Building a future Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009

As you drive up to the building, a cascading waterfall surrounded by greenery greets you. Approaching the main entrance, you pass by beautiful sculptures, and entering the building’s lobby, you’re struck by the beauty of the natural materials that surround you. Bright streams of natural light flood the room, illuminating everything with warmth. A glance out a window reveals a tranquil stream quietly running along the property.

As you continue walking past the nature-inspired artwork, you stop for a moment at a fireside seating area for a quiet moment and then continue on, eventually opening a door onto a rooftop garden, where you are greeted with fresh air and the fragrant aromas of plants and flowers. You take a deep breath and know that life is good.

It may seem like you’re at a beautiful art museum or botanical garden, but instead, you’ve just been walking through the newest hospital in the Lake Health Inc. system, TriPoint Medical Center, which just opened in October to excitement and appreciation. Cynthia Moore-Hardy, the president and CEO of the health system, has spent much of her time creating this new state-of-the-art facility.

“We’ve had a lot of positive response from our employees,” she says. “Just today, an employee came up to me and hugged me and expressed her appreciation for creating a work environment that makes them feel good and for creating patient rooms that she felt would be of great benefit to the patients and their families.”

The patient rooms are all private, and on top of that, the hospital has unrestricted visiting hours and quiet places, such as the fireside seating area and other glass-enclosed spaces, for family members to sit and have some quiet time to themselves if their loved one is sleeping. They also have “nourishment nooks” on every floor so if family members need a cup of coffee or to use the microwave, they don’t have to go to another floor or wing and can stay closer to their loved one. There are separate elevators for doctors and patients and a private patient discharge area so that someone doesn’t have to leave the hospital in the same place where it may be busier with incoming patients.

“We wanted to create, instead of a place where people feel like they’re going for sick care, a place that represented health,” Moore-Hardy says.

It was quite an undertaking creating a $155 million facility from the ground up, and when you’re doing something new, everybody has an idea and wants his or her fingerprints on it, so Moore-Hardy decided to tackle the planning process by using a team approach. In shaping any sort of goal or project, it requires getting input from other people, reviewing those ideas, creating a plan for where you’re going to go, and then communicating it to everyone else. This is how she led her 2,700 employees through the planning stages to create TriPoint.

Find ideas

When it comes to implementing a major project, the more ideas you can get from all of the people involved, the better off you’ll be.

Moore-Hardy needed to talk to several different constituencies — doctors, staff members, patients, volunteers and community members — to find out what people wanted in a hospital, but in those discussions with hospital employees, her roots as a registered nurse helped her get to the heart of their needs quicker.

She began by catering to them and their schedules.

“When you’re working to engage the staff, in particular, one of the things that I find helpful is to present myself to them in their space in a nonthreatening way,” she says.

For example, sometimes she would walk around with a basket full of healthy treats, such as low-sodium pretzels, nuts or dark chocolate, during peak times, and if someone could tell her something interesting that they thought she might want or need to know, then he or she would get a treat.

It’s also important to go to your people and to go when they’re free instead of when you’re free.

“I meet them in their offices instead of in my office and talk to them when it’s convenient for them to find out what their needs, issues and concerns are,” she says.

She also spent time talking to people by using advisory groups based on different constituencies, such as one for physicians, one for women, one for seniors and one for patients, and so on. In addition to these talks and walk-arounds, Moore-Hardy also allows employees to submit ideas online through Lake Health’s Bright Ideas program.

She would also use any opportunity, such as if she was speaking at a senior citizens’ community center, to talk to people, as well. Any time she talked to people, she would ask a lot of questions to get to the heart of their needs and wants.

“An example would be, ‘What one thing could we change that would make your workday more efficient, or what piece of equipment do you need, or what key patient safety issue are you concerned about?’” she says. “Or I could ask them, ‘What are your patients telling you that, as an administrator, I need to know? What is it that they’re telling you that will make a difference in their stay in the hospital or their recovering after?’”

The key to these initiatives being successful is making sure that you’re a good listener.

“A good listener is someone who actually really wants to hear,” Moore-Hardy says. “They step back and allow the person or the people that they’re talking to to share their point of view and just to engage in a good communication style that’s two-way communication.”

It’s also important to show the other person that you’re engaged in the conversation and paying attention.

“Certainly, eye contact is important, looking them in the eye, making sure that you aren’t doing things while they’re talking, like using your BlackBerry or typing on your computer,” she says. “Certainly, there’s all sorts of things in the literature about body language and how that can be interpreted or misinterpreted when you’re engaged in dialogue that you need to pay attention to.”

Evaluate ideas and create a plan

Regardless of how ideas come in, once you have them, you also need to find a way to filter and evaluate them.

“Some ideas can be implemented right away, and other ideas, depending on what they might be, might take longer periods of time,” she says. “Some may involve construction; some may be a simple idea of something they could start doing or stop doing.”

To make those determinations, you need to have a team of people available to review them. For example, with the online idea submission program, there are two or three multidisciplinary teams established to evaluate those ideas. Members of those teams may represent human resources, another area of the organization, staff members involved with the idea and the manager of the area affected.

The team is charged with doing an analysis of the idea and researching to see if more information or clarification is needed. In the case of building TriPoint from the ground up, Moore-Hardy engaged every area for feedback, and she says people were pretty unified in what the facility needed to have, and knowing this made it easier to establish a vision for the new center.

“You have to work within the culture of your organization or the culture you’re trying to create within your organization,” Moore-Hardy says. “ … The biggest thing that translates would be it’s important to know what your employees, volunteers,

physicians are thinking, and have a mechanism that allows them to have input into decision-making.”

