Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cultural Competence is a Strategy

Human capital strategy is often considered to be a process that consists of many parts that operate separately. While this is a practical way to get certain things accomplished or checked off of a list, it is not a strategy.

What is a strategy?
I found many definitions for the term "strategy" when doing a search. Most of them were framed around military strategies. This one from Wikipedia resonated most:

A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. The word strategy has military connotations, because it derives from the Greek word for general.

Strategy is different from tactics. In military terms, tactics is concerned with the conduct of an engagement while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. In other words, how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy.

As our Cultural Competence-Quality Framework evolves and begins to be adopted by healthcare organizations, one fundamental premise is that the CC-Q Framework is to be leveraged as an integrated human capital strategy inclusive of and dependent upon many parts working in concert, fostering sustainable quality for every individual and organization that you seek to influence through your healthcare organization.

For example, in many organizations the focus of the quality efforts are relegated to those responsible for core measures. Occasionally, there will be a report in a leadership meeting and questions will be asked about certain things. However, it is the exceptional organization that is talking to those responsible for cultural competence, diversity, and inclusion about nuances based on individual values, beliefs, and responses that may be confounding core measures, leaving valuable information as a missing variable to ensuring a consistently positive patient experience.

This is not to say that every individual is going to be 100% satisfied with their care; however, knowing how certain dynamics play out creates the possibility.

Now, from this example there is a chain reaction: While the individual, committee, or outside consultant that is leading the efforts for cultural competence adds to the understanding of the quality/core measures leaders, the knowledge that is gained only has impact if those clinical and non-clinical professionals who are the touch points of patients and their families are made aware of what they can contribute to the fostering sustainable quality. It requires connecting with them, sharing with them, and getting their input in response.

Going further (interconnectedness is multi-faceted and inexhaustible but I won't go on and on after this example--maybe in a white paper ;-)) consider that soliciting and getting contributions from myriad areas and levels of employees, community members, volunteers, etc. fosters a level of engagement that creates ownership. Ownership of a thing, process, or idea fosters a relationship to it that engenders not just a good feeling but a level of commitment that leads to a greater contribution to the original idea as well as the many things that one might perceive support the original idea.

Jeremy Dean at PsyBlog says this about the psychology of ownership:

Effort increases perceived value: A table I have bought and struggled to build myself has more value to me than the same table I bought, for the same price, ready assembled. Expending our own effort means we've invested ourselves in an object, so it has more perceived value to us. Other people don't recognize this (and there's no reason why they should).

The bottom line is that when we leverage cultural competence as a strategy (and/or a core piece of your overall strategy) and we look for mechanisms to connect the dots from tactic to tactic, we naturally find how the pieces are seamlessly linked.

This is not to say that this is always easy. When we have been doing things a certain way for a long time change is challenging at its best. Nonetheless, when we truly understand cultural competence as a strategic approach vs. a tactic that speaks to checking something off of a list, the ROI can be tremendous.

Make it a great day!

No comments: