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From Our CEO: Finding Fluidity and Economy of Motion

As AAPL adjusts toward a digital marketplace, it has exhibited its own economy of purpose and approach to remain viable and successful while serving an expanding constituency.

Our recent series of meetings in Boston, Massachusetts, were well-received, and they reminded me of the energy our association has contained within its membership, faculty, staff and participant groups. The vibrancy of our constituency remains palpable even though our industry continues to be challenged in several directions. For those who attended, thank you. We appreciate your being a strong part of our community. For those unable to attend, we missed you. But we look forward to your ongoing engagement as you experience all that AAPL continues to offer.

peter angood

Peter Angood

Predictably, these events also drew me into a period of reflection on the past few years and our path of refining the association toward an ever-changing, complex industry. In fact, we have been navigating two distinctly difficult industries simultaneously — the health care industry, and the association industry. And I believe, as does our board of directors, we have been succeeding well in both.

For some reason, this reflection also led me to a series of clinical remembrances and the factors that differentiate successful surgeons from those less successful. (The same could be said for all physicians.) The career path for trauma/acute surgery and surgical critical care entails spending a lot time in the ICU, managing other surgeons’ patients. I particularly remember at one institution where two vascular surgeons were booked to do their cases on Wednesdays. One surgeon’s patients always did incredibly well, getting in and out of the operating room and ICU easily without complications. The other surgeon’s patients never quite seemed to do as well — the OR time was lengthy, the ICU stay prolonged, and many patients developed complications.

I asked myself why this happened. So, on several occasions, I went into the operating rooms of both surgeons to quietly and unobtrusively observe. The distinctions were impressive and, arguably, comparably related to the performance of organizations as well.

Different Directions

One surgeon exhibited several characteristics as an individual that clearly influenced the team. This surgeon was seemingly without focus all during the day, directions to the OR team were unclear, conversations were short and abrasive, physical mannerisms were discoordinated, and behaviors when something didn’t go well technically (which was often) were quite random and with a sense of panic. In short, this surgeon did not easily exhibit a strong sense of personal direction or purpose, nor for the OR team, nor for the patients’ outcomes. It was uncomfortable to watch.

Similarly, the other surgeon had notable characteristics. They were seen in the preop holding area, as well as in the recovery area, when the surgeon would walk through before the OR day got underway. At that time, the surgeon would touch base with both teams to let them know what the day was going to be like and what type of cases were coming through. Patients were greeted equally and given brief, warm moments of reassurance. In the OR, this surgeon was equally affable and openly communicative with the entire team. As the day progressed, the surgeon always was calm while giving focused direction to team members. His physical mannerisms equally portrayed a sense of calm and purpose. In fact, there was a distinct sense for an economy of motion and a perceptible fluidity to their actions and technical approaches of the surgical cases — no movement was wasted or without intent. Additionally, they routinely reminded the team of the higher purpose they were trying to achieve that day — helping patients get back to normal lives. It was a pleasure to watch.

The business literature is replete with examples and analyses of highly effective organizations and individuals within them, and it would be an injustice for me to attempt any form of summary beyond a few comments. Reflecting on the two surgeons has provided me some context for our association, however.

Organizations, and the people within them, can be similar. The higher-performing ones usually seem to have a strong sense of purpose while accomplishing their daily production routines. In so doing, there is usually a focused direction with known intent and an expectation of certain outcomes. The spirit of being part of an efficient, high-performing team is palpable within the culture of these organizations, and the individuals are proud to be strong communicators of that culture. Often, each individual has a sense of being able to contribute and is able to influence the processes of the organization through routine patterns of robust quality improvement that carry no sense of worry or fear of retribution. Similar to the better surgeon, there is also fluidity in dealing with the ebb and flow of business pressures or unexpected situations; panic does not occur, and there is always an economy of motion with minimal wasted action or inefficiencies.

What It Means

As an association in health care during a period of rapid evolution with the digital era, AAPL has done extremely well over the past five years. We remain financially healthy while we have successfully transformed the association, setting it up for its next phase of successful growth.

Our transformation to an e-commerce platform that goes beyond a simple website is nearly complete, and our technical infrastructure is sophisticated. Both are always being tweaked to keep us on the leading edge. This readily allows us to continue refining our educational offerings and the services we provide for improving careers and professional development. Additionally, our influence in the industry continues to expand, as does our thought leadership engagement.

Collectively, our teams are high-performing and highly engaged with a true sense of higher purpose. The individuals within AAPL are among the strongest in the association world, and it gives me great pride to observe how creatively they perform their activities and how they continually seek ways to improve the methods of our association’s business. Our fluidity to the business pressures these past few years has been impressive, and I can confidently state that we are running the association with an economy of motion and efficiency that other higher-performing organizations emulate. Yes, we have more to accomplish yet, but where we are now is impressive, and our ability to create impact in health care potentially profound.

My many thanks to all the participants and partners of our association’s activities. Without each of you, AAPL would not be as well-positioned as we are.

We all should be proud of what physician leadership represents in health care. We all should be proud of how health care will continue to benefit from the positive influences physician leadership creates for patient care. And, of course, we all have the opportunity to continue building our own skills to become more fluid with the ever-changing environments as we all strive for improved economies of motion and purpose.

AAPL heavily promotes the message that, at some level, all physicians are leaders. At its core, AAPL maximizes the potential of physician leadership to create significant personal and organizational transformation.

I encourage all of us to continue seeking deeper levels of understanding and to generate influence at all levels to which we are individually comfortable. As physician leaders, let us get more engaged, stay engaged and help others to become engaged. Creating a broader level of positive change in health care — and society — is within our reach. 

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Now more than ever, physicians are leaders in their organizations and communities.

The American Association for Physician Leadership maximizes and supports physician leadership through education, community, and influence. We promote thought leadership in health care through our Physician Leadership News website, bimonthly Physician Leadership Journal and other channels.

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