Reviewed by Meredith Schneider
The needs of the patient come first. This concept seems inherent for anyone in the health care field, yet it is precisely what distinguishes Mayo Clinic from all others of its kind. The safety, needs, and well-being of the patient guides the actions of every aspect of the clinic, beginning with the janitor who meticulously sterilizes the operating room and continuing up through the ranks to the surgeon who organizes a birthday party for a patient’s family. The unique cultural values of the Mayo Clinic reside in all who work there and allow Mayo to maintain their branding of one of the world’s top health institutions for more than 100 years.
When the Mayo brothers founded the Clinic in the early 1900s, they focused primarily on offering the best patient care, the most advanced science, and exemplary training for future generations of physicians. Unlike many major health care organizations, money is not the primary motivator of performance at Mayo Clinic. Employees feel rewarded by performing to their maximum potential and providing the highest level of care possible to all patients, regardless of financial or social status. Additionally, there is a tremendous level of humility among physicians and executives, in that all doctors are on salary, which is very unusual amongst physicians. The Mayo brothers instituted the salary model at the Clinic’s foundation to ensure that physicians were motivated simply by the practice of the job itself, not by financial advancement.
A core value of the Mayo Clinic is the collaborative environment of practicing team medicine. This “pooling of talent” integrates the work of multiple specialties into the single case of a patient, comparing the feeling of succeeding to a baseball team scoring a homerun. The lack of financial incentives also promotes the physicians to collaborate on additional projects for patients without the fear of losing money or time.
The Mayo Clinic also institutes a very open communication policy with little to no boundaries within the various ranks of the organization. Because poor communication in the field of health care can be detrimental to the safety of patients, the culture of the Clinic insists upon open collaborative problem solving. Plus-One, a program instituted in 2005, asserts that any employee can ask the help of someone in a higher position of command in order to provide the necessary care for a patient. The lack of intimidation in the hierarchy of employees results in more effective communication, and thus lower error rates.
Unusually, the success of the Mayo Clinic operates primarily via word-of-mouth by patients and outside physicians, and the Clinic did not even have a marketing department until 1992. Mayo relies on the great satisfaction of patient care to promote the services of the Clinic, and patients travel from all over the world to receive treatment at all three campuses in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona.
The Mayo Clinic’s approach to management is extremely unique and innovative in comparison to other institutions, both inside and outside of the health care industry. In actuality, the nature of health care presents many challenges that are not faced in other industries. As stated in the book, the majority of the organization’s customers are physically in pain; many of the customers live in their facilities while undergoing care and require 24-hour service; the services at the Clinic are based on need, not want, and many customers would rather spend their time elsewhere; the necessary services needed by patients must be customized to each individual circumstance; and customers are very high-risk, in that mistakes made on behalf of the Clinic can be fatal. Thus, the Mayo Clinic’s distinctive management model proves to be even more impressive given these unusual conditions.
This book provides a superior outlook to management in that it is not merely preaching suggestions on how to run a company, it is describing a system that has been in place for more than 100 years. The humility of employees that work towards a common goal, the needs of the customer, sets a strong precedent for all other institutions. The system of management at the Mayo Clinic reflects the philosophies of Mary Parker Follett, with a very collaborative environment in which employees are recognized as individuals and decision-making is a multi-person process.
I would highly recommend this book to other public relations students. Although at first the concepts may appear to apply solely to those in the health care industry, the case study describes the managerial techniques that have allowed Mayo Clinic to maintain their brand for more than 100 years with minimal marketing. Additionally, Mayo’s atmosphere of teamwork is very important to public relations professionals, in that they must integrate the work of multiple specialties within a company in order to promote the brand. Additionally, public relations practitioners must not be intimidated to question higher-ranking officials within an organization concerning issues in which they have greater expertise.
A lesson that all students can take from Management Lessons From Mayo Clinic is that the needs of the customer must always come first. Through times of economic hardship many companies are forced to scale back the quality of their service because of lack of funds, however the reputation and superior care that the Clinic offers allows them to maintain very high standards of execution. I feel that this book provides a very insightful discussion of an extremely successful model of management, and I would highly recommend it to both public relations students and managers of all types of businesses.