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Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time

Y-Comply, a service of the Health Care Compliance Association, is a compliance-related article delivered quarterly to subscribers via email.

Y-Comply is intended to help communicate the value and purpose of compliance and ethics to the general workforce. You are free to copy this article to your organization’s website or electronically distribute it to your workforce; no attribution to either HCCA or the article's original author is necessary.

Management consultant Peter Drucker reportedly stated, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” There is no doubt that culture has a high impact on an organization’s ability to attain the desired strategic results to achieve its mission and vision. The values defined by the organization are equally important, if not more important, because values are what stipulates how the strategy should be accomplished.

We are all capable of influencing culture, regardless of our roles, through our response to situations. We need to remain mindful about several areas when we respond to situations so we influence an ethical culture:

1.   Keep our biases and emotions in check – neither is a reliable gauge or a helpful instrument to guide decisions regarding how we should respond; when we are led by biases and/or emotions, it is often damaging to trust and respect.

2.   Remain accountable to achieve goals in a right way – meeting goals through misrepresented data is not being accountable at all, and it can have consequences beyond not meeting a goal.

Keeping our biases and emotions in check to build trust and respect
Confrontation of an opposing point of view is uncomfortable, but allowing our biases and emotions to get in front of the facts doesn’t make it any easier. We should keep in mind that just because the truth is unpopular or communicated in an unpleasant way, that doesn’t make it untrue or wrong; and just because a point of view is popular and what people want to hear, that doesn’t make it right. When we become aware that a direction under consideration may create legal, compliance, or ethical issues, we are obligated to draw people’s attention to the risks and potential consequences. It’s not easy to raise concerns when we know it may not be well received. In those situations, it is helpful to keep our personal bias out of it, share just the facts, and keep our emotions under control so that we remain respectful. This can make the unpopular message easier to accept and contributes to an ethical culture.

Checking our attitude of accountability
Strategies, goals, and measures are intended to help an organization achieve its mission. There are times when goals drive wrong behavior and require some adjustment to help drive right behavior. Misrepresentation of data can lead to very serious consequences, including affecting individuals who receive services from the organization. The Veteran’s Administration is a good example of goals being met through misrepresentation of data at a cost to patients. USA Today and The New York Times reported that the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services found that data regarding patient wait times had been falsified to give hospital personnel more favorable performance reviews. This illustrates how imperative it is for organizations to establish goals that will drive right behavior and attainable goals. It also illustrates the importance of being quick to hold others and ourselves accountable for raising concerns if or when we become aware that data may be, or is being, misrepresented.

The Confidential Message Line is one option available to report concerns for those who want to remain anonymous and still have their concerns promptly addressed.

Culture does trump strategy, because without an ethical culture, the organization’s strategy won’t be effective. When we hold ourselves and others accountable to results and the behaviors defined by the values of the organization, we can influence good decisions that help achieve an effective strategy and contribute to an ethical culture.


Deann Baker

Deann M. Baker, CHC, CCEP, CHRC
Compliance Professional


a compliance and ethics newsletter from the Health Care Compliance Association

ISSUE 24, February 2018 | To subscribe to this newsletter, please click here. Please forward this to your colleagues. Click here to view past issues. print

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HCCA offers members and registered guests access to an extensive library of articles. Information provided covers topics in corporate compliance and ethics in healthcare organizations. Contributing authors include attorneys, chief compliance officers, providers of auditing, monitoring, coding, billing and technology services, and other members of our compliance community.