On Boarding Executives from Other Industries with Bob Riney

When considering an industry as vast and complex as the healthcare industry, the meticulously methodical assembly lines of a major car factory do not readily come to mind; however, for Bob Riney, president and COO of Henry Ford Health System, watching truck after truck being made at a tour of the Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, Michigan, was a profound moment. To him, the 10,000 workers creating a nearly fool-proof product in a safe working environment was in stark contrast to healthcare, which is often chaotic and lacking strong, centralized, accountable leadership. With over 96,000 deaths each year due to avoidable mistakes and over $750 billion in waste throughout the industry, it is hard to disagree (Best Care at Lower Cost, IOM). From Bob’s perspective, looking at ways to incorporate leaders from industries outside of healthcare can, in some cases, steer the industry toward greater performance.

This was no more apparent than in our recent webinar entitled “On Boarding Execs from Other Industries.” Bob spoke eloquently about the perceived barriers that executives from other industries face and the massive amount of “organ rejection,” where new executives from outside healthcare prove ineffective in their new position—largely through no fault of their own—and are rejected by the healthcare system.

Bob provided several examples of executive leadership from outside healthcare who were hired at Henry Ford and explained how their competencies as managers and leaders were applicable to their new positions in healthcare. One example was the choice of a former IRS manager to become the new chief information officer. In this case, the executive had experience merging complex information and datasets from both government and private sources. Bob explained that HFHS has found much success in its outside hires to drive the system to someplace completely new and ultimately reducing waste.

Bob rightly noted that the success of these leaders is due to HFHS’s on-boarding process, which includes cultural assimilation, an in-depth orientation, frequent one-on-one meetings, and coaching. Too often a new executive might approach the healthcare industry from the perspective of private enterprise and free, open markets or decision making by edict when in reality healthcare’s business is mostly dictated by government’s fixed pricing and decision making by consensus. An executive on-boarding process that is both culturally and strategically immersive has proved helpful to HFHS. A methodical introduction with orientation to every aspect of the system provides prospective leaders with the interactions and, eventually, understanding of the multiple intertwining relationships that define health care, giving them the ability to integrate their knowledge outside of healthcare effectively into healthcare. This helps create competent and successful leaders.

Which brings us back to the assembly line. No, patients are not precisely analogous to cars but leaders in healthcare must start to ask how best they can achieve that same level of efficiency. In an industry struggling to readily adopt best practices from other industries, perhaps the outside hire may well be worth the investment.

Do you have experience hiring outside of healthcare? Tell us about your successes and how to best avoid failure in the comments. LENS members may access the webinar here.

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