Senior leaders who learn how to use key principles of systems thinking while playing Friday Night at the ER demonstrate significant improvements in financial and quality performance scores, according to a new study in Healthcare Management Forum. The implications for practice are clear and actionable, writes researcher Phil Cady of Royal Roads University in British Columbia, Canada.

This research explored the premise that leaders who are knowledgeable about and implement even simple system strategies can help themselves and others overcome any tendencies to sub-optimize localized performance to the detriment of the entire system.

To prove his theory, Cady led two rounds of game play with senior executives from 16 countries. After the first game, he delivered the Friday Night at the ER debrief, which teaches system optimization strategies, including innovation, collaboration and data-driven decision making. Using a pre-test, post-test scoring model, he found that the application of these strategies lead to significant gains in financial performance across all teams, and an increase in quality performance in most teams.

The new study also identifies individual and team behaviors that work against top system performance, and best practices for leaders who want to incorporate systems thinking strategies into their organizational structures.

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