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Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World's Most Admired Service Organizations

Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World's Most Admired Service Organizations

by Leonard L. Berry, Kent D. Seltman

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The leader’s guide to building a service powerhouse using the approach that made Mayo Clinic the #1 healthcare system in America

Mayo Clinic is among the best service organizations in the world. It fosters a culture that exceeds customer expectations and earns deep loyalty from both customers and employees. This classic business guide


The leader’s guide to building a service powerhouse using the approach that made Mayo Clinic the #1 healthcare system in America

Mayo Clinic is among the best service organizations in the world. It fosters a culture that exceeds customer expectations and earns deep loyalty from both customers and employees. This classic business guide offers a rare, up-close look at the best practices that drive Mayo Clinic’s success. By examining the operating principles that guide every management decision at this legendary institution, authors Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman:

• Demonstrate how a great service brand evolves from the core values that nourish and protect it
• Extrapolate instructive business lessons that apply outside healthcare
• Illustrate the benefits of pooling talent and encouraging teamwork
• Present a proven prescription for creating sustainable service excellence

Learn how to apply the Clinic’s winning methods to your own organization: business concepts that produce stellar results, effective organizational efficiency, and world-class interpersonal service.

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McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
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5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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By Leonard L. Berry Kent D. Seltman


Copyright © 2008 Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-159073-0

Chapter One


On a Sunday afternoon in late June, I was picking up a rental car at the Minneapolis airport. An electronic sign over the car blinked my name, so it was easy to find. Under the windshield wiper lay a handwritten message, filling both sides of a legal-sized page. Curious, I started reading.

The note was from a woman who had seen my name displayed on the sign and took a chance that I was the same Dr. Cortese who treated her father years ago at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He had early-stage lung cancer, and I was on a team developing experimental treatments using laser and light-activated, cancer- killing drugs. Her father had received three treatments, and she wanted to thank me for caring for him. That was 15 years ago. The daughter was at the airport that day because she had flown in from California to attend his funeral. He had died suddenly the night before from a heart problem.

I was touched, not only because she took the time in her grief to write the note, but also because it reminded me of what I find so compelling and rewarding about medicine—caring for patients.

The best physicians and healthcare providers are part engineers and part artists. The engineer sees the problem and applies technology to fix it. Thanks to the engineers, patients benefit from CT scans, minimally invasive surgeries, and computer-guided, pinpoint treatments. The engineering approach has helped patients immensely and has saved many lives. It's measurable, visible, and almost always reimbursable.

The artist knows when the patient needs a warm smile, reassuring words, or a gentle hug. It's the artists who make every patient feel welcome, comfortable, secure, hopeful. The artist sees the anxiety and reassures the new mother that her baby's fever is nothing to worry about. The artist listens to the middle- aged patient unloading his frustration over failed attempts to quit smoking. The artist knows when there's nothing more the engineer can do and helps the patient and family cope at the end of life. What the artist does is why I became a physician.

This is an excerpt from an essay written by Mayo Clinic president and chief executive officer Dr. Denis Cortese in 2002 when he headed Mayo's Jacksonville, Florida, practice. He shared it with the staff in an internal newsletter. We begin with this story because it evokes a powerful truth applicable to all managers regardless of what they manage: organizational excellence is never only about the science. It also is about the "artistry" that Dr. Cortese describes—the human touch, teaching, collaboration, generous acts, personal courage, and core values that guide decision making and inspire extra effort.

This is a book about the art of service that takes readers inside an exceptional service organization, Mayo Clinic, and teaches its lessons. The book is written for all managers who rely on the performances of people to create differentiated value for customers. It is about a legendary healthcare organization, but it is not a healthcare book. It is a book about sustainable service excellence and what drives it. It is about the power of unshakable core values and the leaders—Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his sons Drs. William and Charles Mayo—who lived and taught them and created the cultural and infrastructural investments to sustain them.

The medical practice opened for business more than 140 years ago in the small, isolated Minnesota town of Rochester and came to be called "Mayo Clinic" in the early 1900s. That Mayo Clinic still exists after all this time is noteworthy; that it created one of the most influential and valuable service brands in the world—and has successfully maintained, extended, and protected the brand for so long—is truly remarkable. To this day, the Clinic uses little advertising to promote clinical care. It had no marketing staff until 1986, and from then until 1992 the marketing department consisted of one person.

With so much focus in management circles on the "new"— new concepts, new theories, new models, new technologies—it is refreshing, revealing, and inspiring to learn from a world-renowned institution that established its foundation for success in the early 1900s and continues to depend on that foundation in its twenty-first century success. Mayo Clinic illustrates that an organization's basic concept of the business can be so right that it can endure for the ages. The Clinic showcases the promise of the "modern-traditional" enterprise that aligns strategy with values, innovation with tradition, talent with teamwork, and science with art.

