A new CEO has taken the reins of a nationally recognized hospital that has experienced significant financial and HR issues. She must quickly establish credibility and alignment with her board of directors and senior leadership team. Both groups are deeply committed to change, but are still reeling from the fallout of the recent organizational trauma. Based on a board member’s recommendation, the CEO reaches out to Whetstone to support her vision for cultural change and make sure her leaders are aligned.
Whetstone first interviewed the stakeholders to understand their needs and concerns. What emerged was a picture of a culture that tolerated mediocrity under the guise of being polite and collegial. The implicit message was to avoid conflict, even at the expense of excellence. We worked closely with the new senior leadership team as they learned to embrace and practice a greater degree of peer-to-peer accountability and candor. At the same time, the CEO focused on improving corporate governance and transparency and with a more confident and engaged team, was able to implement positive changes within six months.
During the process, there were some difficult decisions related to staff changes. Whetstone played an instrumental role in helping to identify the HR performance gap and then coach the CEO to make needed changes while being true to the organization’s values and the board’s expectations.
Within six months, the CEO had developed the level of trust and confidence with the board to make vast changes to the board’s composition and size, allowing for greater transparency and accountability. As the culture began to shift, it paved the way for her to make critical personnel decisions that have already begun to reshape the organization’s understanding of itself and its values.
Oftentimes, even positive attributes of a culture can thwart needed change. In this case, the healthcare system promoted some behaviors that left unchecked, were detrimental to the organization. While patient care never suffered, the administration and infrastructure was put at risk.