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An Innovative Approach to Just –In –Time Learning for New CEOs

The Situation:
Over 22 million people, predominantly poor and living in medically underserved areas, receive their healthcare through federally funded Community Health Centers. There are over 1200 Community Health Centers across the United States, and each year several hundred undergo a CEO transition. Many of the newly appointed CEOs have no prior experience as CEOs, in Community Health Centers, or in leading organizations that must manage and account for federal funds. Every year, a number of these new CEOs fail to become effective and end up leaving their posts, resulting in further turmoil for their organization.

Our Work:
We were approached by the national association that works with Community Health Centers and asked to support them in developing and implementing a novel learning program to support newly hired CEOs. The objective was to provide timely access to resources, experts, relevant information and peer support during the critical first year of a new CEO’s tenure, giving them time to find their feet and become successful in their new role.

Using our Rapid Curriculum Development process, we engaged informants and subject matter experts to define the core capacities that a new CEO needed to master. Speaking with incumbent CEOs who had successfully navigated the entry phase, we identified and prioritized the key issues which most frequently tripped up a new CEO and contributed to their failure to succeed.

With this framework in place, we developed the components of an innovative learning program that enabled timely access to key resources and experts, while building relationships with their peers for support and learning together. The four core components of this “New CEO Institute” were:

  • Online Community – an asynchronous web portal where participants in the program could share resources and ask for and offer help in a safe, confidential manner.
  • Self – paced Modules – a set of key resources was packaged into 10 modules, all of which were made available from the start of the program so that participants could access them in whatever sequence most suited their needs. Each module was also supported with a live call with a resource person to explore questions of implementation and adaptation.
  • Topical Webinars – a series of webinars was offered throughout the program, with some of the topics identified by the participants. This allowed relevant and timely support to be brought to bear on their most pressing needs.
  • Peer Learning – both the Online Community and an in-person meeting at the start of the program we use to build trusting relationships and to promote peer exchange and learning among the participants.

In addition to our curriculum development and instructional design work, we developed standards for Community Management, the critical work of moderating and supporting the participants in the virtual, online engagement of a program such as this. We provided orientation and ongoing coaching to a staff person from the sponsoring organization, helping them become a highly effective Community Manager and moderator.

The Results:
While many distance learning programs struggle to retain participant interest, this program was characterized by lively and engaging interaction throughout the six-month duration of the program. Participants gave high ratings to their experience in the program, and identified many essential things that they learned which contributed to their effectiveness as new CEOs.

While no follow-up studies to measure CEO tenure among the participants have yet taken place, positive benefits of the program were noted by the national association and various state level groups that support Community Health Centers. The program is currently being replicated, with our support, for newly hired Chief Financial Officers of Community Health Centers across the country.

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