Mayo by the Numbers

Five days each week, a small city moves in and out of Mayo Clinic. Day-shift employees begin to show up at about 5:00 a.m., and over the next 24 hours more than 42,000 employees, students, and volunteers will work or study on the three Mayo Clinic campuses in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. Surgical patients begin arriving at the hospitals as early as 5:30 a.m. for the 300 surgeries performed on a typical weekday. The numbers increase by 6:45 a.m. when patients begin reporting to the laboratory to have their blood drawn. By midafternoon, up to 13,500 patients—each typically accompanied by one or more family members or friends—will have received medical services at Mayo Clinic. By the end of the day, as many as 65,000 people—patients, their family members and friends, as well as employees, students, and volunteers—will have converged on one of the Mayo Clinic campuses to participate in the real-life drama, and in many cases true life or death drama, of twenty-first century healthcare delivery.

During this 24-hour period, patients will undergo more than 4,600 procedures or diagnostic studies—such as an X-ray, a CT scan, or an MRI—in radiology, and one of about 230 Mayo Clinic radiologists will read the images and complete the report, usually in less than 90 minutes. The 2,500 Mayo Clinic physicians will conduct more than 9,000 examinations or consultations. About 375 patients will be treated in one of the three emergency departments in Mayo Clinic's hospitals, and nearly 1,300 patients will spend the night as hospital inpatients.

Mayo Clinic is the first integrated, not-for-profit medical group practice in the world and one of the largest. As a multispecialty medical group, it brings together doctors from virtually every medical specialty—joined by common systems and values—who work together to care for patients. For more than a century, Mayo Clinic has been a major medical institution. In 1912, more than 15,000 individual patients were registered at Mayo Clinic. Twelve years later, when the Mayo brothers were at the height of their careers, Mayo doctors were seeing about 60,000 patients and performing more than 23,600 surgeries per year. (See Table 1-1.) The practice had access to more than 1,500 hospital beds and 27 operating rooms. By 1983, the practice, with 276,800 individual patients, was about four and a half times larger than it was in 1924.

In 1983, Mayo Clinic operated much as it had from the outset in Rochester, Minnesota, but in that year strategic decisions set the organization on an accelerated growth trajectory that continues today. The Rochester hospitals—Saint Marys Hospital and Methodist Hospital—became part of Mayo Clinic in 1986 and the Clinic expanded to Jacksonville, Florida, in 1986 and Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1987. The impact of these changes is detailed in Table 1-1. From 1983 through 2007, the patient volumes nearly doubled, and the number of physicians and research scientists increased by more than 200 percent. Revenue in 2007 totaled $7.3 billion (more than 17 times the revenue in 1983), while the excess of revenue over expense increased to $622.8 million (more than 10 times the amount in 1983).

Although known throughout its history largely for the medical services it provides to patients, Mayo Clinic thinks of itself as "a three-shield organization." The central and larger shield in the Mayo Clinic logo (see Exhibit 1-1) represents patient care. But integrally linked to patient care are the complementary shields of medical research and medical education. The tripartite mission was defined by the Mayo brothers—Drs. William and Charles Mayo—who believed that they were better doctors because they had studied and observed other doctors on a "vacation" each year. (Dr. Charles Mayo and his bride Edith even spent their honeymoon touring hospitals and surgical clinics on the East Coast and in Chicago.) The brothers also engaged with their colleagues around the world through their research publications. The brothers established the original endowment to support medical research and education at Mayo Clinic. Medical education and medical research programs are true complements to Mayo Clinic's primary focus on clinical medicine.

Mayo Clinic is distinctive in that it is a major academic medical center with a medical school that is not university-based. Today, the College of Medicine at Mayo Clinic comprises five fully accredited schools with residents and students numbering about 3,200 annually. The educational program is part of Mayo Clinic's medical and charitable mission. In 2007, more than $166 million of Mayo Clinic funds and benefactor gifts combined to help support the $215 million cost of Mayo's education programs. Established in 1972, the Mayo Medical School is a small, highly competitive medical school with about 200 students in its M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs. Dating back to 1917, Mayo Graduate School now enrolls about 250 master's and Ph.D. students in biomedical sciences programs. The Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education for resident and fellowship physicians stems from a program developed in 1915 in collaboration with the University of Minnesota. Though no longer affiliated with the university, the Graduate Medical Education program today trains more than 2,200 resident physicians and clinical fellows in 280 different programs at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic has provided academic training to allied health professionals for over a century. Today, the Mayo School of Health Sciences has about 600 students in 34 different programs in the health-related professions. By design, the school places about half of its graduates in Mayo Clinic employment. Every year, the Mayo School of Continuing Medical Education offers approximately 170 different short courses for about 15,500 non-Mayo physicians.

Mayo Clinic physicians and scientists, beginning with the Mayo brothers themselves, have used medical research in support of improved diagnostic tools and techniques as well as improved treatments for patients. Mayo Clinic researchers Drs. Edward Kendall and Phillip Hench were awarded the 1950 Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of cortisone. In 2007, the annual research budget for Mayo Clinic was about $495 million with $179 million of that coming from Mayo Clinic funds and benefactor gifts. The research ranges from basic science research in laboratories to clinical research directly involving patients, population research (epidemiology), and translational research that takes findings from laboratories and applies them to patient care initially in "clinical trials." About 80 percent of Mayo Clinic physicians are actively involved in research on the more than 7,000 approved projects underway at any time.

