When was the last time you asked, “Why are we doing it this way?”

By Hal Gregersen | Reviewed by Jean Darling, PT, LAT

As I researched good articles to read on leadership, this one caught my eye. I think all of us in physical therapy who practice within an organization larger than a one-stop shop can ask ourselves this question. Perhaps even if you are a solo practitioner, you may ask yourself this question, but phrase it as, “Why am I doing it this way?” When an organization or an individual experiences success in any manner, it may be difficult to alter the path we have been following. Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, inherited a struggling company a few years ago, stating they were sticking too close to their core and not taking enough risks. He took time to ask questions, seek to understand what was going on, and contemplate his approach. Based on the article, this appears to be the philosophy other leaders utilize when striking off down a new and unchartered path. The three main concepts I garnered from the article were:

  • Create a questioning ecosystem through diverse teams.
  • Stay curious.
  • Challenge the status quo and, when needed, start from scratch.

I believe every one of us would be lying to ourselves if we thought we knew all the answers; a strong point is made to surround yourself with diversity of perspectives. Successful leadership is not just about the leader; it is about the team. Leaders must constantly find new solutions to problems.

Curiosity should not end when you find one solution to the problem. “Why are we doing it that way?” was the guiding question that fueled Guy Wollaert’s curiosity when he first joined the Coca-Cola Company and was designing new factories. “I found those questions were not always as basic as I thought. If you want to design a good factory you have to know what happens before and you have to know what happens after. You put it into the bigger context.”

Organizations can be very good at the “improvement process” with consistent process upgrades. But leaders should not be afraid to erase the chalkboard sometimes and start from scratch, as the end result may be a 180-degree turn from the current process.

In our physical therapy business there may be times we need to throw out the old and bring in a new billing or EMR system, or begin an entirely new “branding” for our current company. In order to avoid complacency, use Gregersen’s 3 concepts and keep refreshing your leadership style.

The article can be found at https://hbr.org/2016/04/when-was-the-last-time-you-asked-why-are-we-doing-it-this-way.


Jean Darling, PT, LAT, is an Impact editorial board member and co-owner and vice president of Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, Shawano with six locations in Wisconsin. She can be reached at jean@advancedptsm.com.

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