Prescription for Excellence: A book review by Bob Morris
A vigorous and comprehensive analysis of UCLA Health System
As indicated in previously published books, Joseph A. Michelli is attracted to and fascinated by organizational excellence. He has an almost (not quite) insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. First, he studied Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle (When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace, co-authored with John Yokoyama, its owner), then Starbucks Coffee and Tea Company (The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary), then Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton), and now UCLA Health System (Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System). Notice the descriptive terms: “a vital and energized workplace,” “turning ordinary into extraordinary,” “creating a legendary customer experience,” and “creating a world-class customer experience.” All of these terms (not one but all) describe all four organizations.
In this latest volume, Michelli organizes his material within eleven chapters and concludes each of 2-11 with a “Prescription Summary” and then “Prescriptive Action” worksheet” when ending his Conclusion. Readers will also appreciate his insertion of “Your Diagnostic Checkup” sets of self-diagnostic questions throughout the narrative. For example:
Vision: “Have you placed the ‘face of the customer’ in all aspects of your discussions? Do you start meetings with customer service stories? Have you elevated your corporate vision to address aspects of compassionate care of your customers?” (One of five Qs, Page 26)
Safety: “What are the five business-critical safety objectives for your business?” (One of five Qs, Pages 76-77)
Measurement: “What metrics, certifications, or criteria should consumers rely upon to determine quality in your industry? How do you perform against those metrics? Do you educate the consumer as to which criteria really matter?” (One of four Qs, Pages 130-131)
Lean Thinking: “Are you building ‘lean thinking’ efficiency approaches? If not, what alternative strategies do you have in place to revise processes and standardize operations? Do you have cost steering committees and value analysis teams operating in your company?” (One of four Qs, Page 157)
Breakthrough Innovations: “How can you leverage the diversity of your organization to build on your breakthrough innovations and achieve a ‘center of excellence’ for your specific area of innovation?” (One of four Qs, Page 183-184)
Note that none of these is unique to the provision of health care. These and other questions posed by Michelli should be asked and then answered by leaders in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. It should also be noted that the sets of questions also accomplish two other strategic objectives: (1) they require the reader to interact with the material by correlating it with her or his own specific circumstances and (2) they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key issues later, serving as “gut checks” or “reality checks” when measuring progress, to date, of change initiatives.
If this book were a novel, Dr. David Feinberg would be its hero and protagonist. However, the other “characters” are comparable in terms of number and variety with those in a novel by Tolstoy. There are hundreds of real-world situations throughout the book that illustrate the process by which UCLA Health System’s leaders (at all levels and in all departments) have achieved and then sustained operational excellence. Michelli leaves no doubt that this unique professional community will continue to improve, guided and informed by a shared commitment in four specific areas: growing while maintaining superior quality, inspiring breakthrough innovation while generating cohesion, balancing technological advances with authentic humanity, and achieving recognition and respect for extraordinary accomplishments.
In my opinion, this is Joseph Michelli’s most important book…and his most valuable book…thus far. I also think it is his most entertaining. Bravo!