Secret Sauce

While attending an annual grantee meeting this past week, I was struck by an insight that is often talked about but surprisingly little seen in the literature. Not only is it something I have seen time and time again, but it has been verified by colleagues who manage projects as well as by those on the ground who are implementing projects and programs. It is a key ingredient that distinguishes successful and sustainable implementation from that which stalls or fails to gain traction.

That ingredient is what I refer to as the “Secret Sauce.”

As a former health care provider who now works in health philanthropy, I can attest to the power of teams. Teams with a clear sense of mission and vision, working toward a common purpose, can accomplish great things!

In light of the health care transformations currently taking place, health care organizations and health care systems are seeking personnel with the right skill mix: experience, credentials, and ability to fit and grow into the new provider roles and functions. There is also fierce competition to hire skilled and credentialed health care professionals to fill immediate vacancies.

There is something else aside from the skill mix — a special ingredient that contributes to making good teams great teams!

Good teams form over time and develop into great teams. The great teams I am familiar with have an additional ingredient. They have the Secret Sauce. Their personalities become the glue or connective tissue as they work in their defined roles. People bring their personalities to the work they do. They figure out how to effectively work together and over time become a fully functional team. They work out a balance of nimbleness and keeping an eye on the goal and purpose. They accept defined roles while showing an ability to work in the space of each other’s “gray zones.” They uphold respect and dignity for all team members, from the physician to the care coordinator. They work off each other’s strengths and maximizing how to engage and interact with one another to achieve the desired result.

The results of this magical interplay for the persons and families the teams serve: better health outcomes, better consumer satisfaction, and maximizing cost efficiencies to reinvest savings into the health care system.

I don’t know if or how we can quantify the Secret Sauce. You just have to believe it exists. I’ve witnessed it. It’s what separates good from great.

The key question in my mind: is having all the key ingredients (positions, skills sets, etc.) enough to naturally bring about the Secret Sauce? Can the Secret Sauce be manufactured? Likely answer: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Something to ponder….