Transitions in key leadership positions have occurred in an orderly fashion for decades at Pomona (Calif.) Valley Hospital Medical Center.
Consider this: The current president and chief executive officer -- Richard Yochum, who took over the top posts in 1993 -- was groomed for the positions for five years before he took over.
Yochum joined Pomona Valley in 1978 as an assistant administrator and moved through the management ranks to his current position, holding the positions of vice president and executive vice president and chief operating officer along the way.
"I was a product of succession planning. The board, my predecessor and myself were all in agreement that maybe someday when I grew up, I might take over this hospital," Yochum says.
He's passing on the tradition of succession planning to a new generation at the 436-bed hospital, which serves parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Indeed, succession planning has taken on even more importance lately because about half of the eight-member senior executive team are nearing retirement age. Yochum is 56.
The ideal situation is to have one or two people who are being groomed to step into a higher-level leadership role, Yochum says. Because of the hospital's limited resources, most of the emphasis of succession planning is devoted to the senior team as well as other key positions such as chief compliance officer, a post added in 2001.
In June, JoAnne George, vice president of development, retired after 24 years at the hospital. Michael Driebe, who was recruited from outside the hospital, replaced George. Driebe joined the staff a year before George's retirement so he would have time to learn the job from George.
Driebe "was brought in with the idea that he would replace her but it wasn't guaranteed," Yochum says. "The final decision was made here just within the last month."
Of course, the preferred path is to promote from within the hospital. Says Yochum, "We sit down with the senior leadership and we say, `Who are the people who look like they are up-and-comers?' "
Managers are schooled to regularly tell employees, "If you want to grow or if you are interested in other areas, come forward," Yochum says.
For example, Chris Aldworth, executive director of clinics and business planning, began his career at the hospital as a respiratory therapist. "He has grown into various management positions and we helped him with his bachelor's degree," Yochum says.
And Cherie Rudoll, now vice president of nursing and patient-care service, began her career at the hospital in 1992, when she was hired as director of quality and resource management. She was promoted to administrative director of the cancer center in 1999 and to her current position in 2001.