Visiting the Kaiser Permanente Executive Leadership Program at Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

I have just returned from Boston, where I was honored to be a visitor to the Kaiser Permanente Executive Leadership Program, at Harvard Business School. The trip came about because my boss, Marty Gilbert, MD, is the Permanente Executive in Residence at the program.

I have never been to business school, and defintely not Harvard Business School, although I have read HBS cases many times in the past. So for me, this was a treat to see the methodology used to take HBS cases and use them to teach. On this particular day, cases about Benihana restaurants, the Internal Revenue Service, and (one of my favorites) Toyota were leveraged to talk about operations flow and leading change. The professors were very dynamic and I thought their use of the chalk boards was very intriguing – this is the first thing I think a student notices. They even hand wash all the boards in between sessions.

The teaching itself seems to lend to the learning of accomplished professionals, in my opinion. The professors stop short of guiding the students on how they should apply the material in their leadership roles. They actually avoided asking for examples in people’s professional work during the interactive session, which is probably a very tempting thing to do in this situation.

Beyond the professors and the material, though, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the people in the program and Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to it/them. In my travels I have met many physicians in other health systems who are told, directly or indirectly, “Management/Leadership training is for managers/leaders, not physicians.”

The Executive Leadership Program is not just for physicians, though. Staff from across the program are involved, as are leaders from the Labor Management Partnership. Needless to say, this is a very accomplished group who I was very humbled to be present with.

With thanks to Marty, the students, and team at Harvard Business School for allowing me to watch them in action!

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Ted Eytan, MD