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The Leaders Perspective: Tips to Ensure Your Strategy Thrives During Dynamic & Often Turbulent Times

Thursday, February 14, 2019
Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith

With the February 2019 CMS Star Rating release looming, I am sure everyone is reflecting on their strategy. Many of us in the patient experience space are asking ourselves how we feel about the progress we set out to achieve this fiscal year or even what was or wasn’t achieved last year? I imagine the majority of us had strategies in place originally, but for some reason or another, they were stalled due to competing priorities.
With potential regulatory visits that can derail your month, voluminous campaigns, and intense patient care volume, you are not alone - this is healthcare. There is something about the “suchness” of the chaos that we all love and there is no other higher calling than helping people.
How a patient experience professional drives his/her strategy on a daily basis makes a big difference but how does one keep their patient experience strategy top of mind at all times? One way is to learn from other industries. Prior to my time in Healthcare, I had the privilege of working for Caesars Entertainment, the world’s largest branded-casino resort company that drives customer loyalty through a focus on creating distinctive experiences.
To accomplish this, a large part of the strategy was on service and, as one can imagine, service was a huge component of the daily operations. To better equip their teams to drive experiences through service, Caesars employed a variety of tactics to inspire teams and team members to accomplish their goals. In fact, some of the key processes and tactics that Healthcare has widely adopted from this industry such as the pre-shift huddle, mystery shopper program, scripting, and town halls.
During my time there, I found huddles to be the most impactful way to advance the strategy each day. Similar to Healthcare, they focused on daily operations and relevant data points. Several factors were added that made them more impactful and memorable and below are a few that have influenced my work as a patient experience leader.
The first insight is about the quality of the huddle. At Caesars, you could not run a huddle until you were certified. Certification included class training and simulation. Once certified, you could run a department huddle. The executive team would randomly show up and observe huddles across the property and huddle leaders would receive an evaluation and a score. This would happen at least twice a month. You had to stay above a certain percentage or you would need to get recertified. Why did they do this? Caesars knew the key to customer experience began with how they engaged their employees and they took that to great lengths to ensure a high quality-engaging experience. 
At the end of each huddle, the leader was expected to engage the group in what was called ‘huddletainment’. This was designed to engage the employees in an exciting way to help them transition from home to work to focus on the customer. These were simple games, songs, or chants. Leaders had the capacity to create new games or cocreate them with team members.
After you were certified to conduct huddles, you then had the opportunity to represent your department at weekly executive huddles. The executive huddles were an opportunity to hear about what was going on for the week and identify key messages to translate to the staff. They also heavily focused on service. Each leader was expected to bring his/her strategy to the meeting. The strategy needed to focus on how the department was going to shift C’s and B’s to A’s (top-box). Leaders would share them – feedback would be provided – and then a random leader would have to simulate their huddle including the huddletainment.
Weekly top-box scores were also a huge part of huddles. Every employee would know where they are from a service perspective at all times and how their department ranked against others. The leader conducting the huddle would always have a document outlining the department’s service strategy, goals, and progress. This was also on a huge white board in the break area and was frequently referred to over the course of any given timeframe.
When I think back to this approach I often think about its application in healthcare; here are three solid ways you can take what was learned from Caesars and apply them to your approach - keeping your strategy top of mind:
  1. The One Pager: You need to have a strategy that can fit on one page and be easily understandable from the CNO to a nurse or to any team member. Strategies should include three basic parts: objective (the WHY with SMART goal), scope (area of impact and boundaries), and the advantage (what will this fix i.e. help you do your job better).
  2. Transparency: You need to make your strategy as transparent as possible. I recommend having it on your company’s portal with at least bi-weekly updates on progress. Department managers should also craft their version of your strategy and how they will achieve success in their department. Some organizations rely heavily on cascading goals. I like that idea, but I also like leaders to have the freedom to choose goals that are important to them. If you have the right leaders and the right strategy, they will most likely choose items that will make a difference. The department strategies must be shared during huddles and they must be visible somewhere in the department.
  3. Relationships: Relationships are key as a PX leader. Think about ways you can bring groups together to discuss strategy, share progress/learnings and have fun. This will strengthen the relationship between you and your department and will in turn help your department better take care of the patients. 
As cultural change advocates, we have a responsibility to constantly raise the flag at every opportunity. Silence will only continue to influence the status quo.

Tags: employee engagement, culture, leadership, quality improvement, teamwork, patient satisfaction
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