Returning to Australia from the IHI Forum in London this month, and struggling with jetlag in the process, I have been reflecting on so many themes, playing back in my head conversations with impressive leaders who energised and invigorated thinking and in some instances, conversations that went on into the early hours of the morning over a few superb glasses of red (including with one or two ex-patriate CEOs).

However, great glasses of red aside, there is one theme that continues to concern. And that’s the choice facing systems around quality, safety and money. What the choice comes down to is:

  1. Money drives everything – systems cannot afford to operate the way they are and integrated pathways are essential.
  2. Quality drives everything – innovation, safety and the patient experience and involvement great, but when do we get the ROI?
  3. Quality requires leadership. The scale of the challenge cannot be met without aligning healthcare with technology and establishing partnerships with patients and clients
  4. There will be unintentional consequences from digital change – we have to integrate services around the patient and deliver better value healthcare more cheaply, whilst at the same time, increase the quality outcomes

All of this is great but if we do not have the leaders who understand the politics, who have a sense of vision, the systems thinking required, the development of clinical leaders and the insight and judgement to balance finance and care then we will see people being cycled through executive positions quickly and with the subsequent loss of understanding and context.

We’ve begun to see the shift already. Exceptionally talented CEOs who are stepping out of their CEO roles and saying “I just don’t want to be a CEO in Health anymore”.

“I just don’t want to be a CEO in Health anymore” is becoming too common. Click to tweet

The development of our future leaders around some common themes together with self-awareness is critical. A lot of thinking is occurring about this. Some are experimenting with strategies to build skills to fit the now and the future.

One of the best real time real results ways is to involve executives around common themes in pathways, digital engagement, quality and integration. We don’t have the luxury of time, speed is of the essence and money has to be spent as an investment. I know I am going to be accused of being somewhat biased when it comes to Learning Sets (I’d really love to call Sets another name, it simply doesn’t do the extraordinary work and support that occurs in real time and the significant ROI delivered every time, justice. I will do this one day).

Sets are flexible, they can form around common themes and work across systems and be exemplars and pioneers of change. They are powerhouses for peer dialogue that create learning especially at the most senior levels of organisations. But not just at those levels, there is the emerging leader level that will build the vital succession and retain the organisational context knowledge. We have choice.