Thursday, July 30, 2015

An individual and organizational moral obligation

My buddy Jeff Thompson is stepping down as CEO of Gundersen Health System in a few months.  I have commented several times here on Jeff's leadership abilities, which are again demonstrated in a note he sent to his staff this week.  In simple, direct terms he reinforces the narrative that is at the heart of his hospital's purpose.  It could be the same purpose of any hospital in the world, but it is not often set forth so well.  An element of leadership is that the narrative is expressed in so eloquent and elegant a fashion--one that permits all recipients to feel ownership of the privilege and obligation they have been given.

Dear Colleagues,

We are experiencing many changes as an organization. Some are very exciting like Dr. Rathgaber taking over as CEO in September. Others are more of a struggle. There is always going to be change, especially in our business.

But it is not the changes that are the most important.  It is how we respond. How we respond to change as individuals, teams and as an organization is what defines us. It will determine our futures and move us from good to great.

Sounds good, but change can be very scary.

Here’s what won't change: Our mission to improve care, lower cost and improve the health of the community. This rises beyond growth targets, financial goals and facilities plans. It really is an individual and organizational moral obligation.

To take on big responsibility and big changes, it is best to start with a great platform as a base. The solid platform we have should give us great confidence going forward.  In the face of higher quality standards, economic down turns, tons of regulation and increasing competition, you as teams and we as an organization have steadily improved on all of our key strategies.

Going forward it boils down to just a couple of really big things: Take care of our patients and take care of each other.  The "patient" part has expanded to "patients, families and communities" and each other needs to include those well beyond our immediate work groups to colleagues and partners.

Although changes will always cause some struggles, we have no reason to fear them. We need to trust our strong platform, our clear path and a great team to not just survive but truly excel through the change.

I know we are up for the challenges.



Carole said...

Would it be out of line to ask why he is stepping down?

Paul Levy said...

He's been in the job a long time and wants to get on with other things in his life + give the organization a chance to grow under someone else. His board and staff would have been happy to have him stay forever!

Carole said...

That's what I was hoping to read :), thanks...

Barry Carol said...

Gundersen always struck me as an organization determined to do the right thing for patients and families even when it’s sub-optimal financially for the hospital and its healthcare system. This includes its sensible approach to end of life care, as I understand it. There seems to be great leadership and a culture of collegiality among the medical professionals who work there.

I wonder how much of the package is attributable to leadership that could, at least in theory, be replicated elsewhere, how much is due to cultural norms in that particular part of the country and, importantly, how much is due to a supportive board of directors that doesn’t always put growth of revenue, profit and market share at the top of the priority list.

Paul Levy said...

It's the combination of all of the above, for sure.