Joy Goldman RN, MS, PCC; Petra Platzer PhD, NBC-HWC, PCC; Cliff Kayser MSHR, MSOD, PCC
“Applying Polarity Thinking to Increase Healthcare Leadership Capacity” (HRD Press,2021) highlights three uses of the polarity thinking framework to increase individual, team, and systemic leadership capacity in a community-based, multi-hospital health system. We illustrate how we helped the system shift from conducting a traditional “succession planning” process to one of improving overall “system-thinking capacity” so that the leaders would be more agile in responding to complex and unpredictable change.
The context of this work took place in an eight hospital, 1500 provider integrated health system. The initial request and planning, which was spearheaded by the outgoing CEO and the system board, was to prepare seven emerging leaders to become possible successors to the CEO who was planning on retiring within the next five years.
Strategy: Aligning with SixSEED Partners’ goal of providing integrated solutions to heal healthcare, we worked with our C-level stakeholders to expand the vision of preparing the leaders for the CEO position to preparing the leaders to better lead within complex, ambiguous and unpredictable change. With this understanding, development work consisted of individual, team, and systemic level interventions, all integrating polarity thinking to increase overall capacity.
Solution: SixSEED Partners integrated polarity thinking and mapping as part of individual leader 360 -degree feedback development planning; we cascaded the framework to each leader’s team to scale the work and impact; and finally, to the entire system via identifying and measuring system-level tensions. Four polarities that were measured during our work included common tensions experienced within healthcare: Centralization and Decentralization; Continuity and Transformation; Mission and Margin, and Tactical and Strategic. Given the impact of this work, SixSEED Partners was asked to deliver polarity thinking training as part of a curriculum for a combined nursing and physician leadership academy.
Impact: Through delivering polarity thinking to over 100 nursing and physician leaders and over 130 additional staff, WSPH leadership shared this thinking competency was instrumental in supporting the systems’ response to COVID-19. The polarity framework was also integral to a strategic simulation wherein the high potential leaders assessed actual strategic challenges for WSPH and presented their solutions to a mock board of WSPH’s C-Suite. Under a new CEO, polarity assessments are being used to measure effectiveness within regionalization efforts in the system. Four of the seven leaders have been promoted to Senior Vice President roles.
To learn more details about our work with this organization or other examples of how our clients have successfully applied Polarity Thinking to their healthcare “problems” –
contact SixSEED Partners at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are proud contributors of multiple application chapters in the book: “And: Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox or Dilemma. Vol. 2. Applications” (2021).