“7 Keys” to Creating a Premier Healthcare Organization

by Richard Corder

Two and a half years ago I found myself in the audience of a quality and safety conference at Harvard University. The last speaker of the day took the podium with little fanfare and no slides. What a welcome change…

With his very generous permission I’d like to share my memories and notes from that day, the lessons and leadership “keys” he shared then, ring true now, and continue to resonate.

And now for something completely different…

Mike Dowling is the President and CEO of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System(NSLIJHS). Mike presented at the Eleventh Quality and Safety Colloquium (Cambridge MA – August 14-16, 2012) – my notes summarize his comments.

Mike opened his conversation about the “7 Keys” by stating, “NSLIJ is not there yet, but we are on a journey toward this, and I’d like to share it with you…

1. Have a coherent idea of where you want to end up – a clear VISION

Not just the “what” but the “why”
You must be able to engage EVERYONE’S head and heart in the VISION – in the “why…”

2. Have a positive attitude

Be optimistic and believe that it is possible – a “can do” attitude
Be responsible for outcomes and model personal accountability – “if it is to be it is up to me”

3. Have a complete commitment to transformation

Be ready to think differently – we CANNOT be risk averse
Be open minded – healthcare is NOT unique – exceptional, high-quality organizations are NOT industry specific

4. Engage and develop EVERYONE

Lead a continuous culture of learning
Be mindful of who you hire, who you promote, who you let go
Remember: People + Values + Behaviors = SUCCESS
Use simulation
Make a core part of your curriculum mandatory

5. Manage Constituencies

Break down silos and train people across disciplines
Manage your board and medical staff
Change how we do medical school training

6. Become deeply consumer focused

Everyone you serve is more educated and informed than ever
Expectations are constantly changing


Constant communication of the “why” from #1
Top down, bottom up, side to side
Face to face, electronic, multi-media, print, etc. etc.
You CANNOT over-communicate
Most of all – remember that:

We do great work every day in healthcare!
We have much to be proud of!
We do make a difference!
Mike closed his remarks with the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm…”

Thank you Mike, you continue to inspire and encourage!

About the author:  Richard Corder is a Vice President at CRICO with almost 30 years experience in healthcare administration & operations.  CRICO, a recognized leader in evidence-based risk management, is a group of companies owned by and serving the Harvard medical community.