Adam Steele was approaching retirement and was greatly concerned about the sustainability of the values he had tried to establish in the organization. The blue highways journeys were critical to sustaining those values and that’s why he insisted his management team spend time with grassroots America. The stories of the blue highways heroes were also important. In fact, these stories often came up in his management team meetings. He was especially pleased by the lives that his children and their immigrant friends were living. Today he decided to share the story of Evie since it was especially relevant to what was weighing on his mind.
Evie was often referred to as the conscience of the Camlin Community Hospital (CCH). Camlin was a small town and the hospital served a vast region. She was a Registered Nurse who had been at Camlin for 42 years. She set the standard for patient care. CCH was looked upon as one of the best small hospitals in the state based upon patient ratings. Evie had a lot to do with how patients were treated. Although she had no administrative title or authority, she set the standard by how she cared for patients. If someone didn’t meet her care standards, she would have an “Evie talk” with them. This included medical doctors as well as other caregivers. Woe be it should an administrator or staff member display an attitude toward patients.
Unfortunately, trends in medical care did not favor small community hospitals. CCH was taken over by the state’s major hospital, which was affiliated with the state’s university. The takeover quickly refocused the hospital from patient care to bottom line concerns. Evie decided it was time to retire. A lot of the medical doctors she “trained” also retired. They were replaced by travelling physicians from the acquiring hospital. A number of these physicians had limited abilities when it came to bedside manner. Since they held faculty positions at the university, they had dual roles in clinical research and patient care. Bedside manner was not how they were evaluated.
The standards of care for which CCH was known quickly evaporated. While Camlin’s residents had little choice about where to seek medical care, CCH developed a terrible reputation. The pride of Camlin in its health care system was gone. Community pride is very fragile, and the loss of pride in CCH quickly spilled over to other parts of the community.
Adam explained that what CCH experienced is called anomie. “As originally envisioned, anomie refers to a societal culture which lacks a set of shared values. There is no standard for what is right and just. Leaders are not role models of what people should expect of each other. A moral compass no longer exists. Individuals only care for what is best for them.”
“Anomie also applies to private sector organizations like ours as well. Every organization has its own culture. Surprisingly, this culture is often more bottom-up driven than top-down. There are Evies in every organization where a strong culture exists. One person can set the tone for organizational norms just as Evie did. I think each of you can identify our Evies.”
“One reason that corporate margins and acquisitions often fail is that they don’t appreciate the cultural legacy that has been forged over many years. That legacy doesn’t appear in any due diligence documents. It’s not hard to identify, but it can be very fragile to preserve. I need each of you to protect our legacy.”
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“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” – Shannon Alder (inspirational author and therapist)