A Few Notes about This Blog

This blog shares my insights on the design, introduction and active management of effective sustainability programs in hospital settings. Unlike the thousands of discussions on sustainability's altruistic, conceptual and technical aspects, though, this blog approaches the discipline from organizational management and development perspectives.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion in the trade media around the American Hospital Association's new "Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals," which complements the association's excellent work in its recent "Executive Primer on Hospital Environmental Sustainability." (

With the AHA - as well as Practice Greenhealth, Healthcare without Harm and other organizations - staking authoritative claims to the topic, why do I think it necessary to add my two cents? Here's why. The AHA executive primer covers several of the big concepts any good sustainability program should have. Further, its roadmap details many of the high-level steps needed to create and run it. However, neither will be able to adequately explore institution-specific details for successful organizational design, change management and program effectiveness.

That's not a failing of AHA's superlative work; it is simply recognition that when it comes to management programs, such as sustainability, one size does not fit all. Each hospital needs to custom design its own sustainability program to meet its specific needs, including working within its resource limits and opportunities. Helping you and your institution work through the details is where this blog comes in.

The first few blog posts address basic concepts, including the special challenges healthcare delivery organizations face whenever they create new performance capabilities. After that the discussion will shift to the key questions a hospital – or, any other organization for that matter – must answer in creating and running a sustainability program and, by extension, an all-encompassing corporate social responsibility program. Then, the discussions dive into the "how-to-do-it" details with a big emphasis on anticipating and controlling obstructions to success.

Rather than prescribe rigid off-the-shelf methods that may have worked well elsewhere – yet, might not work so well at your hospital – these discussions will pose key questions that must be answered by the best minds at all levels of your institution to create a customized program.

This blog is a serialized body of work. So, if this is your first visit, I highly recommend that you start with the oldest post date and work forward from there. The entries will make a lot more sense that way.

For those of you who work in other industries, substitute the words "hospital" and "healthcare" used throughout the posts with the name of your industry or company. You'll probably find the information in this blog fits your field and organization quite well.

Lastly, if you are a sustainability professional, I would be honored if you sign-up to follow this blog and share it with your colleagues. Also, please feel free to share your views and experiences.

Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Introduction to This Blog

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that leaders at your hospital may be thinking about going green. First, there's all of that au courant media coverage. Then, there is the fact that your institution is dedicated to making an altruistic difference in the lives of patients, staff, their families and the community.  It only makes sense for leaders to be thinking:

While we're at it, let's do something nice for ol' Mom Earth!

So goes the reasoning of:

• That shake-up-the-status-quo board member, who recently introduced a new green policy proposal

• The image-conscious executive, who just returned from a conference where s/he learned lots of brand-new green buzzwords, and/or

• The hopelessly quixotic department director, who is always leading the charge for the latest in trendy performance improvements.

Is Your Hospital Really Up for This?
However, somewhere in the recesses of your mind, red flags are a-flying and you are wondering: "Whoa! Haven't I seen these starry-eyed behaviors before?" Why, yes, you have.

Remember how excited everyone at the hospital was when each of those messianic gurus and snake-oil-salesmen promised:

“If you will only believe in my one magic secret-to-success, all your problems will disappear.”

Now, focus on these.

• Harken back to the fun you had during implementation of the electronic medical record system.

• Or, better yet, consider this hot potato: Are you still figuring out how to force-fit continuous-production-flow manufacturing methods into custom-work clinical environments?

Oh! And don't forget the never-ending stream of management-miracles, the flavors-of-the-month.

Ah! You're catching on. Going green involves more than just forming another free-range committee to set out on yet another idealistic journey to do green stuff and perhaps – no, make that probably – waste a lot of scarce resources along the way.

Going green is a major organizational change; it can be as difficult as those other recent whole-house transformation initiatives. Further, if it is truly an important change for your hospital, it can't be dismissed as just another flavor-of-the-month when the going gets tough. Face it now rather than later: The going will get tough!

IN THE NEXT POST: Management? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Management! Oops! Yes We Do.