Like the proverbial frog in the pot of water that builds slowly to the boiling point, for most healthcare organizations, decline is not an event but, rather, a gradual, almost imperceptible period of many small failures, few of which will be significant in themselves but when add up to a clear and downward trend.
One factor that can inhibit leadership’s ability to identity the early warning signs of decline is a reliance on poorly designed reporting tools and analysis. Many organizations rely on scorecards and other reporting mechanisms to gauge performance and spot trouble areas. However, there are limits to traditional scorecards, specifically:
Another key challenge revolves around being able to understand whether a threat to the organization is present or not and whether it is an ‘ant’ or an ‘elephant’. Dangerous situations can occur when warning signs are ambiguous. In such circumstances, managers may either ignore the threat or adopt a wait-and-see approach. On the other end of the spectrum, managers may overreact and deploy a disproportionate amount of resources compared with the degree of risk.
Along with investigating threats, organizations need to have systems in place to pick up new forms of data and information that are forward-looking. This type of approach will better position leaders to navigate a fast-changing environment in a proactive manner.