity. Many of our present health care organizations are a fabric of quick fixes that work against and erode the long term strategic organizational goals, despite everyone’s best efforts. Why is this case?
The seduction of quick fixes is that they provide immediate relief and do temporarily resolve issues. However, the unintended consequences of most quick fixes are that in the long run they exacerbate the problem. This is difficult to pinpoint because there is a time lag between the implementation of the quick fix and its consequences. This means that often the link between the fix and the problems created by the fix are not linked with each other. The result is that when problems crop up again the same or another similar quick fix that seemed to work last time is applied again and again until they don’t work anymore and things look worse than ever. At this point, the question is often “How did we get here?”
What can we do to change this state of affairs? Systems theory offers a way out and a roadmap to health care sanity and organizational cohesion. Practical application of systems theory leads to cohesive and aligned health care organizations that are made up of engaged and high performing teams. Practical application of systems theory starts with learning to discern the difference between quick fixes that undermine the long term strategic goal and early wins that do not back fire and can build on each other while supporting the larger organizational strategic goal. To learn more about applied systems thinking see this link: