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Greater Baltimore, MD Businesses Form Education Partnerships That Work

The University of Maryland Medical System is one of the largest private, nonprofit health-care providers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on August 17, 2016

Large organizations like the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), comprised of 12 health systems and hospitals across the state of Maryland, want to build leadership bench strength to meet their future needs. UMMS turned to the Office of Executive Programs at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, for customized programs designed to prepare UMMS executives and directors to execute the organization’s systemwide strategy.

UMMS collaborated with the Smith School to develop two programs – a strategic program for executives and an operations leadership program for directors – that combined coursework, hands-on projects based on UMMS strategic priorities and executive coaching. Although the framework for both programs was the same, the content was customized to meet the organization’s specific learning goals for each group.

Customization is the hallmark of Smith’s work with corporate clients like UMMS.

“We take the time to really understand the organizations we partner with,” says Gary Cohen, associate dean in the Smith School’s Office of Executive Programs. “We speak with senior management and interview employees, so by the time we begin delivering their customized program, we feel very connected to the organization – we know them. It’s not an off-the-shelf program.”

Working closely with UMMS, Smith created coursework that delivered innovative tools, new frameworks and powerful ideas that were practical, applicable and focused on building UMMS’ desired leadership competencies. Executive coaching was highly personalized, with participants taking a battery of assessments to learn their core strengths and potential derailers. Action Learning Projects allowed participants to apply what they learned in class to real challenges within UMMS.

Consultation and Collaboration

“The Smith School faculty were great thought partners as we worked through the curriculum. They put a lot of effort into ensuring the program met the needs of UMMS,” says Kathy Kraft, system director for organization development and inclusion in UMMS’ human resource services department.

“It was an ongoing dialogue throughout the program – a constant striving to ensure the curriculum was on target.” Smith School faculty members met with UMMS executives before each session to review the course guidelines, as well as afterward to continuously improve program design and delivery.

“The partnership with UMMS has been so successful that it’s hard to see where the line is between the Smith School and UMMS’ executive development leaders. We really enjoy creating these deep partnerships,” says Dr. Neta Moye, clinical professor of management and senior fellow in the Office of Executive Programs.

Smith makes such partnerships easy, with “white-glove” service to ensure seamless program delivery. Each custom program has a skilled team that includes a program director, academic director and program manager, who work to create the right environment at the right location, working with the appropriate technology and providing necessary resources for program participants.

“On the logistics side, the Smith School provided a significant amount of support around the many administrative tasks that are required for this type of program,” Kraft says.

Creating Change That Matters

For UMMS, the program quickly proved itself to be a good investment.

Participants experienced a shift in perspective, says Jeffrey Jones, director of leadership and organization development at UMMS, balancing local hospital, other hospital and overall system objectives at the same time. They had a “systemness mindset” – exactly what UMMS leadership had hoped to achieve with the programs.

“Our executives developed a keen understanding of the challenges to implementing ‘systemness’ culture,” says Jones. “Their perspective changed to seeing ‘systemness’ as a way of being, rather than simply something to do. As a cohort, they are working together to bring us closer to that culture of ‘systemness.’”

At the conclusion of the program, participants gave a formal presentation on the recommendations of their Action Learning Project. Senior executives,who attended cohort graduations along with each participant’s sponsor, were impressed with what they saw.

“The guests were impressed with participants’ formal presentations and project work addressing system strategic priorities,” Jones says.

Jones adds that the partnership has had such a clear impact on UMMS executives and directors that the organization plans to continue working with the Smith School in 2017.

“As a system,” Kraft says, “it is now our intent to more directly integrate the Smith School experience into our overall succession planning process.”

This article is sponsored by the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

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