5 lessons from Hospital for Special Surgery's CEO on building a great organization

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Louis Shapiro, president and CEO of New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery, outlined the five focuses that can help make an organization great for the "Becker's Healthcare Spine and Orthopedic Podcast" May 25.

This is an edited excerpt. Listen to the full episode here.

Question: What are some lessons that you can share about building a great organization? 

Mr. Shapiro: My view of what we've been able to accomplish at HSS is not unique to us, and I think it's completely transferable to any organization functioning at a certain level of capability. So if I reverse-engineered what we focused on, there's five things that are important: 

The first one is inspiration. I think people need to be inspired by the organization they're part of. If they're inspired, then the people who are part of the organization can accomplish a great deal on behalf of what that organization is trying to accomplish. Even with the advent of technology, organizations are still largely driven by the people who work there. For HSS, that comes from two things: our big purpose, and it comes from the aspirations that we have. We never declare victory. We're always working to get better. We're always trying to reach more people. We're always trying to make people healthier so they don't need us. If they're sick, we're always working to help them get better faster and more efficiently. 

No. 2 is culture. I've been an advocate of focusing on culture in an organization for a long time, and it's been part of the fabric of HSS. I believe creating an environment where individuals who work there feel like they own the place and are leaders, regardless of what their particular role is in the environment, causes them to be excited to be there. 

Third is I try to look at everything through the lens of people, structure and process. Do you have the right people in the right roles? Do you have the right structure that allows them to do their job, and do you have the right processes in place? There's a lot of moving parts, and organizations evolve over time, and you need to constantly evaluate things from a people, structure and process point of view. 

The fourth thing is strategy. One thing we do here is we are always reflecting on how we got to this point, what's going on in the environment around us, where we think we need to be in the future and how we're going to get there. We refer to that as our road map. That has kept us on the straight and narrow path. 

The fifth thing is details. Details really matter. Blocking and tackling, getting things done, measuring progress and having a true shared leadership model throughout the organization. You can only communicate. So really focusing on making sure that your communications are top notch. I think those are all fundamentals of what we do that contribute to our success that is not necessarily directly relevant to being a Center of Excellence in healthcare.

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