Critical Path Network: New tool adds structure, productivity to meetings

Pre-existing tool adapted to strategic goals

All Saints Healthcare, a multifacility system in Racine, WI, has adapted a pre-existing template for meeting structure to more closely mesh with its strategic goals, creating a more organized meeting process, while at the same time, reinforcing key mission and vision messages with staff personnel.

The new template builds upon a seven-step meeting process originally developed by All Saints’ parent organization — The Wheaton (IL) Franciscan System.

"Some of our leaders were using it, but some were not," recalls Terry Doherty, director of customer service and leadership development for All Saints, which includes two hospitals and a number of smaller medical sites.

"When we started on our service excellence journey [about three years ago] and put together our infrastructure, we asked people to use the seven-step meeting process," she says.

"As we evolved and encouraged leaders to become more actively involved, we adapted it to our pillar goals — our strategic goals for the organization," Doherty explains.

About two years ago, she says, All Saints began working with The Studer Group, which advised it to use the template more often.

"It helps employees to understand how the issues they’re meeting about relate to the big picture; we now connect every meeting to [at least] one of our pillar goals," Doherty says.

Part of All Saints’ infrastructure for service excellence consists of 13 teams focused on some elements of service.

These multidisciplinary teams cover four different areas of patient satisfaction (emergency department, inpatient, medical group, outpatient), as well as support services such as communication, measurement, reward and recognition, and service recovery.

The leader of each team, in turn, is a member of the system’s steering team.

"We started working with them and tried to give them tools and information they could utilize to help their work go more smoothly, and this was one of them," Doherty explains.

The seven steps of the meeting process are:

1. Review roles.
2. Review objectives.
3. Review agenda.
4. Work through agenda.
5. Review meeting and record assignments.
6. Identify next steps; plan next meeting.
7. Evaluate meeting.

The six pillars are as follows:

  • Mission Integration. Actions, processes, and decisions are rooted in, and consistent with, The Wheaton Franciscan and All Saints Healthcare’s Mission, Values, and Vision.
  • Financial Viability. All Saints Healthcare achieves operating margins and other financial ratios established in the system strategic financial planning process to generate the capital necessary to fund strategic and operational needs.
  • Clinical Excellence. Clinical quality and clinical outcomes in key service lines will exceed regionally and/or nationally established standards.
  • Patient Service. Patients within the communities we serve will experience superior and compassionate service.
  • Health Care Employer of Choice. All Saints Healthcare values its employees and provides a superior work environment that supports recruitment and retention.
  • Preferred Partner of Physicians. All Saints Healthcare and physicians choose to work with each other over other market alternatives.

The Studer Group, Doherty notes, advocates five pillars; the other, "Mission Integration," is unique to All Saints. (The chart, below, illustrates a staff meeting template.)

The number of pillars addressed depends on the focus of the meeting, she explains. "You might have only one pillar — or all of them — depending on the issue.

"For example, I head up a project team that helps conduct and serve as a resource around our employee survey, so at every team meeting we have an agenda that incorporates not only the seven steps but is also connected to all the pillars," Doherty points out.

She concedes that it is difficult to accurately assess the impact of this tool. "It’s hard to say; there’s no way to measure it," Doherty says. "However, we reintroduced it to all of our leaders with the pillars, in June 2002, and encouraged them all to use that. In all the meetings I go to, I see it used."

She sees a number of benefits that flow from this tool. "I think that the biggest is that employees have a better understanding of how their daily work connects to our values and goals," Doherty explains.

"Another benefit is that when our leaders start to think more in this way, they will be able to make better connections for employees. At staff meetings, information is more balanced if they think about what the meeting is saying in terms of our goals; it’s a more balanced approach to decision making, problem solving, and the giving and receiving of information," she adds.

[For more information, contact:

  • Terry Doherty, Director, Customer Service and Leadership Development, All Saints Healthcare, 2405 Northwestern Ave., Racine, WI 53404-2503. Phone: (262) 687-4322. E-mail: tdoherty@allsaintshealthcare.org.]