How Senior Leaders are Sustaining Excellence: A Conversation with Henry Ford Health System

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Crain’s Detroit Business recently named Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), newsmaker of the year for 2012. Since HFHS won the Baldrige Award in 2011, we asked Nancy a few questions to see what she feels has led to her success.

In the Crain’s article, you name Baldrige as one of the top five things you have done to ensure profitability and sustainability. Why?

The Baldrige Program was instrumental in helping us become a high-performance organization and a better and more aligned system. It provided a self-assessment roadmap with consultant feedback and challenged HFHS leaders to compare their results against the top-performing organizations in the United States. As a result, we became a much more process-oriented, outcomes-focused organization, and it was evident in our improved performance across all of our pillars—People, Service, Quality & Safety, Growth, Research & Education, Community, and Finance.

What have you learned during your Baldrige journey that led to improvements?

The Baldrige framework helped us to develop a much better line of sight between our vision and strategies, and our strategies, action plans, and performance measures. In addition, we became much better at linking system goals to individual employee performance plans. We also became much more disciplined at continually reviewing results so that action plans could be altered rapidly if outcomes were not being achieved.

The seven-pillar framework became the basis for strategic planning, measurement and review, prioritization and resource allocation, and improvement and innovation across HFHS.

What leadership skill did you learn as the result of your Baldrige assessment?

As a large health system with many business units, we believed we were more integrated and better at sharing best practices than we really were. With Baldrige, we learned to view critical processes through what Baldrige calls ADLI—Approach, Deployment, Learning, and Integration. We challenged ourselves to become better at developing consistent approaches and deployment strategies, stopping to learn what worked and what didn’t, and then integrating best practices throughout the system.

How have you used your Baldrige feedback reports to improve?

Review of Baldrige feedback was incorporated into our performance improvement processes. Annually, we would highlight the areas of the feedback report that would likely result in the most significant improvement and developed action plans with expedited implementation. We believed that we needed to establish momentum and committed to targeting Baldrige OFIs (opportunities for improvement) while, at the same time, forging ahead aggressively with existing goals, among them the building of a new hospital and the acquisition of two other hospitals.

An example of how we used Baldrige reports to improve is with our strategic planning process. The feedback showed that we had incomplete strategic planning steps, deployment, and alignment. Many performance targets and results remained the responsibility of a few versus everyone. By overhauling our strategic planning process, developing consistent approaches to action plans, and incorporating organizational performance reviews at our senior leadership meetings, we made significant improvements that resulted in more integration and better outcomes.

Can you share your opinion on the value of the Baldrige Health Care Criteria?

The Baldrige Criteria were instrumental in transforming the system’s culture to focus on performance excellence in every area. Alignment and engagement of leaders and employees helped to improve integration of processes within and across business units with an ongoing focus on measurable results.

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One Response to How Senior Leaders are Sustaining Excellence: A Conversation with Henry Ford Health System

  1. Afaq Ahmed says:

    Very practical explanation of use of Baldrige to achieve and sustain excellence.

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