As I like to say, innovation happens in out of the way places, so I was happy when @HBSExecEd colleague Simmone Zimmer (@SimoneMarie127) invited me to take a train to Ayer, MA to meet Peter diCicco, who was one of the founders of Kaiser Permanente’s landmark Labor Management Partnership (@LMPTalk).
Simply put, there’s nothing like this anywhere:
This is the largest and most ambitious labor management partnership in place in the U.S. at the moment and may be the most comprehensive and complex Partnership in the history of U.S. labor relations.
The quote above is from a report on the first five years of the LMP. Now of course it’s 13 years later, and Pete told us there’s no partnership of this size, complexity anywhere in the world.
Pete explained to us what it is not. It’s not “labor management cooperation” which is project based. And it’s not “labor relations.” Instead, what they worked toward from 1995 to 1997 was something new – an operational strategy that involves labor unions and the people they support at all levels of the company. We learned about KP’s union history (which I have written a little bit about previously: Social Innovators: Harry Bridges and today’s Labor Management Partnership | Ted Eytan, MD) and the inspiration for this movement.
Work done by the AFL-CIO in the late 1990’s, led by Thomas Reilly Donahue resulted in the creation of a report in 1994 called The New American Workplace: A Labor Perspective, A Call for Partnership, which inspired diCicco and others.
He explained to us (me) that the model of partnership is not the norm in labor unions. So, much as Kaiser Permanente and its doctors worked to establish it and their identity as healers, leaders, and partners in health care, so did the LMP within the labor union movement. That’s what we have in common – social innovation, for which this is one definition:
…new organisations and models which can better meet people’s needs for care, jobs and homes, including radical new models of schooling, health care and criminal justice.
And my other favorite attribute of social innovators: “they take no as a question.”
I am learning here at Harvard Business School with my colleagues that partnership takes a ton of work, commitment, and sponsorship. And, it forms not just a competitive advantage for Kaiser Permanente, but hope for a health care system that needs better models to work collaboratively to improve health.
Going from Harvard to see the future (View on Flickr.com)
I am obviously drawn to social innovation, respect for people, and finding out where we came from, which informs where we’re going. Usually, where we came from is not board rooms full of people satisfied with the status quo. That’s why taking a train for an hour from the halls of Harvard to an italian restaurant in Ayer makes complete sense for those of us who live in the future 🙂 .
Thanks a ton to my colleagues Simone, John, and Clement for bringing me along, and Pete for hosting an important addition to our education as leaders.