Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paul Levy and the Beth Israel in Boston

Several years ago, David Garvin and I developed a multi-media case study about the remarkable turnaround that Paul Levy engineered at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. We had an up-close look at that change process, as we interviewed Paul every few weeks as the turnaround took place - beginning just a few days after he became CEO of the hospital. We learned from our study that Levy had a number of distinctive leadership capabilities. Perhaps most importantly, he earned the trust of his workforce, and he built collective ownership for his turnaround plan. Those qualities enabled him to lead a very successful implementation of the plan, returning the hospital to positive cash flow after many years of heavy losses.

Now, the Boston Globe reports that Levy has had to cut costs again in the face of the economic downturn. He stood before his workforce and asked if they would consider sacrificing their pay increases to save the jobs of the lowest-paid staff members at the hospital who might otherwise have to be laid off. He barely got the words out of his mouth, and the entire staff erupted in applause. They chose to make a small sacrifice to save the jobs of their fellow employees.

It's a great story. I applaud the efforts of the amazing team at the BIDMC. I admit that I'm biased, given that I studied the hospital in depth. I'm also biased, though, because they did a remarkable job of helping our family during a serious illness several years ago. The staff is incredibly dedicated, and I'm glad to see that they are trying their best to retain everyone at this time.

For those who are interested, Paul Levy maintains a very interesting blog. Click here to access it.