The Excuse Cycle

Change is hard. Whether it be incremental or swift, it is typically met with some resistance. However, as Socrates once said “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” When the benefit of change is evident, it makes the process more manageable.

Healthcare leaders are no strangers to change. The very nature of the business itself is dynamic; always preparing for the unknown. Despite their adaptability, too often they find themselves relying on the way things have been done because it is familiar. Leaders become crippled by the fear of change, choosing to “stay the course” instead of embracing new opportunities to improve. Comfortability thus inhibits growth.

Just as the power of positive change can revitalize, stabilize, and enhance operations, the seemingly endless cycle of excuses that leaders create can halt any progress an organization hopes to make. They rationalize away the best chances to advance performance, boost employee engagement, and gain efficiencies.

What most management teams do not realize is that by the time the excuses take over, the majority of the work has already been completed. Current status has been assessed, areas for improvement determined, and action plans developed. It is when implementation begins and accountability is expected that there is pushback. “Now is not the right time, the goals are too aggressive, we need to staff this way, volumes will rebound, quality will be impacted,” etc. are some of the excuses that perpetuate the cycle of non-change.

Every leader within the organization must set the example and stay committed to the change process. By taking an active role and being visible, improvements become less of a “you” practice and more of a “we” solution. Leaders should still be open to feedback when instilling a culture of change, openly discussing challenges and concerns without enabling them to become further excuses that hinder innovation.

Circling back to the wisdom of Socrates, the most effective way to help leaders to concentrate on future success is through transparency and routine communication. Only when the issues that need to be addressed are shared, a team-approach to solution development applied, and the “wins” celebrated will lasting change take hold.

ALTIUS offers hospitals and health systems the performance improvement tools and leadership development necessary to support effective change management. To learn more, reach out directly at [email protected] or visit our website at

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