The Top 10 CEO Roles in Quality – Part 1

Effective quality and safety programs take effort, resources, and unrelenting determination.  They also require leadership from all levels of the organization.  But leadership from the top is critical. As Harry Truman said, “the buck stops here”.  In this case, it “begins and ends at the CEO’s desk”.

Many CEOs have embraced the quality agenda and gladly lead the charge.  They lead high performing organizations that are often listed in the Top 100 hospitals and the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital lists.  But in organizations where the CEO is silent, quality performance is usually mediocre at best.  A strong, vocal CEO is one of the keys to a top performing organization.  And because better quality = lower costs, they often lead the most cost effective organizations as well.

So, what do these CEOs do that distinguishes them and their organizations?  Here are three key roles that the CEO can play that will propel your organization toward best in class quality and cost effectiveness.

  1. The CEO plays THE leading role.  They are the leading spokesperson for the quality program.  The CEO is the passionate leader for improvement.   The CEO makes it clear Quality is the organizations top priority.  The CEO is unrelenting in this dialogue, using every available avenue and forum to reinforce its importance – that it is priority #1. Even with a CMO or CQO who manages the overall strategy and daily execution, this role can’t be delegated.  The CEO is the leading spokesperson for the importance of best in class performance.  There can be no compromise here.  What the CEO endorses publicly and privately is what gets done.  If the CEO is silent on this topic, the message to the entire organization is that it’s unimportant.
  2. The CEO makes quality and safety THE Number One Strategic Priority.  The CEO splays the leading role in crafting the strategic plan.  Quality and Safety can no longer be relegated to the bottom of the list – or worse, left off the list all together.  If we truly believe in top quality, an error free environment, and that a great patient experience will drive our collective success, the quality belongs nowhere else except at the top of the list.  Growth, financial performance, physician engagement – all the other priorities can be driven by great quality.
  3. The CEO makes Excellence a Core Value.  I recently had the pleasure of watching a CEO immerse herself in high reliability science.  She studied, she attended conferences, she hired an expert in high reliability design, she learned about her organizations error rates, their severity, and the ones that caused patient deaths.  She understood the error rates and the critical crossroad for her organization.  She became passionate about the subject and started to make high profile moves to communicate the importance to the organization.  One of the first – she made SAFETY one of the organization’s five core values.  This became her stump speech.  Her passion was infectious.  Her enthusiasm was unending.  Her board supported her 110%.  She was a bold.  It was a calculated move that sent a strong message to the organization – “Safety is a core value – it’s one of the most important things we will do everyday; – t’s part of who we are – it’s part of our CORE – it’s part of our VALUES.”

In my next post, I’ll review the next three CEO Roles essential to creating a great quality organization.  In all there are 10.5 steps that I’ll include in the next two posts.

Question: In what ways does your CEO lead your quality and safety program?  How have you gotten them to take the lead? Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!