Measuring Up

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders News , October 11, 2007

At HealthLeaders Media, we often ask the question, "What makes a healthcare organization great?"

We get a wide variety of answers to that question. But for every example of an outstanding organization that we find, there's a leadership team that inspires, provokes, or forces the institution to measure up to a set of ideals.

Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego, tells his direct reports that they can miss their targets once, but they won't be around to miss them twice. With the volatility of healthcare, outside factors can often influence a hospital's performance.

Far too frequently, Van Gorder says, healthcare executives use external variables as an excuse. "You have to project and anticipate the potential changes and develop appropriate contingencies," he says. "You have to develop metric-driven targets so you can measure your performance and find ways to achieve your financial, safety and quality goals."

To a large degree, strong leaders hold their organizations accountable, but they also communicate well so that the team knows what is expected and the consequences of failure. Van Gorder sets expectations, and how many executives has he terminated from his leadership team in nearly eight years?


"The reason people don't perform is that their managers haven't truly explained the expectation," says Van Gorder. "When people understand what the goals are, I find that they are willing to put in the best effort, make tough decisions, and are much more proactive in hitting goals."

Today I'm joining Van Gorder and more than 40 other senior healthcare leaders in Chicago for HealthLeaders Media's Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare conference. At this peer-led event, I will be sure to report back to you about hospital-physician relations and winning teamwork from organizations like Scripps and Radiological Associates of Sacramento Medical Group.

Rick Johnson is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at

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