Cracking the Code

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Curtis PickelleNo matter what one thinks about health-care reforms as they are currently being revealed in their entirety, implicit within any future integrated delivery system (accountable-care organization) is the understanding that turf lines will be blurred and that patient care will be much more of a team effort than one in which silos of specialists carve up the body—as well as the reimbursement dollar. A continuum of care with aligned incentives, seamless handoffs, and patient-first points of view will be a minimum expectation for those who want to practice in the redefined arena. How can anyone make this happen? Now, more than ever, the development of aligned, cohesive, and optimized teams will be dependent upon a leader’s ability to articulate a vision clearly, to define the practice’s mission, and to deploy well-managed assets within a structure based on a core set of values reflecting quality and service. To that end, I am always on the prowl for resources and educational materials to share with imaging executives. A part of my commitment to our readers is to continue to provide guidance and direction about the current wisdom on the topic of leadership and success. Over the past several years, I have passed along suggestions for interesting reading, and I have another suggestion that I think will be a good read for those interested in improving their management skills. I have come across a book¹ written in 2008 by Howard M. Guttman, principal of Guttman Development Strategies (Mount Arlington, New Jersey). The book, Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance, is replete with case studies of some of the most successful leadership teams in the world—and what makes them tick. There are lessons to be learned from a peek inside some of those organizations that have succeeded, as well as some that have failed based on their lack of teamwork and leadership. Guttman outlines high-performance team leaders as capable of creating a burning platform for fundamental change (a sense of urgency) and as being simultaneously visionaries and architects (with visions that can be operationalized). They know that they cannot do it alone (they need highly functional teams) and that they must build authentic relationships (build trust); model the behaviors that they expect from their teams (practice what is preached); and redefine the fundamentals of leadership (decentralized power, responsibility, and accountability). Guttman has an impressive track record as a leadership/executive coach for some very successful organizations, and much of what he has learned over the years is reflected in this well-written summary of how high-performing leaders are developed and nurtured. Bringing It Home What can we learn from this treatise, and how can it be applied to the modern radiology practice? The bottom line is that effective communication—among team members, between teams, between team members and the leader, and at all points in between—will be essential for those who intend to thrive in the future health-care structure. Breaking down the barriers between silos, threading common messaging throughout the entire organization, and clearly articulating the organization’s value proposition to customers and stakeholders: These are the primary tasks of the radiology leader in the new marketplace. It will take discipline, focus, superior communication skills, and a commitment to build trust and accountability into each and every relationship, encounter, and transaction. It is expected, and has been for quite some time, that radiology will lead the way toward efficient utilization of diminishing resources, that the profession will play a meaningful role at the front end of the health-care encounter, and that radiologists will emerge as agents of change within a redefined system that is increasingly dependent on diagnostic certainty and on effective use of medical and IT technologies. That being the case, it is incumbent upon imaging leaders to accept the responsibilities that accompany such expectations and to do what is necessary to prepare for such an important leadership role. A great place to start is by reading everything one can about what makes a great leader and how high-performing teams are created. Add Guttman’s book to your library and commit to putting its wisdom into action in your practice, hospital, or imaging center. Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle is publisher of and Radiology Business Journal, and is a 25-year veteran of the medical-imaging industry.