A Legacy Forged in Culture

By Kate Othus, MHA

Our Culture; Our Soul

There is something purely original about the culture forged and fostered by every organization. Some have likened a business culture to a fingerprint that may be similar to others, but is uniquely distinct when examined closely. Sure, some components like industry focus, products, and services, or even a company’s mission can be replicated to a certain degree, but an organization’s culture is as individual as the soul of a living creature. How so? Let’s get into it.

One could liken a few distinct aspects of an organization to the makeup of a person. The basic structure designed as a functional means of interaction and propulsion is conceptually similar to that of a body’s physique, while the heartbeat is akin to all the people who keep a company alive. And then there’s the soul. Just as a human soul develops a personality based on values and adheres to norms learned over time, so does the cultivated culture of an organization. Business leaders are instrumental in shaping their employees’ perceptions, behaviors, and understanding of a company with various methods of communication and demonstration. Once a culture is born, it must be nurtured, protected, and celebrated so that it can grow and flourish into the greatest version of itself.

“Company culture is the continuous pursuit of building the best, most talented, and the happiest
team we possibly can.”

Andrew Wilkinson

Why does a Shared Culture Matter?

Just as the heart must act in unison with the rest of the body to take its first steps, the soul gives it direction and purpose. The culture of an organization sets the tone for every action taken and the rewards of creating a strong, shared culture are enormous. Simply labeling these advantages as financial or performative does nothing to reflect how or why a company flourishes with common vision guiding its staff. Let’s do that instead.

Communication is the cornerstone of our society and in organizations of any size, it is crucial for success. A company culture steeped in transparency with a clearly defined mission helps departments collaborate with one another towards shared goals. That breeds mutual trust, respect among staff, and cooperation across the business. In an environment such as this, there is little room for internal politics or disagreement because of the alignment in decision-making within the leadership. This, in turn, leads to an enhanced corporate culture that fosters a strong sense of identity within the company.  With this level of open communication up and down the ladder, employees can make sense of their behaviors and turnover dramatically drops. That kind of operational success can only be attributed to a powerful culture forged through cooperation and determination. The good news is, that’s precisely what HPA is all about!

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Peter Drucker

Cultivating Culture Takes Intention

From our inception, HPA sought to bring together extremely talented and experienced individuals with the vision of starting a healthcare revolution in the name of independent doctors. Not long after launching, the whole world was hit with the unforeseen events and challenges that evolved over the course of 2020 and yet, our organization thrived. We decided the start of a new year would be the perfect time to celebrate our achievements and solidify what our culture, our soul, represents. Our intention was to facilitate a transparent discussion among our various siloed teams that would break down barriers, guide decision-making, and boost our overall workflow. Even though HPA is a young company comprised of individuals with impressive expertise, we understand that an enduring foundation is essential to carry a vision forward through future upheavals. Building that foundation is an intentional act and so our mission became drafting a blueprint through insight and collaboration.

The HPA Way

Our first step on this endeavor was to bring together the HPA team, the very people who have been developing HPA’s vision, to answer a few defining questions. The core of any culture is a shared belief system, so we approached the brainstorming session with an intention to unravel every part of our mission. As it happens, our culture came into clearer view just by engaging in this exercise. We incorporated a process known as “brainwriting” to ensure everyone had equal input. Because each participant wrote their answers down before being announced to the group, every member was able to contribute equally. This allowed the introverts within our group to be heard just as loudly as those extroverts who might typically dominate the conversation. To simplify the process, we started with just three key questions to draw from.

  1. What is one word that describes the culture at HPA?
  2. What do you like most about the culture at HPA?
  3. What behaviors and mindsets would you like to evolve at HPA?

The answers were then announced and organized into a living process that is still active. They read as follows.

The Single Word that Best Describes Our Culture

When we compiled the one-word descriptions of the HPA culture it was inspiring to realize the common vision among the team.  Words included:

  • Collaborative
  • Driven
  • Passionate
  • Scrappy
  • Innovative
  • Enthusiastic

What Our Team Members Like Most About the HPA Culture

As with the one-word culture description, the phrases used to identify what team members most enjoyed about HPA had a common theme woven through them. A shared commitment, an innovative spirit, and willingness to enjoy the journey:

  • Shared Winning
  • Innovative/Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Determination
  • Driving Towards a Common Vision
  • Shared Values
  • Sense of Fun
  • Commitment
  • Agility/Flexibility
  • Respect

The Behaviors and Mindsets the HPA Team Members Want to Evolve

To continue to grow our culture as well as challenge ourselves and each other, it is critical to identify where the HPA ‘soul’ needs to strengthen. Again, the vision laid out by our team members painted an inspiring portrait of a team committed to growth, risk-taking, and support:

  • Executing with Equity
  • Finding Winning Solutions
  • Encouraging Risk-Taking
  • Constant Evolution
  • Curiosity/Inquisitiveness
  • Innovation
  • Inspiring Change and Growth in Each Other
  • Open-Mindedness

The Final Piece to the HPA Culture Puzzle

As previously discussed, communication is essential for any culture to thrive. In order to fully embrace openness, trust, and respect in our culture, we identified the following critical components of communication from the process above:

  • We assume positive intent in how and what team members communicate.
  • Lower-level team members are encouraged to freely communicate with upper-level executives.
  • All communication is conducted within a framework of mutual respect.
  • Information is clearly disseminated throughout the organization, which engenders a shared understanding of HPA’s mission and goals.

It is clear to everyone at HPA that open and respectful communication between members not only limits conflict when dealing with challenges, it also creates a culture of creativity that leads to an unstoppable dynamic of growth. We know that when we lift up the individual voices within the HPA team, our mission to elevate independent doctors stays on course. When communication is stifled for any reason, purpose can become lost and the risk of failure increases. We aren’t about to let that happen!

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

In Closing

Through pure intention, our company’s soul is learning and growing which means we are only at the beginning of a never-ending process of our culture creation here at HPA. Drawing upon the wisdom of Winston Churchill, it is more like the end of the beginning. An organization can either reinforce and strengthen their culture through demonstrating positive examples, or it will fall apart as negativity seeps in and overwhelms its original promise.

This is a long and continuous process, so stay tuned! We will update you on our evolution as we encounter culture’s most serious and insidious challenger – rapid growth. We are confident we can meet the challenge of protecting and promoting our culture, even as HPA continues to build our team, and our community of independent doctors.

“At HPA, nobody wins if anybody loses.”

Roy Rose, CEO and Founder of HPA

About the Author

Kate Othus

Kate Othus is the President of HPA and the CEO and Founder of DataDx.  Kate has worked with many practices to help them dive into their culture. She has also facilitated many strategic planning sessions for healthcare practices.  Learn more about Kate Here