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Leading, Learning and Transformational Change

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eight years after Novant Health formed through the merger of two large regional hospitals in North Carolina, some executives realized, the organization still had multiple cultures, a wide variety of policies, strategic plans and information systems, and leadership development suffered as a result.

Presbyterian Healthcare in Charlotte and Carolina Medicorp in Winston-Salem merged in 1997, creating a system that now has 14 medical centers, 360 physician clinics, 158 outpatient clinics and 25,000 employees. In 2005, two of Novant's key leaders decided to begin a leadership program that would develop a pool of internal talent to fill the many new leadership roles they knew would be needed as the organization grew, and address cultural issues that could potentially undermine that anticipated growth.

Vic Cocowitch, a leadership and organizational consultant in healthcare, Stephen Orton PhD, who works for the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the University of North Carolina, and the two Novant executives, Jacque Daniels, Chief Administrative Officer and Debbie Kiser, Vice President of Leaning and Development, describe their seven year program in a story in the OD Practitioner, the journal of the Organizational Development Network. Their article, "Reframing Leadership Development in Healthcare," explains that Leadership Novant was based on the beliefs that leadership is continuous learning, that the work environment in a healthcare system can be used as a great learning laboratory, and that managers and leaders need to learn through their own experiences.

Novant relies on interdisciplinary teams collaborating to improve patient safety, quality of care, and solve problems, the authors write, so Leadership Novant stressed teamwork throughout its curriculum in readings, assessments, simulations and social activities. A cohort program, of five three day sessions held at an off-site facility, included activities that helped participants deepen personal relationships and networks and think and act outside of their usual comfort zone. It emphasized three themes, which the article describes as follows:

The Use of Self is based on the idea that effective leadership depends on deep self-awareness and "an ability to intentionally manage and deploy self for desired organizational impact."

Team Leadership, which requires interdisciplinary collaboration, included such action learning projects as development of a health literacy program, analyzing post-acute care facilities and strategies, and developing a "cultural due diligence process" for potential mergers and acquisitions.

Systems Thinking and Change Leadership, which were reinforced throughout the program, were emphasized through learning content aligned with organizational needs. Case studies showed system wide change as it took place. As one example, leaders presented early plans for the inception of new health information technology in inpatient facilities and physician practices.

The authors write that a successful leadership program needs to be fully supported by the organization's CEO and entire executive team, and it needs to evolve continually so that critical and unexpected events are used as learning opportunities. An earlier article by Cocowitch and Orton about an organizational development approach to healthcare leadership and the program at Novant is available here.

Tags:  buscell  complexity matters  healthcare  leaders  leadership 

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