Radiology’s New Normal
Don’t think that you are alone if the current uncertainty in virtually all aspects of medical imaging is driving you to distraction. Today’s radiology marketplace/profession has become increasingly complex, hypercompetitive, and extremely tense; the traditional relationships are in a constant state of flux. As much as I would like to tell you that this, too, shall pass, the fact of the matter is that this is the new normal. Constant change and unpredictability are here to stay. The question is this: How can you take advantage of this new dynamic and use the chaos created by the accelerated pace of change to build an organization or practice that not only can withstand these uncertain times, but can rise to the top in a newly defined arena? To do that, today’s radiology leaders and hospital executives will need to have much more in their quiver than hope mixed with a measure of denial. I sense a lot of denial out there, and there still exists an eerie expectation that things will eventually return to the old normal. That is just not going to happen. Let’s figure out how to work this to your advantage by starting with the concept of alignment. Is everyone in your organization on the same page regarding how best to protect the enterprise, which strategies to employ to ensure future viability, and the commitment required from each stakeholder in order to turn this chaos to advantage? If you answered yes, then I congratulate you on being one of the role-model practices or hospital departments that will help define the successful organizations of the future. We all need to follow your lead and learn how you got there. If, on the other hand, your team is not yet aligned, here are a few thoughts on how you, as a leader, can be a catalyst for—and agent of—change. Being a change agent is not easy, but it can be extremely rewarding, and the benefits that accrue to a renewed organization that has embraced change include new levels of security, control, and calm. The line staff will feel a sense of confidence that its leadership has taken the necessary steps to stabilize and nurture the business, and in this way, provide direction toward a more secure future. Who does the aligning? If you are the leader, you need to own that task. To help make it happen, one skill that you will need to have (in spades) is the ability to communicate effectively and persuasively to your team members just what you envision for them and for the organization. It is not enough to be competent and to have a vision for where you want to take your organization. In order to build followership, you will need to articulate this vision, to identify the expectations that you have for each member of the team clearly, and to inspire them (through correctly chosen messages) to work as a team to achieve results. The new normal requires leaders to be, first and foremost, people with the ability to translate their vision into action. This requires doing a lot of work to develop skills in verbal and written communication that might, at one time, have been less important to the survival of the organization. When so much business was coming in the doors that it was hard to keep up with the daily add-ons, there was not much of a requirement to hold inspirational meetings designed to get everyone focused on aligning the team and generating new business. Now, everything is different. Radiology leaders are discovering that every hour, of every day, is increasingly consumed by the need to sell their staff members and colleagues on where they need to go, how they need to get there, and how hard it is going to be to make it happen. Remember when double-digit annual growth was normal? Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle is publisher of and the Radiology Business Journal, and is a 30-year veteran of the medical imaging industry. He facilitates strategic planning retreats for radiology groups.