Dancing into 2021

The start of a New Year is a great time to take pause, reflect on the year that has passed and consider how you want to approach the year ahead. But this year feels a bit different than usual due to 2020 being such a shitter and all. I mean, if we didn’t realise we don’t have control over our circumstances, we sure do now.

2020 has also shown us a lot about our health system and the people in it. We’ve seen how committed healthcare professionals are to delivering quality care. We’ve also seen how hamstrung they can be by the system in which they work, to the extent where it puts their own health at risk. 2020 has broadcast loud and clear that we need to reform our healthcare system to ensure it better supports care providers as well as the communities they serve.

Reconciling these thoughts - that we have to take action to create change, but remain at the mercy of our environment - is a challenge. It reminds me of the Stockdale Paradox, a concept that Jim Collins and his team developed when they were researching what factors influence how companies transition from good to great (you can about in this post on Possibility, not Optimism).

The bottom line of the Stockdale Paradox is that the organisations who managed to transform themselves from adequate to outstanding performers, all shared a common mindset. They maintained unwavering faith that they would prevail in achieving a successful outcome in the end, regardless of the difficulties. At the same time, they were willing and able to confront the most brutal facts of their reality, whatever they might be.

Transforming our healthcare system from adequate to great is going to take individuals and organisations who possess this same attitude. People who hold firm in their belief that it is possible to build a healthcare system that is truly person-centred, providing benefit all types of people in all sorts of communities. And people who at the same time, recognise that it isn’t going to magically happen by itself or a decree from on high.

Our current reality is that we are not consistently delivering person-centred care to all who need it. Our current reality is one that has an unacceptable toll on those who are working within the system to try and deliver this care. We need to face up to this reality and reject the notion that the workforce are a consumable resource. We also need to reject the notion that there’s nothing we can do about it as individuals.

The video below provides a simplistic but entertaining illustration of how change happens from the bottom up. One of the main things that stands out to me from this video is that it can take a really long time to build the momentum that creates something bigger than an individual dancing in a field. The other is that the guy who is dancing is enjoying himself the entire time. He’s not dancing to get others to follow him, he’s dancing because he wants to feel the music. And he doesn’t care if others think he looks ridiculous.

I think we’re at the stage of the video where the third guy has joined in. Enough people care about this and are talking about it to know that it’s something worth caring about but we’re still a bunch of nerds at this point, we haven’t gone mainstream. And we need to go mainstream with this if we want to change the healthcare system.

So what next?

We keep dancing. All the way through 2021 and beyond. Keep dancing and banging the drum about healthcare reform, and keep trying to focus on the music rather than the crowd.