Vision Challenge

As I was perusing the February issue of Accountable Care News, I was struck by the comments in the “Thought Leader Corner” section.  The paper interviewed 8 different leaders from the ACO movement about the legacy of Don Berwick as he retired from his position leading CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).  Each of the experts were asked to provide only a few sentences on Don, and 4 of the 8 actually used the words “Triple Aim” in their writeup.  Those that didn’t at least referred to it in their thoughts.

Dr. Berwick’s vision of healthcare reform included three key elements.  We need to first improve the overall health of the entire population.  Secondly, we need to enhance the overall patient experience of care, which includes quality, access and reliability.  Finally, we need to do these things while reducing, or at least controlling, the per capita cost of care.  Don, referred to this as the “Triple Aim.”

Each of us that dedicates our professional lives to healthcare should be impacted in some way by Berwick’s vision.  It is big and it is easy to remember.  It is tied in some way to reality and yet it is big enough that we need to stretch to achieve it.  By achieving it we can change our world and isn’t that really what the pharmaceutical industry is all about?

Perhaps, my best lesson on vision came during a company leadership conference I attended about 15 years ago.  We were in the middle of launching Lipitor, along with several other drugs, and the commitment to leadership during those busy times spoke volumes in and of itself.  The guest consultant who worked with us during the session was Noel Tichy, from the University of Michigan Ross Business School.  He had just completed his book The Leadership Engine where he rolled out his mantra, “leaders developing leaders.”

Tichy started the conference showing a homemade video of Fr. Bill Cunningham addressing the U of M business school community talking about his Focus:Hope organization (here’s the video) that he founded just after the 1967 riots in Detroit.  Since Detroit is my hometown, I was very interested to hear what Fr. Cunningham had to say.  The speech, which is also in the preface of Tichy’s book, is perhaps the most riveting vision statement I have ever heard.  Fr. Cunningham talks about Detroit as the “City of Destiny, Broadway of Civil Rights,” a place that is decades ahead of the rest of the country and the world in the struggle to make civil rights and diversity really work.  He talked about the talent, kids from impoverished streets of Detroit, in his training programs where their automotive machinist skills were unmatched by those in any training program in either Japan or Germany.

Maybe Fr. Cunningham’s vision was a little bit of a stretch but it sure fired up everyone in our session.  More than anything else he talked about setting the highest possible expectations for everyone involved in the program, the clients, volunteers, the business’s school and corporate America.  I remember the head of the pharmaceutical business taking me aside and saying how proud I must be to have come from Detroit.  This is perhaps the only time in my life someone ever said that to me!  You see, vision is a very powerful thing.

There are tons of quotes on vision and I invite you to peruse these and pick a favorite.  To me the most relevant to the work we need to do in our industry is:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

— Michelangelo

Take some time and really think about vision.  Is your personal vision as well recognized as Don Berwick’s?  Is it as big as Fr. Cunningham’s?  Does it make you jump out of bed in the morning?  How about the vision for your company and your brands?  Some of the best and brightest minds in our country work in pharmaceutical marketing.  If we can’t collectively drive vision for healthcare, who else can we count on to do it?  Let’s aim a little higher!

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