Looking forward – April 2012

A first-class staff has been meeting the needs of American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) Fellows for nearly 100 years. In most ways and on multiple levels, this highly competent and dedicated workforce has evolved and expanded to meet the changing demands of the College’s membership and the surgical profession. However, some of the processes and policies that guide the staff’s activities have become outmoded and have thereby inhibited the organization’s ability to flourish.

To address this concern, late last summer the College launched the Culture-Driven Performance Improvement Project with the assistance of consultants from GE Healthcare. We anticipate that this project will take the organization’s staffing capabilities and internal operations from good to great.

The broad purposes of this activity are as follows: (1) foster a culture of continuous quality improvement that can catalyze rapid and sustainable change; (2) bind the executive leadership and the other staff with a common language and a connected purpose; and (3) integrate proven business models and processes into our everyday activities to strengthen the College’s mission and objectives. We are applying a three-stage process to achieve these goals: organization assessment, development of a performance improvement leadership team, and activation of strategic imperatives.

Phase one completed

At press time, we had completed phase one of this journey—organization assessment. This step involved taking a good, hard look at our internal structures, processes, and policies to determine what was working well, what was needed to move forward, and what was inhibiting staff performance. The entire staff was invited to participate in a series of meetings to examine how their divisions operate and interact with other areas. We conducted an organizational capability survey and our GE representatives shared best practices.

We learned a lot about our organizational capability through this process. We found that the increasing staff size and the growing complexity of the work we do have created a need for the College to develop our leadership and staff capabilities and roles. Some specific concerns uncovered include a perceived lack of career growth opportunities and a weak system for evaluating and encouraging performance improvement. We also discovered that many staff members feel disconnected from the ACS leadership and that the organizational culture varies from division to division. Furthermore, we found that the College’s increasing financial footprint and growing commercial activities have created the need to reexamine and refine basic business practices.

To address these staff-focused issues we plan to activate the following initiatives:

  • Develop a first-class workforce through improved management, performance improvement, and leadership training
  • Create a trusting, collaborative work environment
  • Add rigor to operating and planning systems
  • Institute best practices and proven business processes, such as Lean Six Sigma
  • Improve communication and interactions between the ACS headquarters and the Washington, DC, Office

We have learned that some policies and processes make it difficult for you, our members, to take full advantage of ACS Fellowship. We also found that our lack of a central marketing plan is inhibiting our ability to reach out to all of our constituencies and communicate the relevance of ACS Fellowship. We also identified room for growth in terms of our methods of helping you and your institutions function more effectively.

In response to these shortcomings, we intend to implement the following customer-focused initiatives:

  • Create an excellent member experience
  • Continue to provide high-quality services and products
  • Strive for commercial excellence
  • Develop a broader set of accreditation programs
  • Improve members’ ability to attain continuing medical education credits

Next steps

On February 8, the Board of Regents held a retreat to review the progress we are making with this project. During this day-long session, the Regents discussed the role that they will play and the implications for the Board’s meetings and structure. We also examined these same elements and their relationship to the Board of Governors and the Advisory Councils.

Also in February, we entered the second phase of the initiative—development of a performance improvement leadership team. The members of the executive staff were honing their skills as leaders of a high-performance organization and learning how to work together more effectively to carry out the College’s mission. We are developing a core group of experts among the general staff and inculcating them in performance improvement techniques that they can share with their colleagues and use in completing specific projects. In addition, we are providing training in change leadership to create a cultural shift toward a more nimble organization.
The third stage of the GE initiative—activation of strategic imperatives—will involve identifying our strategic imperatives and activation of a plan and framework. We will develop a set of strategic initiatives and establish metrics and targets to keep track of our progress. Then, we will create a strategic playbook, which will include tools and templates for consistency and work plans. After the strategic plan is set in motion—a process likely to take one to three years—we will begin conducting strategic reviews of our performance, identifying gaps and developing action plans for filling those cracks.

An ongoing process

We are all very enthusiastic about this effort to take the College from good to great by instilling a unified sense of purpose in our activities, developing more streamlined and coherent business practices, and responding to the increasingly complex needs of our members. You will be hearing more about this initiative over the course of the next year, and your input, as always, is appreciated.

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