The Secret of Success . . . It’s All About the Culture

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

For a leader of a role-model health system, the secret of success is an aligned culture, said CEO and President John Heer of 2012 Baldrige Award recipient North Mississippi Health Services (NMHS). “Create a culture/environment that is aligned with your employees’ personal mission statements. . . . It all starts with the people.”

Speaking at the 25th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference®, Heer said that NMHS employees come to work every day to take care of people–to improve the health of the people that the health system serves, as well as the health of the people in the region. “Their compassion, care, and yes, even love for those we serve never cease to amaze me,” he said. “People have strong predetermined mission statements. Health care is not a job, it’s a calling.” He added that in surveys of health care professionals, the vast majority say they got into health care to help people and to make a difference–not to make money.

Slide: NMHS Leadership SystemAt NMHS, to create an aligned culture/environment, a leadership system was created based on a balanced approach tied to the mission, vision, and values. This is not rocket science, said Heer, but rather, a good roadmap.

When he came to NMHS, Heer was drawn to the health system because it was one of the few organizations that had “smile” as a value, he said; in other words, the system had tied a basic human emotion into corporate thinking. The NMHS values spell C.A.R.E.S.: compassion, accountability, respect, excellence, smile.

In addition to the values, NMHS’s founding principles (vision, innovation, agility, and community stewardship), which go back to the 1930s, align with the core values found in the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence, Heer said.

Use of the Criteria led the health system to struggle with a new concept–what is its core competency? Thinking through this Baldrige concept helped NMHS focus on the most important thing it does as an organization: “People who provide a caring culture.”

Heer said NMHS has created a servant leadership culture–one that stresses open doors, open communication, and transparency/no secrets; is results-oriented; has “no-excuses” accountability; is founded on listening and learning; includes leader rounds of staff members as well as patients; and has a weekly CEO e-mail.

This focus on the values, founding principles, servant leadership culture, and communication has resulted in everyone at NMHS being aligned across the entire system. This could be the reason that a third-party database of more than 700 national hospitals ranked NMHS in the 99 percentile for overall job satisfaction and 20 percent higher than the national rate for employee retention.

In fact, the Baldrige examiners agreed. Heer shared that in its Baldrige feedback report, the result of its application for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, NMHS scored in the 90-100 range in the workforce focus and results items in the Criteria–truly remarkable scores.

NMHS’s secret has kept it right on track toward its vision of being the provider of the best patient-centered care and health services in America.

How has a focus on culture helped you meet your vision?

Slides: Overall Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention

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