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
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.