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Keys to hospital’s turnaround apply to other organizations

The Baptist Health Care Journey to Excellence: Creating a Culture that WOWs!

by Al Stubblefield
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005 ISBN 0471708909)

There are always nagging thoughts in one’s mind when reading a CEO’s “how-we-turned-things-around-and-became-an-industry-leader” memoir: “Yes, but will it work in our organization? In our industry?” It is something that Al Stubblefield addresses within the first few pages of The Baptist Health Care Journey to Excellence: “I am convinced that service excellence can be a competitive advantage for any organization, no matter the service a company provides or what size workforce it supports.”

Reading the book, I continually tested his hypothesis by trying to apply the Baptist Health Care (BHC) lessons to organizations with which I have become familiar through a decade of providing services as a consultant, all of which have fewer than the 5,500 employees who work for BHC. Would the BHC approach work for them?

Well before I had finished the final chapter (a description of how BHC engaged physicians in the process) I was convinced that BHC’s five keys to achieving service and operational excellence – creating and maintaining a great culture; selecting and retaining great employees; committing to service excellence; continuously developing great leaders; and hardwiring success through systems of accountability – could be used by any organization.

Stubblefield traces BHC’s ten-year journey from being an organization at risk to one that has been recognized repeatedly for excellence. The tale begins in 1995, when BHC ranked at the 18th percentile on a nation-wide patient satisfaction survey. Today, it is consistently at the 99th percentile. From a company with devastatingly low morale, BHC quickly evolved to being near the top of Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 Best Places to Work for the past five years (BHC was number 31 this year).

The changes at BHC were driven by the desire to survive in a highly competitive healthcare environment. BHC selected service excellence as its competitive advantage. The pursuit began with employees. “We discovered the key to patient satisfaction is to focus not on patients first, but on your employees . . . only happy, fulfilled employees will provide the highest level of healthcare to our patients.”

BHC’s transformation required different approaches to how managers dealt with staff and how staff dealt with patients. People (i.e. employees) became the first of five pillars of operational success. “[W]ithout our employees on board, we could never achieve success in any of the five areas. Service came next, because providing world-class care is key to engaging the hearts of healthcare workers. Quality was next, followed by financial, and finally growth, the natural results of a balanced emphasis on the other four.” The pillars are the focus of internal and external communication. Meeting agendas are structured around the pillars.

Communication became more frequent and open. “Prior to 1995, it had been the standard practice of our management team to share only good news with our employees. If we had no good news to share, then they simply didn’t hear from us. . . . we believed that our employees were better off not knowing how bad things were getting.”

Managers committed to “rounding”, leaving their offices daily to spend time with staff and patients. Scripts were developed and staff trained in their use to ensure customers received consistent messages and treatment from all staff.

Accountability became an important theme. Each employee was responsible to achieve results. Individual and team successes were recognized and celebrated. “There is nothing more important to most individuals than knowing that their contributions are valued.”

The processes that Stubblefield describes can easily be adopted by other organizations striving for operational excellence, no matter whether they have five, 50, 500 or 5000 employees.


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© Nelson Scott.  All rights reserved.

A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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