MidState Medical Center: A Great Place to Be Sick is a Place That Practices Lean

Midstate Medical Center

Midstate Medical Center

Here’s the hospital I want to go to when I become sick: MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Connecticut.  It is hard to find documented information on this hospital, but it appears that their CEO, Lucille Janatka, practices some form of Lean, possibly the Baldrige Model, according to what I’ve heard in the local community.

In articles, Janatka describes herself as a “Servant Leader.”  The story I’ve heard goes like this.  When she took over the hospital in 1999 as CEO, she organized grassroots meetings of every single worker, right down to the janitor.  (Heh, “down.”)  They recommended changes using this “Reflective Improvement Methodology,” whatever you like to call it.  Janatka lead them in implementing many of the changes proposed.
Outside Patient Rooms MidState Medical

Outside Patient Rooms MidState Medical

I was hospitalized at MidState in 2007 for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  My experience?  At this hospital there is no such thing as a shared room.  All rooms are single rooms.  The floors are carpeted but sterile, making the hospital feel warm and comforting.  Every two rooms has a computer station.  (The hospital was recently awarded as “most wired.”) Nurses take a Customer Service approach towards patients, writing their names on the boards, keeping patients informed about prioritization of help.  It’s a heavenly place to be sick.  All of this a result of taking the “Servant Leader” approach and utilizing a “Reflective Improvement” methodology.

There is an article in the Society for Human Resource Management about Janatka, focused primarily on the fact that she does not deal with Unions but rather focuses on “the team” and has an understanding of the issues facing Nurses as she was once herself a Nurse.  The team approach has resulted in many awards for the organization.

To understand more about her way of operating, I’ll pull from an article in the Hartford Business Journal.  Cindy Russo, VP of patient care, says:

“She uses a very participatory style of management. I think she gives people the opportunity to step up to the plate … she built a culture in which the entire employee base feels as though they are stakeholders.

“I’m very respectful of people and what they bring to the table,” said Janatka, who oversees more than 1,200 employees at MidState. “If you respect what people bring to the table, you have a better product in the end.”

Rather than go into an executive suite and “getting back to us” with a vision and a how-to-do, Janatka consulted the people who worked at the hospital.  But she didn’t just consult them. She treated them as stakeholders, as people who have a stake in the outcomes of the hospital.

Part of that culture, said [Lloyd] Nurick [MidState Chairman], is something called non-punitive correction. When assessing a problem, Janatka looks at the entire situation to find the root cause.

“You assume it’s the system and not the person, and you go back to see if [the mistake was caused] by something systematic. As a result, people aren’t afraid to say they made a mistake,” Nurick explained.

I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen employees criticized for doing a bad job when in fact many circumstances conspired together created a situation in which they were set up to fail.  It’s far easier as a manager to point at the employee.   Far more difficult is figuring out how the system itself is functioning to make it impossible for a particular employee to succeed.

Definitely Janatka practices Servant Leadership, which has its roots of some turn of the 20th Century thinking by Robert K. Greenleaf.

From Wikipedia:

[Servant Leadership] can still be defined as a management philosophy which implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit. It requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment. A servant leader is someone who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community. A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks himself how he can help them to solve problems and promote personal development. He places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations.

Servant Leadership has found its way into Lean and is a useful tool, a great way of thinking of the function of a leader within the organization.

Janatka, for her part, talks about the “customers” of the hospital and sees herself more as a mentor to the staff than as a top executive.

“I consider myself to be a servant-leader,” she said. “I consider my job as really serving the staff. Whatever tools they need, it’s my job to make sure they have them.”

In other words, like an uber-scrum master, Janatka is clearing away obstacles so people can do their jobs.

I can’t find any reference on what happens at MidState if an employee is found to not perform.  The possibility exists that an individual will not have a work ethic or ever find it within themselves to participate.  My own observation with teams is that the team gives live feedback to that under-performing employee.  I do not see teams protecting that employee because the individuals in the team require that employee to perform in order to function well.

The outcome Janatka has succeeded in causing is this.  If I get sick?  I want to be brought to MidState Medical Center.

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