Part 3: Deliberate Practice – The Science Behind NCHL’s 2013 National Health Leadership Survey

Every 2-3 years, NCHL conducts a national survey of leadership development practices as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the evidence base supporting these practices. If your hospital or health system did not receive an invitation to participate (or if you’re not sure but would like to participate), please contact Joyce Anne Wainio at 

Strategic alignment

In 2011, we published a literature review summarizing the research linking management practices to organizational outcomes.  Among other conclusions, research suggested that leadership training and development programs have greater impact on organizational performance if they are tied to the strategic objectives of the organization.

Most of the research reported in that article came from other industries, so later that year we conducted several additional analyses to see if the findings would hold up in healthcare.  The first of these was a re-analysis of our 2010 leadership practices survey data, to investigate relationships bewteen individual practices and the results hospitals were finding on the new value-based purchasing measures.  Although many relationships were found between leadership practices and either clinical or experience of care outcomes, only one item correlated with both: “Leadership learning and development is aligned with organization’s strategic goals and priorities.”

In a separate study, published earlier this month, we surveyed 50 health systems to examine the extent to which strategically aligned HR practices enhanced health systems’ capacity to respond to health reform. Here too, we found that alignment was associated with expanded capacity to pursue cost reduction, access, and quality improvement efforts.

Several questions on the 2013 survey relate to senior leadership involvement with leadership development programs. While this is not as comprehensive a measure of alignment as the survey work mentioned above, it provides a reasonable proxy. If senior leadership has an active hand in these programs, participants are far more likely to be exposed to the strategic relevance of what they are learning.

Involving senior leaders as teachers pays other dividends as well, including opportunities to practice critical communication and reflection skills, and do so in an environment that is more feedback-rich than their operational roles.

About Andrew Garman

Chief Executive Officer, NCHL; Professor, Health Systems Management Department, Rush University

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