Turbulence. Chaos. Complexity. Transformation. These conditions have become commonplace in contemporary organisations. In the Australian health care sector, it is particularly applicable to the radical transformations in cancer care being wrought by the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Leadership. Innovation. Diversity. Cooperation. Courage. These words indicate the type of response required from boards, CEOs and executive teams operating on the edge of chaos. This is a particular challenge for leadership teams, such as that at Lifehouse. They operate in a growing hybrid “third sector”, wrestling with combining the social mission of traditional not-for-profits with the commercial orientation and sustainability of the competitive private sector.
Over three years, a research team at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, led by Professor Richard Badham, have worked closely with the Lifehouse executive team, trialling new learning methods in helping them understand and respond to these challenges with resilience and cohesiveness.
An innovative leadership development program used art, theatre and serious play to help the team grapple with a treacherous and paradoxical terrain. The end result? The architecturally innovative Lifehouse building has been constructed, staff from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital have been successfully transitioned to the new organisation, and Lifehouse has become established as a fully functioning commercially oriented not-for-profit facility.
The Lifehouse commitment to patient-centred care, which is about treating the patient not simply the tumour, has become a reality, in one of the most innovative organisational initiatives ever created in the Australian health sector.