When she looked around at all the feedback she had received, Moore-Hardy could clearly see the types of facilities that TriPoint should have.

“It all starts with establishing a direction that you may want the organization to go,” she says. “That would include strategic planning that certainly involves reviewing data about the organization, data about the community you serve and soliciting input as you go along.”

Just like when you were soliciting input, your planning process should also involve others.

“For strategic planning, you would certainly engage a multidisciplinary team to help work through your strategic planning,” Moore-Hardy says.

Her strategic planning starts with engaging her board of directors, and it also involves her medical staff, administrative team, employees, volunteers and the community. To find the specific people throughout her system that should help on that team, she looked first to volunteers, as many areas already had people eager to assist. She also made sure that certain areas were on every team, such as nursing and medical staff.

With TriPoint, they could clearly agree that they wanted to create a facility that promoted healing and was nurturing and also welcomed patients and their loved ones. They wanted to have facilities that were different than other hospitals and would make a difference in the care of the patients. For example, one main initiative was offering private rooms so patients and loved ones could be alone. Another example was in the mammography department, having the rooms that women changed in connected to the rooms where their testing was done so that they didn’t have to walk down a public hallway in a thin gown. Things like this would set TriPoint apart and draw people to the new facility.

Once you know the direction you want to go, then it’s important to establish goals for getting there.

“Goals are established based on what you determine the findings to be, so once you’ve reviewed the data and determined what direction you’d like to take, you set goals and metrics over some period of time to accomplish those things,” she says.

It’s important to review these goals as well as your overall plan on a regular basis.

“Because a strategic plan shouldn’t be a static document that you review and write once and then put it on a shelf, as you set your goals and establish the metrics, some may require different frequencies,” Moore-Hardy says. “It could be that you look at it quarterly. Certainly, you should look at your strategic plan annually.”

It’s important to know if you’re being successful or not in achieving those goals and, ultimately, the strategic plan.

“For every goal, there’s an outcome, or the goal is set in such a way that you will know when you get there,” she says. “If you set goals that are just process-oriented, you may not know, but if you set outcome-oriented goals, you know when you get there. As you move through whatever period of time you said you would accomplish that goal, then you evaluate it at each step.”

Knowing the type of center that she and her people wanted to create, all of those attributes and that focus on patient and family care became known as the guiding principles, and it’s important you let whatever your principles are help you make your decisions.

She says, “Sit down and use them to test how you’re developing or moving forward in a project.”

Communicate

As you move forward in your plans, it’s also important to continue to engage the same people from whom you had solicited input in the early planning stages.

“You want to have the ability to create and share a vision to those that you’re leading in a way that helps them understand where you’re trying to go and what their role might be in it. Your vision becomes their vision, and it’s much easier to lead things forward,” Moore-Hardy says.

Make sure that you communicate with them in a consistent manner.

“It’s important to be visible in the organization,” she says. “The face-to-face conversation — staying on message, making sure that you’re communicating consistently, that you’re on point and that the things that you’re saying are focused, and you’re not saying one thing one day and something else the next day.”

Moore-Hardy uses a variety of methods to communicate with her employees, including newsletters, lunches with departments, quarterly employee forums and shift meetings throughout the day and night as the shifts and people change. She says it’s important to update employees on the progress toward the goals that you established, and you also need to find ways to connect individual employees’ particular jobs with the greater goals so they understand how they fit into the picture.

“We break those objectives into certain categories that cascade down the organization, and everyone would have had an opportunity to work with their managers to determine how they individually and they as a department relate back to the corporate strategic objective,” she says.

But it’s also not enough to simply communicate. You also need to touch back with people to make sure they understood you correctly.

“When used correctly, you will check to see if they’ve heard what you’re saying,” Moore-Hardy says. “You’ll allow them to say it back to you in their own words and until you’re sure that you have a mutual understanding. Then it pays to do some follow-up to make sure that you can find out if they had any questions or concerns about it after thinking about it for a period of time.”

Just like communicating the message itself, there are multiple ways you can follow-up with people, including by e-mail, by phone or face to face. Moore-Hardy prefers face-to-face follow-up, and she says that how long you wait before following up really depends on the situation and the person, but you need to at least decide when you’re going to follow up.

“If it’s an issue of great magnitude, at the end of the conversation, we agree that we’ll talk again in a few days or a week or whatever it is — whatever is the agreed-upon time frame,” she says.

Whatever you decide to do, it simply all comes back to the communication factor.

“The best advice that I can give is you can never communicate enough,” she says.

And Moore-Hardy hasn’t stopped communicating to her staff. Doing all of these things takes a lot of effort, but she wanted to be a good leader.

“A good leader is a role model,” she says. “A good leader is someone who can communicate clearly, and a good leader reminds themselves that they’re only a leader because they have followers. The question you have to ask yourself continually is, ‘Would you follow you?’”

People did follow her, and the new facility opened Oct. 21. While it was a lot of work, she says it was a labor of love, and that it all came down to doing all of these things over and over again and not diverging from them.

“The key thing is to establish a direction you would like to go and engage those that you’re working with in the process to create a common vision,” she says. “The key to all of that is just continuous communication and inviting feedback and providing explanation. It requires having the ability to listen to others and hear things from their perspective. It requires the ability to be flexible yet maintain the key tenets of the vision or direction that you’re trying

to go.”

How to reach: Lake Health Inc., (440) 354-2400, (440) 375-8100 or www.lakehealth.org