What would happen if you approached your CEO in a lunch room after just costing your organization millions of dollars because you had uncovered a critical mistake and made it public? And that public attention wasn’t positive.
What would happen if you approached your CEO in a lunch room after just costing your organization millions of dollars in a legal claim because you had uncovered a critical mistake … and then made it public?
What do you think? Would it be pleasant? Would you even have the courage to do it?
This is one such story. It’s true. And the results were not what you might think. But to understand this story you need to know a little about this CEO. He wasn’t your typical CEO.
In 1996, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) had 3500 employees, 365,00 yearly patient encounters and $452,714,101 in revenue. And … the hospital was looking for a new CEO to transform, grow and lead the organization into the future.
The obvious selection for CEO would have been…
A candidate with extensive hospital administration training and experience?
A person who had worked their way up the hospital leadership ranks?
How about a life-long lawyer with a manufacturing executive background – and an entrepreneurial bent?
No. Not possible. Surely a hospital that was established in 1883 would pick the obvious candidate. The safe, tried-and-true, risk-adverse candidate.
“No” and Not possible” won the day. They selected the lawyer with the manufacturing background to become the CEO.
What happened? Not what you think.
In selecting the non-obvious pick, CCHMC was transformed from a small regional hospital serving the greater Cincinnati are into an internationally recognized leader in improving health care outcomes, experience and results for children.
In all measures, the hospital’s success and growth under this person’s visionary leadership has been extraordinary.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has grown to over 12,000 employees, 925,000 yearly patient encounters and $1.6 billion in revenue. National Institutes of Health research grants have grown from less than $20 million in fiscal 1996 to $101 million in fiscal 2008, ranking it second among all pediatric hospitals in NIH funding. For each year of the past decade, Cincinnati Children’s saw a 15 percent growth in revenue and 750 net new employees. The total economic impact of Cincinnati Children’s on the greater Cincinnati community was $2.72 billion in fiscal 2007, a 78 percent increase over 2002.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is also one of 10 Children’s Hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 “Americas Best Children’s Hospitals” issue. Now one of the three largest Children’s Hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. 1
The name of this extraordinary person they picked for CEO? The lawyer with an entrepreneurial bent and fond appreciation of “lean” manufacturing principles?
James (Jim) M. Anderson.
Mr. Anderson is a graduate of Yale University and Vanderbilt School of Law, He was a captain in the U.S. Army and spent a year in Vietnam with the First Infantry Division, becoming a decorated veteran. He’s also has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in Finance and Industry.
Prior to taking the helm of Cincinnati Children’s, Mr. Anderson was a partner in the general corporate department at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister for 24 years (1968-1977; 1982-96) and president of US operations at Xomox Corporation (1977-82), a publicly traded manufacturer of specialty process controls. 3
When you meet Jim Anderson the first thing that comes across is genuine warmth, sincerity and a good-natured, soft-spoken openness. Some people are just immediately and eminently likable – Jim’s one of them. We’ve all met them. But rarely is one a CEO. CEO’s – by the nature of the job they’re in – build walls around themselves to limit their exposure and risks.
Not Jim Anderson.
That’s the reason so many people stop him in the halls, on the streets, or in the elevator – to talk to him. And not just doctors or nurses. Anyone that works at Cincinnati Children’s or any patient’s family can, and do, stop him. Jim gives them his time, attention, and more importantly, listens. Really listens. I wondered why that was … until I actually spent some time talking with him – then I knew. Jim has a missionary zeal about delivering on Cincinnati Children’s Hospital vision to “ be the leader in improving child health,” by delivering the best outcomes, patient and family experience and value. His insistence on the “pursuit of perfection” with zero-defect goals has saved many children’s lives and led to some incredible healthcare improvements in children that have been treated by his hospital team.
Going back to people stopping him in the halls to talk, that’s where we start … a discussion held in a hallway of CCHMC 1st floor, which happened a few minutes before we sat down for our interview. Not just any discussion. A discussion with a nutritionist who had just cost the hospital several million dollars in a legal settlement.
Jim started, “I was getting a salad in the cafeteria when a nutritionist stopped me. She said, ‘There’s something I just want to you know. This institution really walks the walk.’
“She had been involved in an incident where the hospital settled a claim for several million dollars. We had made a mistake. The nutritionist was the one that uncovered it and brought it to public attention.
The nutritionist went on, ‘There was never any hesitation or lack of support from the institution or leadership for my reporting the incident, talking about it or exploring it. In fact the the hospital leadership engaged with me in fully understanding how the event happened so we could fix it in the future.’
“She just wanted to thank me personally and reassure me from the trenches that the institutional credibility about genuinely wanting to know when bad things happen, how we can fix the system so they don’t happen again and how to partner with parents that suffer the consequences of these kinds of events, really is working. It’s widespread and there continues to be nothing other than support for this sort of behavior.
Counting on Courage
“I thanked her and told her how much we counted on her courage to do that and that the only way we were going to keep getting better is for that kind of thing to be a way of life here. Frankness, credibility and transparency are essential to doing what we do. “
“She was obviously worried about the money and went back a couple of times to the millions of dollars of settlement cost. I told her it really didn’t matter. What really mattered was that we didn’t do it again. That we put together systems that prevent it from ever happening again. That couple million dollars was an investment in delivering the best outcomes, experience and value in the future.”
You could tell Jim was extremely gratified by the conversation. It was part of the vision he’d worked so hard and long to achieve. And, hearing it in the first floor cafeteria from a nutritionist who had cost the institution millions of dollars told him the vision was being not only being embraced, but being lived by the only people that could really make it happen – the workforce.
“The key is aligning the workforce and leadership behind a vision.. Our vision is simple, “be the international leader in improving child health. ”All have to be invested in delivering better outcomes, experience and value to make that vision happen. Unlocking the energy of the workforce is the only way to actually make it happen. You have to communicate it – and in a manner that is easily understandable and easy to get everyone involved. Not just doctors, or nurses, but everyone from housecleaning, to facilities, human resources, legal. You have to invest your resources in it.
And then celebrate it when stories like the nutritionist come to your attention.”
To download the entire profile go to “Profiles in Healthcare Leadership.”
The Compass Clinical “Profiles in Healthcare Leadership” result from interviews with transformational leaders in today’s healthcare industry—men and women all of whom have demonstrated courage, ingenuity and the hard work needed to create dramatic, measurable and sustainable improvements in healthcare. They challenge assumptions, see things differently and create remarkable breakthroughs. These leaders freely pass on insights that all of us can use to improve the way we deliver healthcare and, in the process, give us new ideas on how to make better American hospitals.