Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Importance of a Strong Brand

As I have previously mentioned, we are in the process of making regional visits both in the U.S. and in Mexico to all of our campuses, facilities and programs to review our progress on our 10-year Journey to Excellence as we approach or 10th anniversary in Feb. of 2009.

During these regional trips, we are reviewing the following in detail:
1. What we have carried through from the prior two organizations that came together to form CHRISTUS Health;
2. What were some intentional strategies which were implemented immediately when CHRISTUS came together in 1999;
3. Where we are on all of our metrics embedded in our Journey to Excellence;
4. The importance of Futures Task Force I during this first 10-year journey and
5. What will the next 10 years potentially look like for CHRISTUS Health?

In this blog post, I would like to discuss the first two issues. I have reviewed where we are on our journey thus far already, and will certainly provide an update on that subject closer to our 10th anniversary in February of next year. We have also reviewed our Futures Task Force I process, and will be sharing with you in more detail what Futures Task Force II recommends in the February 2009 timeframe also.

Because the two organizations that came together to form CHRISTUS were over 133 years old when CHRISTUS was formed, we needed to make sure we reviewed their history and carried forth into those elements which were an important part of their culture. As a result of this review, the mission of these two organizations remains the mission of CHRISTUS Health: to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

However, as I have recently observed the Associates, patients and residents in a variety of settings in the U.S. and Mexico, it is clear to me that this mission is more vibrant and robust than it was when we began in 1999. We are a much more diverse organization with regard to our ethnicity, gender, age, religion and even talent. Our ecumenical profile has indeed expanded in all these aspects, and it is clear that Jesus would support embracing all people and therefore the direction we have taken. Also, the equality of all people and every individual is embedded in the incarnational spirituality of our founding congregations and their two health systems; consequently, this also supports the ever-expanding profile of the CHRISTUS family as well as the people we serve.

The values of the two prior organizations were also extremely strong, so they were carried forth into CHRISTUS Health with only minor revisions. We added excellence to our core values as well, because as we are taking care of people and their lives, excellence is a necessity and not a luxury. Therefore, excellence must be expressed consistently and constantly in our values, whether verbally or in writing. And more importantly, they must be seen as living behaviors in our activities every day.

Of course, both prior organizations had visions, but when combined, these were not deep enough for CHRISTUS Health. Consequently, by working with our system governing board and leadership team in we created and adopted our present vision statement that indicates we will provide exemplary processes, programs and people in local, regional, national and international communities so that all may experience God’s healing presence.

As I pause and look at these three important foundational elements of CHRISTUS Health, it is my belief that they will continue to be our mission, vision and values long into the future.

So as CHRISTUS Health came together in 1999, undergirded by these 3 profound documents, forming our firm foundation, the Senior Team intentionally did two important things.

First, they committed immediately to the importance of having the CHRISTUS name on all buildings and programs both present and future, and indicated that this would represent our brand. Subsequently, this brand has been developed and is characterized by two important characteristics: our Journey to Excellence, and transparency. Our continuous and nonwavering commitment to having metrics in our four directions to excellence and our willingness to have those available on our website as well as to our internal audience so we can be honest about where we are and committed to action plans to get us where we want to be are the heart and soul of CHRISTUS Health. In fact, as we knew it would be our brand that would cause other people to ask whether or not they could become part of the CHRISTUS organization. It is this brand that has given us the ability to acquire what is now CHRISTUS Santa Rosa - New Braunfels hospital, become partners with St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in New Mexico and expand from two hospitals to seven in Mexico.

It is our brand which causes the state and federal governments to call us periodically to ask us what we think about an issue upon which they are deliberating. It is our brand that is behind the waiting list for people who want to work in various CHRISTUS regions and programs. It is our brand that has caused us to be named in some locations as one of the best places to work. It is the commitment to our brand that has caused us to face the challenges of the last 10 years, to implement the changes that were required to address these challenges and to make the progress that we have made in all four directions to excellence during this 10-year journey.

And it is our brand that has caused hospitals looking for buyers or partners to select us over other bidders that would have paid more and promised more from the for-profit segment of health care.

We are one of the few large international systems that utilizes a system name which is visible on buildings, stationary, vehicles and advertisements and represents the consistencies that are present in all CHRISTUS facilities and programs whether in a rural community a large city, academic program, or school-based clinic. This branding was done intentionally, and we believe has been an essential factor in the building of our culture of excellence and our opportunity for expansion internationally.

However, we also recognized in 1999 that the miracle moments which would improve the health of our patients, residents and their families would not occur in the Dallas system headquarters or within the system logo or brand. Rather, these moments would be created by the members of the CHRISTUS family who are serving in our regions and facilities, and that is why our branding strategy includes the region as well as the local facility or program, i.e., CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, CHRISTUS Spohn Health System, CHRISTUS Muguerza High Specialty Hospital.

It is the balance between the system consistencies and the local customization to meet the community needs in our regions and programs that guarantees success for the many, varied communities we serve both in the U.S. and Mexico. It’s the appreciation of the need for this balance that truly has made us successful during this first decade of our journey.

Balancing the consistency throughout all of our regions with the local strategies and tactics has given us the ability to grow from 22,000 Associates to almost 30,000, to grow our net revenue from $3.3 billion to $4.7 billion, to grow our physician family from 6,200 to 6,800, to grow our foundation philanthropy programs from $12 million to almost $30 million and to grow our volunteer numbers from 900 to 1,800.

This growth in and of itself is not important. That is, being big just to be big should never be a goal. But to be able to serve a larger number of people so that the mission, vision and values that we carried forth could be extended to others is. That we are continuing to improve the health and well-being of a greater population is the appropriate outcome.

Growth is important if it is done right, for a non-growing organization often lacks the energy, enthusiasm, optimism and innovation that is required to be filled with a culture of excellence. CHRISTUS Health intentionally carried forth the important items from the past and immediately put forth key strategies which appear to have created the ideal recipe for a successful CHRISTUS Health in its first decade, and hopefully has created the building blocks for strength to go forward into the future.

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