Three Tips for Effective Agency Governance

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

3 Pillars of Effective Agency GovernanceEmphasis on achieving the Triple Aim of better individual and collective health outcomes at a lower cost requires a new skill set, says Margherita C. Labson RN, MSHSA, CPHQ, CCM, executive director, Home Care Program, The Joint Commission.

“There still are quite a few leaders who are organization-focused instead of patient-focused,” Labson says. “A true leader today is responsible for oversight and management, but not making all the decisions. It’s a movement from making decisions to making sense.”

Like the Triple Aim, the role of governance has three pillars:

  • Lead
  • Position
  • Brand

Labson stresses that each is critically important to the effective management of a home health or hospice agency. The pillars are interconnected, and weakness in one area will harm performance in the other two.

Not surprisingly, desired qualities of a leader include accountability, integrity and responsibility. Regardless of an agency’s mission statement, the attitudes that a leader embodies will reflect on the agency. “Ninety percent of what you convey is nonverbal,” Labson says. “You lead, not by the mission on the wall, but on what you create.”

Positioning your agency is a four-step process that should not be overlooked. “If your position is even one degree off, it veers wildly off course once you implement it,” Labson says.

With the help of your executive team, you first must define what the agency does well and the challenges it faces, then describe what success looks like. Only then can you deploy any changes, acknowledging that some changes will take time. Finally, you must understand that to sustain any new or existing programs, further adaptations will be necessary. Change will continue to occur – whether or not your agency wants it.

Many agencies downplay the role of branding to organizational success, but agencies must not only do good work, they must be sharing their stories with the community. Branding is the result of leadership and positioning and is sustained by the corporate culture, Labson says.

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