A Medical Mecca

During their lifetimes, much of the international recognition brought to the Mayo brothers and the Clinic that bore their name was based on their contributions to the science of medicine and to innovative surgical techniques. Over the seven decades since their deaths in 1939, the evolution of medical science has superseded the brothers' scientific and technical contributions. Stunning at the time, these contributions are historical footnotes today. The Mayo brothers' most significant legacy is a living enterprise that is a dynamic monument to their organizational genius. The basic management structure and systems and clinical care model they created during their careers still endure today. They endure not because of stubborn worship of the past, but because they produce stellar clinical results, organizational efficiency, and interpersonal service that often exceed patients' expectations and thus earn their loyalty.

In 1961, an independent consumer research firm called Social Research studied the image of Mayo Clinic held by first-time patients when they arrived for care. Among the principal perceptions of these patients were that Mayo was "the place to go if you are really sick" and was "a court of last resort—the 'Supreme Court' of Medical Opinion." The report authors wrote:

People are convinced that Mayo will come up with the diagnosis and the solution. They expect both clarification and resolution of conflicting medical opinions, diagnoses, and/or treatments. The belief that Mayo can give you a definitive answer is a very prominent facet of its image.

In 1962, Social Research followed up with a study of nonpatient attitudes toward Mayo Clinic. The researchers found that the Clinic was considered an important national institution and had qualities of a cherished myth. It stood as a symbol of what is best in American medicine, which was intimidating for some people because other clinics, however good they might be, were unlikely to alter or reverse a Mayo diagnosis. As the researchers wrote: "... one senses in the non-patients we talked with ... relief that it had never been, and is not yet, necessary for them to turn to Mayo."

Recent research that we present later suggests that Mayo Clinic remains a medical "mecca," a term used by the Social Research investigators in their 1961 report. The activities of the Clinic today are carried out with different tools, but the humane values, clinical and administrative models, and philosophical underpinnings from the Mayo brothers' time have changed little as the organization has adapted to new eras of medical science, public policy, healthcare finance, and patient expectations. The brothers' astute insights into the soul of medicine still prevail in the management of this organization.

The Spirit of the Clinic

Late in his life, Dr. William Mayo identified three conditions that he considered essential to the future success of Mayo Clinic:

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.

In 1975, Dr. Emmerson Ward, then chair of the board of governors, offered a fourth condition:

4. A willingness to change in response to the changing needs of society.

In 1984, Robert Roesler, who retired from Mayo in 1983 following 37 years in administration, added two more conditions that he felt were implicit in the Mayo brothers' actions but had been left unstated:

5. Continuing effort toward excellence in everything that is done.

6. Continuing conduct of all affairs with absolute integrity.

Roesler considered these six conditions to be part of "the spirit of the Clinic" that Dr. William Mayo discussed in a 1919 address to the Mayo Alumni Association in which he sought to explain the Clinic's success:

In view of the large number of sick who come here to be cared for, it would be natural to attribute the cause of their coming to work well done, but since good work is being done everywhere, there must be another and deeper reason. Perhaps this other reason may best be summed up in one phrase, "the spirit of the Clinic," which incorporates the desire to aid those who are suffering, the desire to advance in medical education by research, by diligent observation, and by the application of knowledge gained from others and, most important of all, the desire to pass on to others the scientific candle this spirit has lighted.

Contemporary research is confirming a social profit and financial profit connection in companies that depend on people to serve customers. Companies create social profit when their activities produce net benefits to society beyond the marketing of goods and services and the creation of employment opportunities, essential elements in producing financial profits. Social profit involves investing financial and nonfinancial resources (such as knowledge) toward a better quality of life. Social profit is a form of profit sharing, except the profits are not restricted to financial profits, and the sharing extends beyond the organization.

Social profit depends on a spirit of generosity. Researchers are learning that generosity is an input to service organization success, not just an outcome, because it wins the hearts of stakeholders— including those who perform the service for customers—and strengthens their commitment. Whereas selfishness saps human energy from service, generosity has an opposite, positive effect. The Mayo brothers' uncommon generosity and dedication to generating social profit through their medical practice underlie the service success story that unfolds in this book. Perhaps more than any other factor, exceptional generosity was the spark that defined the spirit of the Clinic. The purpose of the enterprise goes far beyond making money.


Excerpted from MANAGEMENT LESSONS FROM MAYO CLINIC by Leonard L. Berry Kent D. Seltman Copyright © 2008 by Leonard L. Berry and Kent D. Seltman. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Leonard L. Berry, PhD, is University Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University.

Kent Seltman, PhD, is Emeritus Chair of Marketing at Mayo Clinic, having served as Director of Marketing from 1992 to 2006.

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