Joy W. Goldman RN, MS PCC: CEO SixSEED Partners
In the beginning :
SixSEED Partners (SSP) was invited to provide team development support to a high profile clinical executive committee in a regional healthcare system. We initially partnered with this physician and administrative leadership team last fall for a full day retreat focused on developing team dynamics and strategies. We introduced them to several frameworks and practical tools that gave them insights for how to leverage their complementary strengths to get their work done even more effectively. The system clearly supported this type of development because all team members were present and committed to this experiential learning process, despite it taking away from their revenue generating clinical work that day. The executive team found it so valuable, that they wanted more.
Embarking on a Leadership Development Series (LDS) experiential learning process:
SixSEED Partners partnered with the Chief Physician Executive and the Managing Director of Strategy to create a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis for team member input on relevant leadership strengths and challenges. We also used immediate and upcoming leadership transitions as the action-learning platform for the participants to apply their new tools and thinking paradigms. By using our “4D” framework of “Discover-Design-Deliver-Debrief”, the client helped shape a learning design that integrated real-time pressures and systemic forces for change. For practicality, these experiential learning sessions were integrated into their existing monthly strategic meetings to minimize time away from the clinical area and maximize their time together.
Discovering a new Thinking tool for unsolvable problems:
In looking at the real-time pressures and changes this executive team was facing in their system, we knew they could benefit from learning to look at their complexities with Polarity thinking. As mentioned in prior blogs, it has been proven that using polarity thinking (both/and) along with traditional problem-solving thinking has a measurable impact on leading through complexity and change.
Experiential Learning Module (ELM): Doing S.M.A.L.L. for Measurement and ROI:
We used key themes from their SWOT analysis results to create three unique polarity maps that measured individual, team and system-level tensions for this executive team:
- Providing Direction and Inviting Participation (Individual)
- Tactical and Strategic (Team)
- Centralization and Decentralization (System)
This work took the team through steps 1-3 of the 5-step polarity assessment process known as the “SMALL” methodology, which includes:
In our most recent two-hour module, the leaders focused on Step 4 – Learning, about the polarity thinking framework and discussing it in the context of their complementary styles. The learning was deepened when the leaders began to see beyond their preferred perspective within the 3 polarity maps to seeing the broader context within the relative dynamic at hand in their actual work. Most notable was the dialogue around shifting from a place of system “blame” – the downside of decentralization – to better leveraging integration of the health system’s priorities with less energy being wasted in frustration. This traditional “right/wrong, either/or” approach began to shift to “how can we better integrate system factors as we design and execute our work”.
The map below illustrates this team’s scrubbed SWOT analysis, represented as a polarity map. As you can see, the 2 poles to leverage over time to create an effective and high performing team are the Strengths of Current and the opportunities of the Future, while minimizing the weaknesses and threats of both poles. The other scrubbed map shares the executive team’s results, which highlight an opportunity to better leverage Centralization. While these results are valuable as a baseline for this team, what was even more valuable from this experience already was the dialogue that emerged between the participants around an alternative perspective and way of thinking about systemic influences in their work. During our next session, we will take the team through action steps and warning signs to help them best leverage these essential tensions for sustainable change (Step 5 of S.M.A.L.L.).
Let’s hear from you
We’d love to hear your insights in helping clinical executive teams develop systemic thinking applied to current challenges. If this work seems like it could help you and your teams, we’d love to talk with you to explore how this approach might help your clinical leaders. Please post your responses on our LinkedIn page or send us an email here.