By October 19, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

ThedaCare CEO Dean Gruner to Retire; What’s Next for ThedaCare?


A few weeks ago, I saw this announcement about Dean Gruner, MD, the second CEO to lead ThedaCare during their Lean journey:

Dr. Dean Gruner, ThedaCare President and CEO, Announces Retirement

“Dean Gruner, MD, president and CEO of ThedaCare since April 2008, today announced his plans to retire. Dr. Gruner began in healthcare 40 years ago, has served this community for 33 years, and has served as President and CEO of ThedaCare since April 2008.”

Congratulations and best wishes to Dean on his retirement! He has been a great leader and advocate for healthcare improvement.

Gruner was previously Chief Medical Officer at ThedaCare, when he succeeded John Toussaint, MD as CEO of the system. It was Toussaint who started their Lean journey.

What comes next? As Toussaint wrote about in chapter 9 of his first book On the Mend, succession planning is one of the most important things a health system’s leaders, including its board can do.

It reads, in part:


And he continued:


There is great risk during these executive transitions when an organization is relatively new to Lean, as I wrote about earlier this year when a new CEO basically killed a different health systems’s Lean program:

I wouldn’t expect the same thing to happen at ThedaCare, where they’ve been on this journey for about 14 years and they’ve had great results.

Gruner’s Article on Succession

Dean recently wrote an article on this topic:

A Leader’s Most Important Role

He writes:

“I’m also confident in the process that will guide ThedaCare to its next leader.

Why? Because we made succession planning a priority almost immediately after my appointment as CEO.

From speakers and leadership books over the years, I’ve noticed the best leaders start succession planning right out of the gates. So, I decided early on to set aside one executive committee meeting a year dedicated to succession planning.”

They’ve had short-term (aka emergency or sudden need) succession plans and long-term plans that would be used in planned succession moments like this.

It’s great to hear (and surprising) that ThedaCare has plans and a process for replacing Gruner. I hope the ThedaCare board still places the same priority in finding somebody who is a Lean leader, to continue and further improve upon their approach. Gruner was promoted as an internal candidate (as had been Toussaint when he was also promoted from CMO to CEO).

Some Podcasts with Dean Gruner

Here are two podcasts that I did with Dean a few years ago:

And you might also want to check out this blog post I wrote about his view on safety:

Again, best wishes to Dean and everybody at ThedaCare for the future!

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Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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