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A Remembrance of Dr. Michel Tétreault

We lost a giant this week. A pioneer, a true leader, a patient advocate, a dear friend. Michel was a unique man. An emergency physician who decided he could make an even bigger difference by leading a hospital. Then also deciding that being a CEO wasn’t quite enough, he pioneered the transformation of St. Boniface. Applying a methodology he had learned from a neighboring industrial company in Winnipeg, Standard Aero, Michel was curious. He believed things could be done better at St. Boniface, a lot better. He called the former CEO of Standard Aero and asked him if he would be his mentor. He had regular breakfast meetings with his mentor. Michel would say “well that didn’t go so well” meaning he didn’t know what he didn’t know and his mentor let him know that.

Michel was persistent. When he didn’t know something, he would continuously search until he found a place or a person that could help. He came to Appleton – which is where I first met him. He came to learn. He did, but I also learned from him. Michel had a way of seeing things most can’t. And when he observed something that wasn’t quite right, he would tell you. “You know John,” the conversation would always start. Then he would ask a question that would make me think. Think deeply actually. The mark of a great leader is not to give answers, but to enable people to think differently about the problems they are trying to solve. Michel always did that for me.

Michel was loyal. Loyal to his family and friends. Loyal to our cause of spreading lean around the world. And loyal to the wonderful staff at St. Boniface. Each time I would ask him to speak at a conference or attend a learning session, he was there. Many times with his side kick and fellow lean leader Bruce Roe. Bruce and Michel learned together, pushed each other, and pushed me. We improved together and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Words cannot express how much I will miss Michel’s smile and self-deprecating humor. He has been there since the beginning of my journey to become an improvement leader and he will continue to be with me/us going forward.

Thank you Michel for everything you have given to me and to the world.

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6 Responses to A Remembrance of Dr. Michel Tétreault

Murray kilfoyle says: 09/17/2015 at 4:32 pm

Well done. You captured michel’s spirit and passion so well. For me it was “so Murray”.

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Paul DeChant says: 09/18/2015 at 8:24 am

I am deeply saddened by this news. Michel’s humble, thoughtful, and determined leadership has been an inspiration to me.
Thank you, John, for capturing his essence so well.

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Roger Chen says: 09/18/2015 at 11:22 am

It is an important time to pause, reflect and celebrate the value of a life well lived. In our conversations, Michel never saw himself as a mentor, although I think he would be happy to be called an encouraging friend. He certainly has been to me in the precious times I got to spend with him on several occasions thanks to HVN.
I am so grateful I had a chance to go to spend time with Michel in his gemba at St Boniface.
He is the epitome of a great lean leader in healthcare, fiercely committed to quality, and gentle with those who are learning. A true leader’s leader.

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Alice says: 09/18/2015 at 11:24 am

John,
This is a beautiful tribute to a dear friend and colleague. He has made my personal learning journey easier & harder at the same time with his provocative questioning and wonderful ability to get me to think more deeply.
Michel, je vous remercie pour votre gentillesse et générosité. Tu me manque!
Alice Lee

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Michael Bremer says: 09/18/2015 at 7:01 pm

John,
You had connected me with Michel for a potential keynote speaking opportunity in Alaska. They had invited me to speak and also wanted someone from healthcare. Michel and I had several conversations and I had recommended him as a co-keynote. Unfortunately the conference was later canceled, so I never met him. But we did have several great conversations. I’m certain his legacy will live on….which is all one can ask…for a meaningful life.

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