What can the University of Michigan’s Cardiology Fellowship training program teach companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb? A lot, as it turns out!

Like Uber and its counterparts, the Cardiology program is part of a fluid “gig economy,” centered on a workforce that is “here today, gone tomorrow.” The Cardiology program is three years long, so a third of its participants leave each year and are replaced by a new cohort of student-employees.

And just as Uber and its counterparts are creating a new approach that runs counter to the way business has “always” worked, Michigan’s medical school decided to create a program that runs counter to the entrenched cultural norms which have defined medical training across the country for decades.

How do you create—not to mention sustain—a healthy, coherent, culture in such an ever-changing environment, in the face of entrenched modes, without a road map from previous pioneers? What does culture really mean and how does it get defined in a fluid organizational setting?

The University of Michigan Cardiology Program’s story

Program Director Dr. Peter Hagan’s solution was to empower the program’s fellows to build the program and the culture they wanted. “You need some people who are going to be your champions, who see the vision or have the ideas,” he says. Hagan created forums for discussion and idea generation, and started with small projects suggested by the fellows—barbecues with faculty and alumni, more time for informal socializing with peers, even a fleece emblazoned with the program logo. “Basically, fellows came up with ideas, and said, ‘I want to do this,’ and off they went.”

Small wins led to deeper-rooted projects involving curriculum, redesign of workspace for greater peer collaboration, and incorporating culture as a core component of the recruiting process.

“We want to empower and leverage our fellows to be builders,” says Hagan. “We want to develop a strong culture, a culture of ideas, a culture of support and openness. We want to improve that sense of community and energy.”

Culture take-aways for fluid organization

What can Uber, Lyft, et al learn from the University of Michigan’s Cardiology Fellowship training program? Here are five “thought starters” about how to create and sustain an organizational culture in a fluid employment environment.

  1. Identify the story-tellers in your organization. Even in fluid workplaces, there are idea champions everyone listens to. Get them on board. Get their perspectives. Help them shape the narrative.
  2. Cultivate a vision of an Organization. Help those who view the job as a “gig” see themselves as members of a community—members with an explicit role in furthering that community’s goals.
  3. Find the people who have energy, and hand them the keys to the car. The work has to spread beyond the story-tellers. You won’t reach everyone, and you won’t have the luxury of a slow assimilation process. You need to give the doers a rhythm for reflection and dialogue about the culture and show them how to translate ideas into action.
  4. Use the rapid employee life cycle to energize the culture work. Fluid organizations have an employee lifecycle on steroids. Embrace this reality as an opportunity to define many touch-points to the culture work: during recruiting, onboarding, and exit interviews. You could even consider asking former employees to come back to reflect on their experiences.
  5. Study the impact of the culture work. Experience suggests that the work will be judged by the degree to which it empowers people to address some of the real challenges they face and do better on the real outcomes they care about.

Whether or not the gig economy survives is yet to be seen. But if it does, it will need to address internal cultural challenges. The University of Michigan’s Cardiology Fellowship training program has pioneered an approach they can all learn from.

This post was adapted from a new article in the Denison Transform series. Download the full article here.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Notice: Undefined variable: comment_form in /home/denisonc/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-gdpr/public/class-wordpress-gdpr-integrations.php on line 96

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing, you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Private Equity
As a CEO of a private equity firm, you know that firms with a strong, vibrant culture perform better in a highly competitive marketplace. Denison can work with you to build effective culture in all of your portfolio firms. Our assessment tools enable you to capture a clear picture of your current state. Our consulting expertise supports you in making the changes necessary to achieve superior financial performance. It’s about how you work as a team, how your policies meet practice within the culture of the organization, how performance aligns with your investment criteria.
  • Delivers a consistent assessment of your portfolio companies
  • Gives you an unambiguous picture of the culture
  • Provides a disciplined process and measureable action plan for
  • Offers hands-on strategic consulting to address gaps and affirm best
practices currently being used by your portfolio companies
Our approach:
Financial Services
In the financial sector, you are active in a wide variety of client environments that need to support accountability and the highest ethical standards. The trust that your customer places in your organization is dependent upon the culture that your employees exhibit every day.

