All for one. And one for all.

3 MusketeersDo your team’s behaviors emulate the famous musketeer slogan? Can you really have such a utopian culture; or is this idea just as fictional as the musketeer story? If your company is in trouble, is the idea of creating such a team going to distract from more urgent needs? If teambuilding is the only focus – yes. We all know that when teams begin experiencing disruptive behaviors, it is the manifestation of a deeper issue.

Logic tells us that handling important business issues is imperative. However, your team can be part of that process and creating an “All for one. And one for all.” culture is achievable as is illustrated in the example of DaVita, a company that provides kidney dialysis.

When the CEO, Kent Thiry, came on board, the company was nearly bankrupt and employee morale had hit rock bottom as had their stock, falling from $50 to $2 per share. The saying, “it starts at the top” wasn’t wasted on Mr. Thiry. He gathered a team of executives around him and they formed a musketeer-like team and began to conquer the issues plaguing the company.

First: The team addressed operational issues and governmental regulations as the SEC had the company in its crosshairs. Proper record keeping and ethical behavior was the order of the day. In the next four years, the team repaired its broken billing system, restructured outstanding debt, put information systems in order, and hired people who could “get things done.” In addition, they invested in continuous improvement projects and training.

Even the small stuff wasn’t ignored such as carefully managing supplies and keeping close tabs on inventory. Labor management was no exception. Drawing their swords, they slashed costs by .01 per labor hour producing a royal like sum $1.8 million in savings.

Second: They addressed core values, their operating philosophy, and began building its “All for one. And one for all.” culture. (Kent Thiry doesn’t like the word culture as it has “cult” in it.) Donning their musketeer capes, each senior manager was charged with adopting one of the many dialysis centers. This helped procure the collaboration, synergy, and support of the clinic managers.

Third: data was collected on every action, meeting, and class. Armed with this information, DaVita made continuous improvements on educational programs, hiring, performance appraisals, and employee attitude.

Moving Forward: Sustaining the turnaround of DaVita is being accomplished through the following:

  • Accountability – one of the company’s most important values
  • Viewing their company as a village and the employees as citizens
  • Measuring everything - Each dialysis center receives reports on their performance comparing it to budgets, previous performance, and goals.
  • Engaging employees with rewards and recognition
  • Creating the DaVita University
  • A five-day training program for managers
  • Academy I & II for front line employees
  • A communication system involving bi-monthly calls with administrators, 10 different newsletters, a company publication, an intranet, and emails and voice mails celebrating special events
  • A recruiting and career development program
  • A comprehensive benefits and pay package (This is unusual for organizations with a lot of low-paid hourly positions)
  • Two educational foundations for children and grandchildren of teammates. One for college level and one for grades 6 to11.

The team completed these swashbuckling efforts in a mere six years. The executive team jumped on their horses, dueled with the most trying of issues, and conquering each one came out victorious creating a team that exhibits a true “All for one. And one for all.” culture.

This case study adapted from Cummings & Worley Organization Development & Change

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