Hondas and Health Care Leaders

In a July 27 feature, Business Week, published a profile of Honda’s new CEO, Takanobu Ito. The spin in Honda’s New CEO Is Also Chief Innovator by Reena Jana and Ian Rowley is an examination of the value and wisdom of appointing an “in the trenches” engineer (Ito is also Honda’s Director of Research and Development) to the chief executive post, thereby combining the company’s leadership accountability for innovation and business success. It struck me that healthcare organizations face similar questions when considering whether or not to place clinicians in top executive management positions. So read the article and think about the issues it raises.

Cars, Apples, Berries, and ?? Health Care Organizations

Jana and Rowley consider Ito’s appointment to dual leadership roles at a time when technical innovation will be a key to market success. While this is not common in the business world, they easily point to Steve Jobs (of Apple) and Mark Lazaridis (of Research in Motion – the BlackBerry company) who are successful inventors continuing to lead innovation in their companies while filling corporate executive roles requiring competency and focus well beyond their areas of technical brilliance. The authors’ interpretation is that:

“…having knowledge of materials, engineering, and hands-on experience designing inventive products can help Ito make smarter business decisions about investments in new technologies and products.”

Ito himself is quoted in the article as describing the choice as a strategic one:

“The direction of the business and the direction of the technology need to be aligned as early as possible [in my tenure as CEO] so that we can maximize efficiency and effectiveness.”

Aligning business and technology sounds an awful lot like healthcare organizations today. Don’t we face a similar need to innovate for survival as regulations change, reimbursement tightens, technology expands, and the business of making health care work is like at no previous time interwoven with the business of business success?