Watching the Olympic Games over the past two weeks has been inspiring and makes me proud to be Canadian.

Maura Davies President and CEO Saskatoon Health Region

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region

From the first Canadian medal by Saskatchewan’s Mark McMorris, to the exciting gold medal finales of men’s and women’s curling and hockey, Canadian athletes, including those from our province, represented their country with grace and sportsmanship. We can learn a lot from them.

Many factors contribute to world class performance, whether in sports or any other field. Saskatoon Health Region aspires to world class performance as represented by our vision of healthiest communities, healthiest people, exceptional service. Here are some of the things I think we can learn from Olympians in our efforts to excel:

  • Goals matter. The desire to win Olympic medals, “own the podium,” and break personal and world records inspires athletes and gives them targets against which they measure their performance. Saskatoon Health Region has concrete annual and multi-year goals, aligned with the provincial hoshin kanri plan and our commitment to better health, better care, better value and better teams. These goals give us focus, help us measure our performance and continuously improve.
  • Excellence is hard work. Elite athletes spend long hours in training and practice. They are continually learning and striving to do better. In our efforts to continuously improve, we need to recognize that change is often hard, especially when new ways of doing things are very different than how we usually work. Adoption of our lean management system requires new ways of thinking, true engagement of patients and families, and new tools and methods. This is hard work but we are already seeing the positive difference it can make.
  • Success requires perseverance. One of the things that differentiates world class athletes is their ability to stick with their training even when the going gets tough. Working through injuries, failures and other disappointments, they have the passion, strength and determination to go on. Our women’s hockey team did not give up when they were losing with less than four minutes remaining in the final game. In our work, we need to recognize that eliminating harm to patients and staff, improving patient flow, eliminating wait times, improving the well-being of people and communities will not be achieved overnight. Our experience with the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative has demonstrated that some improvements require a multi-year strategy and the focused efforts of many people to make significant improvements.
  • It takes a team. Even for athletes whose sport involves solo performances, their success depends on the support of many others. I loved the media profiles of individual Olympic athletes and the stories of how much they appreciate the support of their families, teammates, colleagues, coaches, sponsors and many others, and shared their success with them. Every day, our patients, clients and residents depend on us to work as a team, valuing the knowledge and skills of everyone who contributes to better care and service, regardless of their role. Increasingly we are working with many provincial and community partners, recognizing that we are stronger together.
  • Personal accountability. Throughout the Olympics, we saw so many examples of athletes taking personal accountability for their performance. From time to time, one could blame the course conditions, judging or other factors, but ultimately athletes try to do their best every day and learn from each experience, good or bad. This applies to us as well. When each of us comes to work every day with a commitment to do our job the best that we can and to work, every day, to make things better, there is no end to what we can achieve together. We too can go for the gold.

As always, I welcome your feedback. You can contact me directly at Maura.davies@saskatoonhealthregion.ca or 306-655-7720.