When Meriden Wallingford Hospital and World War II Veterans Memorial Hospital merged in 1991 to form 94-bed MidState Medical Center in Meriden, Conn., the facilities faced a common challenge plaguing newly combined organizations: a clash of cultures.
World War II Veterans Memorial Hospital was a city-owned facility, and Meriden Wallingford was an independent community hospital. The joined hospitals, which had been rivals, responded to the challenge by first defining and then nurturing a new, shared culture focused on customer satisfaction. For reinventing that organizational culture and creating a service-oriented climate, the MidState project team won the Sodexho award for values integration.
That esprit de corps did not happen accidentally. And it's a process that has been evolving for nearly a decade.
"We hadn't really consciously thought about what our new culture should be," says Gary Burke, MidState's director of quality. "We decided we needed to figure out who we were and focus it around customer service."
He says the hospital's "Values and Behaviors Action Group," which included a vice president, an orderly, a nurse, a behavioral health therapist, a housekeeper and a billing clerk, decided if they were going to change the culture they first had to determine the system's core values and reinforce those. The group began by crafting a vision statement in 1993.
"We involved staff and had discussions with different groups in the hospital. It wasn't just a bunch of senior managers deciding what to put on paper," Burke says.
The process was so basic that it began by defining terms such as customer. "We wanted customer to mean everybody: caregivers, patients, family members, visitors and, very importantly, employees," he says. "In many ways we employees also are customers of each other. "
MidState's values group held 60 meetings during two months. After hundreds of interviews the group winnowed suggestions for values to include respect, caring and teamwork and selected behaviors that demonstrated those values.
"It worked because it came bottom up, not top down," Burke says.