Adopting Agile Principles in Healthcare: Lessons from Netflix’s Lenox Hill

Healthcare Agility work/life balance

What does it mean to be agile? We are all hearing about agile leadership and the need for leaders to support an agile workforce. We are faced with questions like, ‘As a leader, how can you build a work environment that empowers employees to work their way and work smarter?’  Or, ‘How can leaders get back to basics and drive practical approaches toward the design and execution of an agile workforce?’ 

Healthcare provides us examples of agility. I took time over the past week to watch the new Netflix docuseries, “Lenox Hill,” which began streaming in early June and revolves around four physicians at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The eight-episode series was filmed from April 2018 to November 2019 – well before the COVID-19 pandemic – and poignantly focuses on the lives of these doctors, their work, and their relentless focus on their patients.   

Putting all the important theoretical concepts aside, “Lenox Hill” displays the fine art of agility in the daily work of doctors – and, more broadly, in healthcare. These doctors specialize in emergency medicine, neurosurgery, and obstetrics and gynecology. Their specialties require agility as change happens in a nanosecond: they must always be flexible and adaptable in their care processes, planning for the unknown.  

The series reflects the fine balance between the physicians’ home and work life, depicting their daily work settings, from the administrative to clinical role they play. The stories that are told in the series also reflect the tender moments enjoyed by the healthcare teams, together, across clinical specialties, across care providers, during mindfulness sessions before each surgical case, and while on planning retreats.   

Success in healthcare is to be agile as an individual, and to work in agile teams. What can leaders learn from these amazing doctors, their work teams, and from this docuseries overall?   

As I step back and consider the great focus on agility as a relatively newer concept, perhaps we have the answers. Here are a few thoughts as I consider how “Lenox Hill” demonstrates agility in real terms: 

  • Team members must have a unifying focus, which, in this series, is the patient and family  
  • Team members must work to the best of their ability and support their work team  
  • Communication as a team is essential and this can mean planning for the care of a patient or challenging a decision made by a colleague 
  • Take time together to be grounded in the work of the day or event 
  • Celebrate the wins and personal successes 
  • Work and life are a fine balance – keep each other true to that fine balance 

Agility is the manner in which we work alone and with our teams. It takes each individual to support work that is flexible and adaptable. Decisions must be made by the individual who can quickly make impact on the work at hand. Thank you to these inspiring “Lenox Hill” doctors for sharing with us all how agile our healthcare environments and teams can be, and for providing us a glimpse of the impact that agility has on each other and the patients we serve.