How do you tackle what may seem to others as impossible, daunting, and overwhelming?
People are often faced with daunting challenges, tasks that are overwhelming, and big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs), to borrow from Jim Collins’ Good to Great (which is a great read, by the way, if you haven’t read it). How they react, and act, is a true test, and testament, of leadership, in my opinion.
This may be even more common in our sector, dealing with economic downturns, shrinking reimbursements, increasing complexity of regulations, and changing consumer demands and expectations. The task has never been as near-impossible as we have recently witnessed with the pandemic, the “great resignation,” and significant shortage of workers, particularly professional caregivers.
Kudos to LeadingAge Members for Their Achievements
Nevertheless, the vast majority of LeadingAge members persevered and have achieved the impossible: kept residents safe, healthy, well taken care of, engaged, and happy leading their lives. You strived to attract, engage, satisfy, and retain talented professionals. You pivoted to innovative technology and technology-enabled models of care and service delivery. Many of you have had to update your information and communications infrastructure, a daunting task on its own in normal times, let alone during the pandemic and with supply chain challenges on top of everything else. So kudos to all of you…
Trust me, I know “daunting” when I see it, and like many of you, I have experienced it firsthand and early on in my professional career; you can say I was “baptized by fire,” so to speak. As a fresh engineering graduate, I was assigned a complex instrumentation and automation project, designing a pollution measurement/detection in air and/or water that involved automating a convoluted biochemical process, heating, electronic measurements, and controlling mechanical components with really challenging operational requirements.
On top of all that, the system needed to be portable, small, lightweight, battery-operated, easy to use, and low-cost! The project was assigned to three or four bright engineers before me who decided to quit! With the help of only a couple of bright and hard-working technicians, I had a fully functioning, field-tested, and approved prototype with complete documentation ready for productization in nine months!
Together, We Created Extensive LeadingAge CAST Resources
More recently, the task of creating tools and resources to help diverse members of LeadingAge tackle a broad array of overwhelming technology initiatives–from technology strategic planning to selecting and implementing an electronic health record or any other technology–was equally daunting and seemingly impossible to achieve, especially with limited resources. But we–my team and I, with the help, contribution, and guidance from many of you–have done it. Today we at LeadingAge CAST have the Strategic IT Planning Workbook, Cybersecurity Resources with Self Benchmarking Questionnaire, and nine Technology Planning and Selection Tools (and growing) to name a few. All have easy-to-use Interactive Guides, sophisticated Online Selection Tools, tremendous guidance and information about commercially available technology solutions, and Case Studies from the field.
And I want to take this opportunity to thank the dozens of providers, CAST Commissioners, technology vendors, and colleagues at LeadingAge and CAST who have contributed to shaping these tools and resources, and/or case studies from the field that made things real for other providers. Thank you; we couldn’t have accomplished what we have today without you!
8 Great Steps
Reflecting on some of the most daunting challenges I personally faced and overcame, or have seen some of you face and overcome, attaining the seemingly impossible almost always boils down to the following:
Stepping back and looking at the big picture;
Defining the end goal to determine the general direction one should pursue;
Identifying buckets of challenges (i.e., breaking the task into smaller pieces with sub-goals or interim ones);
Focusing initially on what is possible and what you can do, given your resources;
Identifying what needs to happen first to reach those possible objectives (i.e., creating a plan for each interim goal starting from the end goal and working backwards);
Collaborating with others and bringing in the right people with the needed/ relevant expertise (or as Collins puts it “bring the right people on the bus”);
Having patience with others, explaining the method to your perceived madness, and getting them to buy into your vision and believe in what you are trying to accomplish; and finally
Executing on the plan, one small step at a time.
As the famous Chinese proverb goes, the difficult “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and with the right attitude, good guidance, and tools, you find yourself closer to achieving the goals everyone else thought would be impossible to even get close to, and that you were crazy to accept taking on.
What about you? Do you agree? What strategies or approaches have worked for you in the face of significant challenges?
Next CAST Challenge
Now our latest challenge here at LeadingAge CAST is helping you maximize efficiencies from technology investments, automation, and achieving complete digital transformation to address the overwhelming workforce challenges! Another daunting task, don’t you think?
I know CAST cannot do this alone, but we are taking this challenge head on! In fact, we already started! We started with identifying different technology applications that can yield significant efficiency gains, from health IT to telehealth, to robotic process automation, and even physical robots, which I am seeing being deployed and evaluated operationally in our sector for the first time this year.
We then identified providers that have implemented these solutions and have seen results on the ground (when it comes to technology, I am from the Missouri State of Mind, Show Me). Next, we lined them up as speakers and panelists at the upcoming virtual Collaborative Care Tech Summit, June 7-8, which I would encourage you to read more about, check the outstanding program, register, and attend. I hope to see you on the virtual event platform next month!
After the Summit, we will work with a number of you, as well as field experts and solution partners, on designing and developing the Digital Transformation resources; so stay tuned.
I would love to hear from you if you have successfully tackled a near-impossible technology initiative, are embarking on one, and/or would like to contribute your expertise to help us help other providers.