Petra Platzer, PhD, NBC-HWC, PCC; Cliff Kayser MSHR, MSOD, PCC; Dave Levin MD
The complexity, fragmentation, and highly regulated aspects of the U.S. healthcare system results in making the industry resistant to change. Despite the resistance, healthcare has undergone significant change in reimbursement models, consumerism, and information technologies (IT). A small, IT healthcare start-up challenged itself to embrace the reality within the tension between Stability (current status) and Change (future status) versus resisting that change. To support this IT start-up in this intentional process, “NewCo” partnered with SixSEED Partners (SSP) in using the Polarity Approach for Continuity and Transformation (PACT™).
The first step for NewCo was to establish the NewCo Culture Team (NCT), which was a highly diverse microcosm that had executive sponsorship. The NCT met regularly to guide culture development and determined they would assess the current state of NewCo by conducting an employee “SWOT” survey to analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Guided by SixSEED, the NCT learned how the Polarity Map™ could supplement and enhance their original SWOT result analyses. While a standard SWOT implicitly focuses on important dimensions of stability and change, what it misses analyzing are the interdependent connections between those SWOT dimensions. As the NCT and NewCo began to more broadly understand how this and other interdependencies work, they began to see polarity tensions that were a part of discussion or debate in their day-to-day workflow.
One example of this occurred when a group was meeting to discuss a customer’s “overly excessive” technical support needs. Concerns mostly focused on what the customer was “doing wrong” until a staff member suggested that this might be a polarity: Customer Needs And NewCo Needs. The dynamic of the conversation quickly shifted as members mapped the dynamic. Capturing the wisdom in the Polarity Map™ allowed the group to see a more complete picture of the ongoing tension and enabled them to develop a more productive solution strategy for NewCo and the Customer.
Another example related to NewCo’s merger with a similar size and stage company. Emotionally-laden struggles existed as the company wrestled with whether work could be done remotely or required people to be in a central office as the merged companies had different practices. Initial discussions were framed as either/or which was causing undue stress and conflict. A NewCo executive team member was able to lead the new team through a polarity mapping exercise to identify the benefits of Office-based and Remote work, as well as the limitations of each, without the other.
Polarity principles were successfully applied in a small, highly dynamic healthcare IT start-up environment that intentionally focused on building culture. Leveraging polarities played a key role in NewCo’s successful growth, from a few co-founders with an idea to a company with 45 employees, while weathering many storms – including successfully merging with another company.