“I don’t even know where to begin.”
Lately, as a result of the growing financial pressure on physicians and the quickening pace of change in the healthcare market, I often hear this, or similar expressions of frustration, when I explain to new clients the concepts of creating an experience monopoly and of the need to strategize for their group’s future.
Of course, a significant part of these group leaders’ frustration results from the fact that physicians generally aren’t trained, or experienced, in business decision making. Two elements of uncertainty combine to cause this paralysis. One is the uncertainty inherent in the healthcare marketplace itself, from questions of the extent of planned government takeover to the impact of the growing role of paraprofessionals. The other is the fact that a group’s success depends on the ability to make decisions under conditions of business certainty: decisions that don’t necessarily have to be “right” to be highly valuable.
Very few physician leaders are comfortable with the fact that their decisions might be wrong. I posit that that’s due to the fact that “wrong” decisions can have dire consequences in physicians’ patient care activities. Additionally, and perhaps equally so, physicians’ educational background is generally science and math heavy – areas in which there are clearly right and clearly wrong answers – coming up with the right ones earns the reward of good grades, gets you into medical school and then, years later, comes back to bite you in the business butt.
Even though that way of thinking delivers success in terms of practicing medicine, it tends to weigh in favor of failure in connection with business decision making. In the context of your groups’ business, and of your leadership of the group, failing forward faster can be just as valuable as a “right” decision, because you’ve learned what doesn’t work and then quickly moved on to another possible solution.
Leveraging off of failure means, of course, that you must remember what didn’t work, and why, and then not make the same mistake again. Although the story has become trite, consider Thomas Edison’s remark in the context of finding the right material for the light bulb filament: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
In addition to understanding that failure in this context is not equal to a failing grade, physician leaders must learn to make a decision and to pull the trigger on implementation when they have enough information — not when they have all of the information. Speed of implementation is required.
“Now,” in this context, is the time to start. Other than “now,” the timing will never be optimal.
Develop these skills and the strength to put them into play.
All you have to do is start. There’s no right beginning. But beginning is required to achieve your group’s own end, as opposed to having the end of your group handed to you by someone else.