Recipes for Change

Genevieve Obarski, (Recently retired) Executive Lead, Program ImplementationG obarski bio pic

I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a teenager — almost as long as my 40-year career in health care, from which I retired at the end of June. The latter portion of this career was spent helping create and drive positive change in the healthcare system through quality improvement, first in the United States, and then in Ontario. 

Just as there are many ways to roast a chicken, whip together a savoury pesto, or bake a chocolate cake, there are many ways to go about creating meaningful change at a system, organizational, provider, patient and family caregiver level. I have had the privilege of seeing just such positive change during my work with The Change Foundation, by working alongside organizations and communities in the PATH project and Changing CARE partnerships. Engaging in this work over the past 10 years crystallized key ingredients for successful and meaningful change.

As I reminisce on my career — the challenges, triumphs and people that helped promote positive change, and prompted by the whimsical retirement gift given to me by my Foundation colleagues pictured on the right – I wanted to share what I consider Recipes for Change: Gen’s Way!

Image Recipes for change

  • Prepare: Head chefs or senior leaders, set a few key priorities. What does the organization need to improve experiences for patients and their families? A chocolate cake, a pasta dish, or something else. Be sure to clarify why that dish or those priorities are important for the organization.
    • Everyone in the organization should be hungry for the dish. Are the providers, staff, families and patients ready for the dish and, if not, what needs to be in place to prepare them? This includes things like training, awareness, empathy and time to build relationships.
    • Gather the key ingredients – space, people, training and time that you will need to create the meal.
  • Combine: Involve the sous chefs, the dishwashers, the prep cooks. A head chef can’t create meals in isolation; it takes a whole team, communicating with each other, working together in trusted relationships with a shared vision.
  •  Add: Assume and embrace the notion that the people eating the food are the experts of what tastes good to them. They should be invited in to help you create the dish. After all, a dish is only as good as the people eating it say it is. Why create it in the first place it if it doesn’t taste good to the people you want to serve the dish to? This is the premise of co-design. 
  • Pre-Heat: It is the head chef’s role to fix any broken equipment that would prevent or delay completion of the dish. This may involve removing regulations, processes or people that are barriers to creating the dish.
  • Season to taste: Encourage local flavour additions and flexibility. Allow for trial and error to find out what tastes good, adjust cooking times, try alternate ingredients and spices to create a dish that reflects local tastes and sensibilities.
  • Simmer & taste: Don’t wait until you think you have achieved perfection to serve the meal. It doesn’t have to be perfect to taste good and to be nutritious.
  • Serve: Those who manage policy processes and funding in the healthcare system must give organizations, and their communities, permission, financial support, flexibility and the autonomy to create the dishes that are tasty and nutritious for their organization, and those they serve. When communities are empowered to make changes, patients, family caregivers and providers thrive.

I am so honored to have shared this last course of my healthcare career with colleagues and friends at The Change Foundation, and with the patients, caregivers and providers who nourished and sustained the PATH and Changing CARE projects.   

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