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Culture Change Can Drive Outcomes – Five Lessons

December 17, 2015


How do we “operationalize” culture? What does it mean to actually be patient and family-focused, or consistently quality and safety-oriented?

Culture is the way the organization thinks and feels about its purpose, and how it goes about solving problems and fulfilling its function. If we are going to think about how culture influences our work, and ultimately how it impacts our patients and drives outcomes, then we need to examine the behaviors that are the result of the culture.72991434

Organizationally, real culture change can impact patient satisfaction, patient outcomes, financial performance and the organization’s competitive position.

Lessons from clients who’ve made a real impact on their culture:

1. Programs Don’t Drive Culture
Most of “cultural” initiatives are nothing more than implementing the latest, most popular program. Programs and long term culture change are two very different things. The former promise quick results, the latter is about long term process and behavioral changes that result in a slow and steady shift in thought and practice.

2. Culture Drives Every Day Decisions
Culture change is achieved by taking small steps and making the right (and often difficult) decisions day after day. When keep a poor performer because we are concerned about replacing their technical capabilities - we are a making conscious decision that are shapes our culture.

3. Part of the Strategic Plan
A section of the strategic plan is devoted to culture. The strategic plan recognizes that focusing on culture will ultimately result in achieving organizational goals.

4. The Role of Leadership
The support for culture shift has to be top down. The executive team is aligned and supportive so that all decisions are made with the goal of culture shift in mind. Leaders must often leave behind their prior experience and past ways and buy into the new direction.

5. Human Resources’ Critical Role
No department has a greater influence on culture than Human Resources. The staff’s attitude toward safety, change, and the ability to remain steadfastly focused on the patient and family experience starts with the ability to attract, select, train and retain the right people.
Human resources leaders and staff must commit to making decisions in the best interest of the desired culture - sometimes in conflict with immediate needs, tenure or employee skill set.

We often struggle with culture change because we’re unclear on what it means and how it links to our overall goals. Culture is not a “program,” but the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to problems. Culture manifests itself in the collective behaviors of the workforce so the desired behaviors need to be identified and encouraged and detrimental behaviors cannot be tolerated.

How Culture Drives or Hinders Hospital Outcomes

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.