Search firms: Wash the cars
The lawsuit filed by Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, Fla., against the global leader in executive search, Heidrick & Struggles, has provided a useful backdrop for executive recruiters to ask ourselves whether our process can be improved and whether we, as an industry, can do better ("Searching for some answers," Jan. 27, p. 6).
The answer is an unqualified "yes" to both questions.
We must make real changes in the way we operate to ensure that the terms "client partnership" and "shared risk" are more than brochure-speak. When executive recruiters start an engagement today they must own the results, not just the quality of finalists.
A good place to demonstrate ownership of the results is with the placement guarantee. Search firms-those handling performance-critical assignments at the senior-executive level-should guarantee the quality of their work and the performance of the successful candidate for two years. Very few executive candidates stumble in the first year. Having this much "skin" in the game means that search consultants must drill down into a candidate's performance history. Working like investigative reporters unafraid to ask the tough questions, recruiters must rigorously probe a candidate's answers and explanations, even when we are acquainted with or have knowledge of the individual. To validate this critical information, some cutting-edge firms routinely use a network of former police and FBI investigators who conduct face-to-face interviews with critical primary and secondary references including former colleagues, governing board and medical staff members. These interviews are in addition to exhaustive internal reference interviews, checks of candidate credentials and reviews of federal and state records, etc.
In today's environment, with a dearth of marquee names to replenish the ranks of retiring CEOs, this extensive due diligence should be a new minimum level of service.
Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, has said, "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car." What does this have to do with executive search? Accountability shares risk and ownership of the results.
We need to set a new standard of performance so that our clients come to expect that we will wash the car.
President, managing director
Advice and accountability
I read with great interest the article on the lawsuit against Heidrick & Struggles (Jan. 27, p. 6). In my healthcare career I have been placed by search firms, have used firms to hire and have been a search executive with Tyler & Co. My experience overall, on both sides of the business, has been very positive. Most search executives work hard to find the right group of candidates for their clients. The reputations of their firms (as well as their personal reputations) are at stake. Not to mention that from a practical standpoint, it costs money if you have to redo a search.
An obvious problem is the reluctance of references to candidly describe all aspects of a candidate's historical performance. Problems also arise when clients refuse to follow advice given during the search process and end up in a mess. Organizations cannot turn hiring responsibility over to the search firm. The hiring organization has ultimate accountability for the hire and must be diligent in its interviewing and reference-checking processes. Using a search firm is not a foolproof process. However, choosing a reputable firm, listening to the counsel of the search executive and retaining accountability generally will produce a better result than working without a professional search firm.
Chief executive officer
Hopkins County Memorial Hospital
Sulphur Springs, Texas
The next generation
Thanks for a very interesting article, "Executive suite squeeze" (Jan. 27, p. 16). As a hospital chief executive who is approaching the general age range discussed in your article, the statement, "A majority believed the industry lacks sufficient talent to replace those executives who will retire in the next decade," comes across as a bit self-appreciative when made by current healthcare CEOs.
Sure, we all believe that no one can do the job as well as we can. That's part of having the confidence necessary for the position. I think more realistically none of us wants to acknowledge that we eventually will be replaced. Also, all of our accomplishments and us will probably be forgotten much quicker than ideally would be desired.
But as far as proclaiming that there is not enough talent to replace the currently retiring generation of healthcare CEOs, let's wait until our governing boards make that observation. It would sound more credible.
Atlanta (Texas) Memorial Hospital
After reading Modern Healthcare's Dec. 2, 2002, article, "Boardroom disclosure" (p. 8) we are concerned that the American Hospital Association is taking such a lenient stance toward the issue of potential board members' conflicts of interest. In light of today's environment, it seems imperative that the AHA develops stronger corporate governance, disclosure and conflict-of-interest policies. In addition, we understand that one cannot dictate good judgment, but it is our belief that an AHA board member should respect all perceived and/or real conflicts of interest by abstaining from serving on any vendor boards while serving the AHA in a public capacity.
In the wake of corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom, our national and local newspapers have headlined articles, debates and editorials on corporate governance, codes of ethics and conflicts of interest. This focus is marked with the federal government taking the unprecedented step of legally defining heavier controls over corporate governance through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. For example, the act requires disclosure of whether a company has a code of ethics for its chief financial officer, which would include a conflict-of-interest policy. Many other companies are following the lead of the government and the national markets by toughening their current corporate governance and conflict-of-interest policies. The American Medical Association is using a 15-page disclosure statement as compared with the AHA's two-page document.
The AHA also is lacking written statements detailing what would be considered a conflict of interest. The AHA's spokesman, Richard Wade, verbally mentioned a potential conflict of an AHA board member serving on the board of a Blues plan. These types of conflicts of interest should be incorporated into a formalized written policy defining unacceptable relationships and the guidelines for dealing with such conflicts when they occur. Strong written policies will serve as better organizational protection than the current just-in-time individual honor system.
Matthew Barnes, director, ambulatory services; Cris Curnutt, director, health centers; Holly Harris, manager, health centers; Doug Hock, senior vice president; Victor Manes, director, international operations; Angie Pettigrew, special projects coordinator; Tabitha Rice, assistant director, emergency center; Michelle Riley, assistant director, ambulatory services; Diane Scardino, assistant director, logistics, facilities planning and development; Yolanda Segura, manager, clinical service cancer center; Ivett Tamez, assistant director, health centers; Lydia Valadez-Mcstay, director, government and community relations; Mark Wallace, president, chief executive officer
Texas Children's Hospital
Let's talk verification
We agree with Margaret O'Kane that it is time to bring all parties to the table to eliminate waste and redundancy in the system of physician credentialing ("Verify, but please, only once," Nov. 25, 2002, p. 17).
In fact, the membership and leadership of the National Association Medical Staff Services have partnered with state and national organizations and stakeholders in an effort to develop a standardized, high-quality common application form, to reduce the amount of paperwork and time spent on credentialing and privileging activities.
Practitioners are faced with the burden of complying with a multitude of state and federal statutes and differing credentialing standards from accrediting organizations such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission, etc. No requirements are alike.
We would like to issue an invitation to O'Kane to join us at the table to find new and better ways to decrease the burden of credentialing while maintaining patient safety.
Chief executive officer
National Association Medical Staff Services