Ready to pick up a business book that will challenge how you view your school?  Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic by Leonard Berry & Kent Seltman is this type of book.  How the Mayo Clinic has grown into the #1 hospital in America is worth examining.

We were all served a reminder last summer when Senator John McCain was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  He went in for an annual physical and complained of a few unusual symptoms.  After consulting with another specialist or two, the doctor recommended a CAT scan which was performed that same day.  On McCain’s way home, he was called back to the hospital after a radiologist reviewed the CAT scan.  Now, think about this for a minute.  A CAT scan the same day?  Analyzed the same day?  He was sent for an MRI and was on the operating table the next morning.   By the following day, an oncologist had biopsied the tumor and his cancer treatment had begun.  In 48 hours!  This kind of rapid treatment utilizing multiple specialists allows for quick treatment and puts the patient’s needs first.

Mayo Clinic is a 100-year brand based on values, service, and research.    Take a look at the three conditions that Dr. William Mayo viewed as essential to the clinic’s success:

  1. Continuing pursuit of the ideal of service and not profit.
  2. Continuing primary and sincere concern for the care and welfare of each individual patient.
  3. Continuing interest by every member of the staff in the professional progress of every other member.

Don’t those values sound like the same kind of values for Catholic schools?  In fact, one of the original Mayo Clinic hospitals was a Catholic hospital run by sisters.  The entire organization is centered on the idea that “the needs of the patient come first.”  Think about the implications for schools.  If we really put students’ needs first (and not parents, teachers, School Board, etc) how would that change our processes?  If all learning was personalized and student needs came first, how would that change our schedules?  Teaching styles?  Professional development?  Hiring?

Putting students first is often interpreted as catering to every student’s whims.  But how would that work in a hospital?  The Mayo Clinic is set up to serve the needs of patients and the doctors are in the best position to judge what is best.  This patient-centered culture drives medical research, collaborative decision-making, and a mission focus for all employees.

As the authors point out, the real values of an organization are the values which are lived.  At Mayo, that means care for all patients, collaboration, and efficiency.  What are the values of your school?  Another value is “teach, don’t blame.”  This means that mistakes are learning opportunities.  In schools, there are plenty of mistakes.  How are we learning?

The other concept which the authors explore is that marketing without meaning has no impact.  At Mayo, the staff is focused on improving and serving patients.  Marketing is an outgrowth of that effort, rather than marketing efforts which make false promises.  Often in schools, people latch onto marketing as the panacea for enrollment ills.

I often think that hospitals have many lessons to teach us educators.  After all, they attract community support, share a mission-driven purpose, supply a necessary function, and attract lots of fundraising dollars.  This book provides a unique insight into one of the best hospital systems with lessons galore for your school.