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Keep Your Feet on the Ground

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Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System executives spend as much as one-third of their time on the road—or rather, in the air—catering to the needs of their affiliates scattered over more than 1,000 miles. With so much travel time, gathering all of the system’s core executives in one room can be a challenge.

To help alleviate the problem, SCLHS has established a “no-fly week” once a month during which the system’s leadership team—nine top executives—avoid scheduling travel so they are available for face time with one another. “We’re in four states: Colorado, Kansas, Montana and California,” says Michael D. Rowe, vice president and chief financial officer for Sisters of Charity in Lenexa, KS, which includes nine hospitals and four stand-alone clinics. “If we don’t manage the schedule in some fashion, it’s unusual to ever find us all in the office at the same time, and therefore it’s difficult to coordinate the system leadership team itself.”

During the no-fly week, the leadership team’s discussion topics range from systemwide initiatives to strategic issues to selecting materials for board meetings. Rowe says SCLHS is still tweaking the process, which was initiated in January; the affiliate hospitals all have their own schedules and needs, and system executives must remain available during the no-fly week to address any pressing issues, Rowe explains.

“The world doesn’t come to a stop just because we decide to declare one week a no-fly week,” Rowe says. “It’s not as though we can simply put everything aside on their schedules because we have all decided to be in the office. It’s more of an anchor, something that we try to center ourselves on—that we’re not going to travel those weeks if we can avoid it. It’s just an effort on our part to give us more time to coordinate.”

Because the no-fly week experiment remains just that, Rowe says, whether it will be a long-term success remains uncertain. With senior leaders expected to handle situations that arise at their respective facilities, designating a week without travel may be easier said than done.

“If anything, so far the feedback is, ‘Man, it’s hard to clear a week,’” Rowe says. “That’s part of the development, the learning process we’re going through, to try to figure out how to take best advantage of it.”

—Ben Cole