You need a clear understanding of how your culture and the people in your organization function within the midst of the complexities of the current financial institutional marketplace. The Denison Model can give you that clarity. From brokerage firms, to retail banking, to institutional banking to insurance, Denison has specific, measurable benchmarking that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. With this baseline diagnostic, our consulting team can support you to put in place action plans to sustain your high standards and see financial performance improvement.
The manufacturing environment is constantly being tasked with improvement in quality and delivery while maintaining the highest levels of safety. The Denison Model equips you to reach from the senior leadership team to the shop floor in a globally networked manufacturing environment to build a culture oriented to continuous improvement in these mission critical areas.

Through our consultancy services, we work with a broad cross-section of your technical and operational staff to align around the goal of producing the highest quality products in the world--on time and on budget.
Within the healthcare market, high performance is measured primarily in patient outcomes. The marriage of the institution with doctors, support staff and operational teams is key to achieving best-in-class patient outcomes. Denison works with you to achieve these outcomes by building a culture that is tuned to the unique ecosystem of support that patients require.

Our organizational culture assessment based on the Denison Model is a proven approach that has supported healthcare providers with actionable feedback for decades. Against four core drivers of cultural high performance, the assessment identifies what is going well and clarifies challenges you may be facing. Then our consulting team is able to support you in addressing these challenges with action plans tailored to your inclusive and diverse environment.
Case Study
The management of culture in an organization whose members are always on the move.
At Denison, student outcomes are well understood as the goal of every educational organization. Our consulting expertise and diagnostic tools allow your team to more fully understand, articulate and implement your mission. You will gain a collective understanding of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges benchmarked against other peer institutions, all targeted toward providing students with the best learning environment.

Then, through Action Planning, we will work with you to improve your academic and operational excellence to support the diverse student learning environment of higher education, K-12 schools and related associations.
As a retailer, you know that culture drives the customer experience of your organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your staff all make the difference in each interaction with a consumer. It's that experience that really drives what your behavior should be.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization can support the customer experience. We provide you data that helps you understand your organization all the way through checkout. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
Smart restaurant owners know that the patron experience is driven by the culture of their organization. The hospitality, support, and follow-up lived out by your culinary and waitstaff all make the difference in each dish you serve. You know that it is the patron’s needs and expectations that really drive what your team’s behavior should be on the floor.

Denison allows you to understand how your organization is positioned to support the patron experience. We provide you benchmarked data from across the food industry that helps you understand your organization right to the final after-dinner mint. And we provide sustainable support programs that enable you to address the challenges you face to attract and retain loyal brand customers and to ensure superior financial performance.
To achieve high performance in a government initiative requires a different understanding of metrics of success. Typical financial results of business, like sales growth or ROI, are not the KPIs measured here. Rather it is advancement of the mission.

For example, Denison supports military men and women in action through our work with the Defense Logistics Agency (DOA). We provide core culture assessment and an improvement program that helps this department maintain a strong culture to fulfill their mission--addressing everything needed to support fighting men and women in combat through readiness preparation.
Case Study
A transformation that didn’t require thousands of dollars, but a new way of interacting.
Because of the ever-increasing pace in the introduction of new technology and shortening of technology life-cycle, having a culture fluent in adaptability is critical. These factors all drive the need to recoup costs and show profit more and more quickly. Being able to seamlessly change business models to drive market expansion, product acceptance and superior performance is absolutely critical in this high-potential return but volatile market. Talent is also at a premium.

Based on diagnostics structured through the Denison Model, our consultancy team will help you build a culture that knows who it is and who best will fit your organization. With this alignment, you gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the engineers, researchers and innovators you need to lead in introducing market-changing innovation.
Whether you deal with business travelers, tourists, or products in the supply chain, safety and schedule reliability are two of the key deliverables. For decades, Denison has worked with leaders in the transportation industry, helping transform organizations in the face of changing markets and technologies, to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction, as well as bottom-line business success.

When you bring Denison on board, our experienced consultants help you make decisions and plans based on data benchmarked against the global industry. We put your organization on the path to high performance, with measurable benefits to your bottom line.