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Nancy Schlichting of Henry Ford reflects on the journey to quality

By | October 28th, 2013 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Nancy Schlichting: “There are a lot more women working in our health systems, but not very many women leading them.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

The journey to winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was just as important as the final destination for CEO Nancy Schlichting and the Henry Ford Health System.

 

The honor, bestowed by the office of the President of the United States, goes to a limited number of organizations each year for quality and innovation. Yet Schlichting suggested it as a goal to her team a full seven years before the system won the award in 2011. In fact, Ford didn’t merit a site visit from the Baldrige investigators until the year it won.

 

“I started bringing the Baldrige application process to our team because I wanted us to get better as an organization focusing on the important things,” says Schlichting. “The framework helps you to be a strong organization, and it forces you to become more integrated.”

 

Yet midway through those years, she and the organization had some doubts.

 

“At the same time we were going through the Baldrige process, the U.S. had its economic collapse. It was a very challenging period,” Schlichting remembers. “There were moments along the way where I think my team thought we should take a year off, but I said no because it really was more about the journey than the award.”

 

As the system persevered, Schlichting says she took another look at how Ford was presenting its story to Baldrige.

 

“I remember talking to Bob Riney (Ford’s president and chief operating officer) and said, ‘I don’t think we’re telling our story right. I don’t think people understand us. We have to include the fact that we’re in Detroit. We’re a unique safety-net organization, yet we have all these expanding suburban markets. We work differently than a lot of organizations.’ ”

 

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