Being a Transformer

Not all organizations need to be transformed, but sometimes there is no other alternative. If the company does not transform, it will either stagnate or die. NYU Langone Medical Center was in such a situation 12 years ago. Today, they are thriving.  Why?  

Let me provide a high level three point summary of an article I co-authored and sent out last week published in Strategy and Business. For many of you, a short summary is exactly what you are looking for.  

  1. Build a long term compelling vision that communicates an integrating purpose - Dr. Robert Grossman, Dean and CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center, at his investiture speech, said the institution would become “a world-class, patient-centered integrated academic medical center.” He communicated a message of hope and belief. He was not blowing smoke. He knew the institution had roots of greatness in the past but had drifted away from these roots over time. His statement of purpose, followed by a commitment to engage the entire organization in what is called a strategic fitness process, led by TruePoint Consulting, helped align the entire organization around the vision and what it would take to get there. A clear blueprint was designed on one page for the transformation, all based on one core idea - being a world class, patient-centered integrated academic medical center. 
  2. Use data to lead. Dr. Grossman and his team developed a dashboard for each department. Each chair of a department was responsible to improve their respective dashboards. The dashboard measured key success factors for the hospital system.  The information was transparent for all of the other chairs to see. Dr. Grossman made a point of looking at some aspect of the dashboard every day and sending out a question, an affirmation, or a request for action. He was there to encourage, motivate, and let people know there was indeed accountability for commitments made. The data allowed Dr. Grossman to expand his reach far into the system. The chairs and the front lines had access to their own data as well. People wanted to learn from the data and everyone’s performance began to improve. As a result, tremendous alignment was achieved within the organization and a mutual commitment to excel at all levels grew from the work. Data, coupled with a passion to use the data, drove a commitment to excel at all levels.
  3. Upgrading and Supporting People. A transformation almost always requires some turnover. New people bring new mindsets. Dr. Grossman knew where the islands of health and strength were located within the hospital system. These he fed with money and encouragement. He also found walled-off islands that were dying. Here he made changes in leadership. In some cases he moved quickly. On his first day, he replaced five of his top executives. Over time he began to recruit the best of the best for each department. He made it clear what the goals were for the institution, provided funding to the doctors or researchers, and provided encouragement and resources. Most of all, he continued to focus the entire organization on the long term vision of being a world class medical center.  

Today NYU Langone has been ranked number one in patient safety and quality care for multiple years in a row. They are truly a transformed institution.

Transformation is not always necessary, but when it is, these three guiding principles are a great handle for success.  

To read a more in-depth analysis of the NYU Langone transformation, please visit