Leadership and Patient Experience Strategy: Consider the Three P’s

Added on Nov 28, 2017

3PsIt is the fundamental responsibility of leaders to align their work and their teams around a clear strategic plan. A strong patient experience strategy begins when leaders have the courage to address purpose as the substance necessary to drive engaged teams, meaningful goals and long-term success.

Occasionally I observe well-intentioned leadership teams succumb to the pressures of short-term gains by putting purpose on hold, leaving plans underdeveloped and accelerating unsystematic activity. This typically leads to a cycle of disappointment for leaders, teams and patients, not to mention lackluster performance. In contrast, leaders in high-performing organizations follow a sequential “Three P” approach—Purpose, Plan and Pursue—and they continually evaluate their progress toward performance objectives.

At your next leadership meeting, consider what the Three P approach would look like in your organization as it relates to the patient experience by asking the following questions. 

  1. How do we define the patient experience? (Purpose)

    High-performing organizations look inward and define what they are trying to achieve. What makes us unique? What matters to our patients and communities? What inspires our teams to deliver exceptional care? This takes some time and dialogue across the organization. Defining the patient experience in this way prepares leaders to talk to their teams with confidence and clarity to establish the drumbeat behind the plan. If you already have a strong definition of the patient experience, invite leaders to articulate and tell stories around it daily. Practicing in various forums promotes a clear and unifying purpose.

  2. What is our patient experience strategy? (Plan)

    According to strategy guru Michael E. Porter, “The company without a strategy is willing to try anything.” Do not accept a “try anything” patient experience strategy. The risks of doing so include volatile performance, leadership frustration and disenfranchised team members. Patient experience goals alone (“To achieve top-decile performance,” for instance) do not communicate a plan to leaders or associates. The goals must be accompanied by a road map for achieving them. For example, if you visit a unit huddle board and ask 10 different associates “How are we going to achieve these goals?” or “What’s your role in achieving these goals?” and you hear 10 different answers, this suggests the plan has not been communicated effectively. A clear plan is visible, understandable and meaningful at all levels of the organization.

  3. How do our senior leaders pursue the patient experience strategy? (Pursue)

    Deploying a patient experience strategy is not an event. It is a daily pursuit that requires a consistent, systematic approach. Senior leaders can and should optimize their influence to motivate teams and advance the strategy. Leader Standard Work is an example. Standard Work is one of the most powerful tools in the Lean process improvement methodology. By documenting the current best practice, Standard Work forms the baseline for continuous improvement. As the standard is improved, the new standard becomes the baseline for further improvements, and so on. Leader Standard Work is a critical step in ensuring that the process improvement culture driving your organization’s patient experience strategy prospers. It consists of protected time for each key leader to routinely communicate the purpose and the plan, observe and verify action steps, coach management/staff, inquire, review performance trends, illuminate opportunities and remove barriers. It is the underpinning of leadership’s ability to teach and coach continuous improvement. 

Posing these questions with your leadership team is a strengthening and reflective exercise. The open dialogue can promote renewed focus, highlight the bright spots of leadership effectiveness and identify opportunities to reinforce your organization’s purpose, plan and pursuit. By rallying around the Three P’s, senior leaders pave the way to improve yet another P—Performance across measures of patient experience, as well as those of safety, quality, workforce engagement and financial outcomes.