John Wenger: It’s not a behavioural problem: it’s the system

Although my studies years ago touched on systems thinking, the more I read, the more I am intrigued about the multitude of ways that systems thinking can make a difference optimizing healing healthcare. When I was first entering the healthcare industry, one of the strangest things to me was the concept of competition between hospitals and healthcare systems that I observed and felt. A hospital or other healthcare organization’s core mission is to optimize the health of the people they are entrusted to serve and the community in which it is located. Therefore, with multiple hospitals located in a region, it would seem to make sense that shared mission and purpose would be a higher and more noble purpose than competition that pits hospitals one against another.

I’ve learned since that hospitals and health systems are collaborating more and more on a variety of shared challenges: decreasing infections, improving patient safety, etc. And, still, there is still competition that could be better directed at improving the health and wellness of communities served.

In my reading and understanding of John Wenger’s blog “It’s not a behavioural problem: it’s the system” I believe he would advise: “What we need if we want organisational transformation, if we want more effective organisations, if we want people to find the work they do meaningful: we need to work with the whole system.”

I completely agree with Anthony Cirillo who wrote in his most recent blog published today: “Healthcare has to heal itself before it can heal others.” It seems to me that systems thinking is critically important in the process of optimizing healing healthcare.

What do you think?

quantum shifting

Don’t ask a systems thinker for advice on managing performance or staff engagement.  They will probably say something pretty fruity and you’ll wind up frustrated by how fervently they trash conventional wisdom on the subject.  Of course performance, engagement, recruitment, they’re all connected, so your systems thinking friend will sound like a fruit loop because they’ll see the whole picture and proceed to suggest that you are asking the wrong questions, when all you wanted to know is “how to get people to do stuff”.  You go to them as a sounding board because there is something you like about the way they think; when you’ve talked previously, they come up with ideas that seem counter-intuitive at first, but are actually surprisingly on the money.  However, when it comes to a sticky situation you are actually dealing with, you don’t want to hear them bang on about the system, the…

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