Sunday, August 2, 2009

Leadership by Crisis

Here is an interesting piece from the Health Care Leadership Blog, referencing a Harvard Business Review article by Ronald Heifetz about leadership in times of crisis .. keeping an organization at the "cutting edge" literally seems to require keeping it "on edge" with grim consequences on either side ..

Embracing Disequilibrium

Heifetz cited Paul Levy's success as the "turnaround leader" at Beth Israel Deaconess (BID) Hospital in Boston as an example of leadership that carefully leveraged uncertainty and instability as a potent lever for engaging an organization to change its culture and sustainably pull itself out of crisis:

"...a successful turnaround was no guarantee of long term success in an environment clouded by uncertainty....Keeping an organization in a productive zone of disequilibrium is a delicate task...if [the heat] is consistently too low, people won't feel the need to ask uncomfortable questions or make difficult decisions. If it's consistently too high, the organization risks a meltdown..."

The authors go on to cite Levy's successful use of potentially unstable devices (publication of error rates) and public cultural confrontation (of unproductive cross professional squabbles) to expose the implications of an unacceptable status quo and drive the changes essential to BID's survival.

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