Building a Foundation for an Improvement Culture

Posted on by CATALYSIS

Purpose, values and principles make up the foundation of the transformation house and these elements help define the culture of an organization. When you put stress on any structure it displays the integrity of the foundation. If there are hidden cracks or defects, they become visible and will have wide-reaching effects through the whole structure.

In a recent Catalysis Healthcare Value Network member sharing session, John Woodrich and George Carr from Bryan Medical Center explained how the foundation and culture they built at their organization prepared them for the pandemic and enabled them to respond effectively.

Looking through the lens of their employment engagement survey, they were able to get a snapshot of the culture and the effects of the work they have done to create it. They ranked in the 94th percentile for employee engagement and 93rd percentile for physician engagement – with an 88% response rate. This says a lot the environment they have established.

So how did they build this foundation?

Defined their Core Values Together

Bryan Medical Center invested time years ago to focus their values and beliefs from 50 down to 7. After hearing from their staff that their first attempt had language that sounded too corporate, they gave the frontline the opportunity to develop them. They came back with the following core values that have become the culture of their organization:

  • One team, one purpose
  • Spread a smile, go the extra mile
  • Live it, own it
  • Care like crazy
  • Motivate, appreciate
  • Know the way, show the way
  • Enjoy the journey

These values played an integral role in the midst of the stress and fast-moving changes associated with the pandemic. They enabled the staff to stay on the same page and this language was consistently used as they were solving problems and working through processes.

Built Trust through Safety Focus

Trust has also been something Bryan Medical Center has worked hard to build. Their employee engagement survey showed 88% of staff as strongly agreeing that employees and management worked together to ensure the safest possible working conditions. As John and George shared in the session, this has been vital during the pandemic – that their employees trust that they have their safety in mind when making decisions because they have had to move quickly to address things and change processes. Because of the level of trust that had been established, they were able to move nimbly and effectively in making decisions.

Developed their Leaders

Another important part of their culture that was highlighted in their employee engagement survey was the leadership index score – which was in the 90th percentile. This focuses on whether employees feel like they are treated with respect by their leaders, whether they respect who they report to, if they are involved in decisions that affect their work, etc.

John and George explained that these scores reflect a multi-year focus on leader development. This consistent approach over time of developing their leaders and future leaders is something they saw as positioning them well to handle the pandemic.

Focused on Operational Transformation and Continuous Improvement

In their clinical areas, Bryan Medical Center has been focused on operational transformation and this work has given them the practices, skills, and tools needed to solve problems and adjust processes quickly. John and George shared how they used kata and PDSA to rapidly redesign and test new processes during the pandemic.

The pandemic revealed the strength of the foundation and culture Bryan Medical Center has worked to build and gave them the opportunity to see the impact culture plays on how an organization functions, especially under stressful, chaotic circumstances. If you’d like to learn more about the foundational elements of purpose, values, and principles and how these support a culture of continuous improvement, check out our list of upcoming virtual workshops.


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