How Healthcare Executives Can Navigate Consolidation

By Donna Padilla

Consolidation in healthcare does not seem to be slowing, which will mean continued disruption for many executives who must navigate new organizational frameworks or transition to realigned roles or even new positions. In some cases, executives are laid off or transitioned out.

Change is never easy, especially in the short term. Yet as we all know, change in the long term can be good for executive careers. It can provide new and rewarding opportunities, or the chance to engage with different colleagues or experience a new organization and culture. Consolidated organizations which have matrix-oriented structures require executives to work across departments and service lines more than in the past. It can test and enhance their collaborative and cross-functional skills. Some executives struggle but some welcome getting outside their comfort zones.

I recently discussed these issues with writer Laura Ramos Hegwer of ACHE’s Healthcare Executive magazine, for her feature article in the most recent issue, “Managing New and Realigned Roles in an Era of Consolidation.” The article is an excellent resource for executives feeling disrupted by a recent or potential merger, acquisition, or restructuring. Hegwer asks, “What is the best strategy when a career ladder becomes a career lattice, creating paths that not only move up but in other directions as well?”

The trend towards centralized and “systematized” executive roles is one that colleagues and I have been watching for years and something that we are asked about from the executives we interview. It’s also something we discuss regularly with clients of course. A few years ago I wrote an article for Training Magazine called “Merging Executives into the Matrix” in order to highlight some of the challenges that organizations have in retaining top executives when their operational structure has been realigned.

A piece of advice that I shared in the Training article was for organizations to make sure they focused on executives as individuals with valuable skills that can be developed and tapped in various ways. “All professionals can develop their skill sets and adapt to changing job market conditions,” I noted. “What are their core skills and transferable experiences? Are there inhibitors or derailers that would reduce the likelihood of success in a matrix structure? Does an executive see a move as a demotion or sideways move, or perhaps as an exciting new opportunity?”

Consolidation implies disruption. However, it can and should mean new opportunities for executives.

Donna Padilla is a managing partner and leader of the Healthcare practice at Witt/Kieffer.


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