“If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be better than you are.” – Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks Animation
I wish I could take credit for finding this terrific quote, but Sharon Wahl, our Partners in Education manager, used this in her remarks at the fall graduation for our clinical laboratory scientist training program, and I just loved it.
Besides the fact that I really do love pandas and animated movies, this quote really hit home with me because, over the past few months, I have represented our department in several sessions to develop UC Davis Health System’s new strategic plan. I’ve also been working with representatives of our own faculty and staff to update the Pathology and Lab Medicine strategic plan for 2016-2020. Our department planning began in November 2015 with a series of facilitated sessions. The dean’s strategic planning process for the entire health system took place just a few months later, during winter and spring. The timing allowed us the freedom to create our own departmental goals designed to address our own internal priorities and needs, to then integrate these into the six pillars that emerged in the UCDHS planning process, and to add some additional goals so that we are leaders and collaborators in achieving the mutual goals of our health system community. You can check out the many different elements of the strategic plan for Pathology and Laboratory Medicine on our department homepage.
I know lots of people roll their eyes over strategic plans, but having a strategic plan is important – this is the roadmap to the future that pushes us all to become better than we are, just like the message from Kung Fu Panda. And as the quote states, this likely means doing more than we even think we can do – in other words, the plan outlines and inspires change. Department chairs, like me, are hired to be the drivers of change – I think this is one of the most difficult parts of the job since change inevitably means disrupting the status quo which creates anxiety and sometimes even conflict within our teams. Experts on change management recommend that leaders should “start a fire” or “create urgency” by pointing out threats, and “raise the discomfort level” to get the team to go in a new direction and change. Scare tactics aren’t really my style – I think that we all are very aware based on our day-to-day experiences that healthcare and biomedical science are changing rapidly, and that these changes affect funding/reimbursement, education, technology, and expectations of clients and patients. I also think that an appropriate sense of urgency is clearly present among us since the competition out there in all three of our missions is very visible, challenging us all to become an even stronger team so that we maintain and grow our standing and prestige and become even greater.
To me, the biggest challenge is making change manageable – so that’s my favorite reason for having a strategic plan. A well-thought-out plan can define the necessary incremental steps to achieving goals, and minimize the inevitable anxiety, discomfort and conflict. As an example, our department plan leverages several big opportunities that tee us up for the next stage in achieving major goals. We are already well into the multi-year build of our new lab information system, Epic Beaker, one of our most important tools for clinical work, education and research, and probably the biggest change process that our department will have ever experienced. This new system will position us well for new efficiencies, new and better analytics to manage our work, and will allow new integrated clinical reports and services that span other departments and provide better care. Our plan also leverages our upcoming replacement of the core lab’s automation line, another huge change which will take place in two years when Beaker comes on board – this line not only improves our clinical services, but includes technology to bank remnant clinical blood samples for research – an extra exciting feature that will advance research and clinical services across our health system for precision health. We are recruiting several new faculty in key areas of expertise, including physician-scientists and clinician-educators, so we will have new talent and resources, too.
These are just a few examples — I hope that you’ll take a moment to study the department strategic plan on our website’s homepage – there is a lot in our plan. Also, be sure to check out the last few slides which outlines some of the terrific accomplishments from our previous strategic plan that have positioned us well for the changes to come. Our previous accomplishments demonstrate that our department understands urgency and the need for change, that we rise to challenges and work through them, and that we continually achieve new levels of greatness. In my future Department Chair Blogs, I look forward to sharing our progress on our new strategic plan goals, and I hope that you’ll share with me your ideas, and comment on our progress, too.