Change your culture

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Your Organizational Culture: What if “yes” is the right answer?

We just got back from a terrific conference hosted by Partners in Performance Excellence (PiPEx), the Baldrige-based program serving Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. The morning started off with a keynote speech by Maryruth Butler, the executive director of the first nursing home to win the Baldrige Award (2016). She described their journey of excellence that didn’t end when they won the AHCA/NCAL Gold Award in 2011. Mountain Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center continued to set record performance in clinical outcomes, resident and family satisfaction, workforce engagement, state surveys, and CMS 5-star ratings.

However, one of the lessons learned that Maryruth shared was the importance of creating a culture that encouraged everyone in the organization to generate ideas for improvement, to test the boundaries of what could be possible in the highly regulated nursing home environment, and to expand their thinking. She spoke of creating a culture where the discussion changed from identifying all of the reasons why something couldn’t be done to where a question was raised that asked, “What if we said, ‘yes?’”

In this kind of environment, an intelligent risk is encouraged – not rash decision-making where potential harm is not identified or loss to the organization’s future success is ignored, but intelligent risks that focus on creating the best person-centered care. However, acceptance of intelligent risk is an also key requirement for a culture where innovation can flourish at all levels and in all departments

Another requirement of this culture of innovation requires something else of leaders, and Maryruth described her own evolution as a leader. “I had to get to the point where I trusted my people. I hired great people, provided them with good training, and showed them the boundaries “fenced” by our strategic plan and our mission, vision, and values. After that, I had to empower them to make good decisions and trust them to do the right thing.” She also described how creating a safe environment where people can acknowledge making mistakes supports a learning organization.

Our luncheon keynote speaker, JoAnn Sternke, retired superintendent of the Pewaukee School District (a Baldrige Award recipient in 2013) echoed many of the same concepts. She also emphasized the leader’s role in creating focus in the organization to tackle those key opportunities for improvement – not every opportunity for improvement. This evolution of her leadership actually accelerated the rate of improvement in her organization and allowed employees, students, and parents to see demonstrable progress in important areas.

What if, as a leader in your organization, you committed in the next month to not responding “Yes, but…” and changing it to “Yes, and…” to encourage your employees to become c

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