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My Experience at Harvard - Part I

In front of Franklin Roosevelt's dorm at Harvard.

Exploring Harvard campus before the first day commenced.

How it started

I recently attended an Executive Education Program at Harvard and I thought you might be interested in my experience during the week-long immersion or at least interested in the inter-working's of one of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions.

The experience started with an invitation from my one-over leader to attend a 5-day program in January for Module 1. For the six months proceeding, I would be working on a project with my two leaders, colleague, and two operations leaders. After the 6-7 months, we return to Cambridge for Module 2 and attend a 3-day program with the same cohort, where we report out on our projects and share with the other groups. I felt this was a tremendous honor to be invited to attend on behalf of my department in the Ochsner Learning Institute and for the system at large.

Preparation for the trip

Before the trip, we had a call explaining what the program would entail and we were encouraged to finish all the prescribed homework before attending. We were given access to the student portal and what awaited us a short 2-3 weeks before we departed (and around the holidays) were 16 (get exact number) case studies, videos, and reflection questions.

The case studies ranged from Chobani yogurt to the 2010 Chilean miners rescue to a Japanese transit cleaning company. At first glance, the titles of these cases sounded totally random. I was curious to understand what takeaways we would gather from the readings. Some cases ranged from 2 pages and others were 30+. It was the first time since my master’s program where I truly felt like a student. There were healthcare specific readings and others were more for understanding of the business model behind an organization. It was quite the array of literature.

Program background & who was there

Three physician leaders from Newton-Wellesley, OhioHealth, and Ochsner Health System have become friends over the years and came together to create this program. The goal is to bring leaders of their organizations from various positions and experiences to cultivate innovation.

The attendees were made up of physician leaders, clinical leaders, and operations leaders. The cohort consisted of about 100 attendees - 30 people from each of the 3 hospital systems. Being potentially the youngest person in the room and one of the only non-leaders, I was initially intimidated by the group of highly skilled and competent colleagues in my cohort.

Arrival at Harvard

I arrived to Boston on Sunday afternoon, just in time to settle into my “dorm room” on campus which was a nice hotel room with a view of the Charles River. After a knowledgeable and entertaining campus tour of the Harvard Business School from one of the students, which is across the Charles river from the main campus/undergrad area, we settled in for our first case study session.

View of Charles River from my "dorm" room.

The main classroom was stadium style, we had assigned seating in alphabetical order and being Alycia Angle, I was on the front row on the floor of the room. The first case we discussed was about Chobani yogurt facilitated by Professor Tarun Khanna. At HBS, they follow the case study method of teaching and learning. Meaning the professor facilitates discussion between the participants which have prepped before class with readings that have incomplete information and realistic issues. The professor encourages dialogue between participants to share their perspectives, hones in on key points, and drives us toward our own conclusions. There is no right or wrong answer. The facilitator has 3 giant chalk boards that rotate up and down and he or she is very mindful of what words, graphs, or images are transferred to the chalk board. The process is truly a work of art. All our class facilitators for the week were regular HBS professors.

The quality of conversation from attendees was complex and impressive. I was enthralled by what people would take away and the different perspective that each person had on the information. Even though I work for a healthcare system, I am removed from both clinical and operations, so my perspective on the challenges, issues, takeaways etc. were completely different than my Living Group colleagues as well as the large group discussion!

The night proceeded to a cocktail networking hour, dinner, and finally an evening discussion group with our “Living Groups.” Every person was assigned a Living Group of about 7 people at random. It was a mixture of people from each of the 3 hospitals and of various positions. This was your home base. Your Living Group room was on your floor, nearby your Living Group member’s hotel room and consisted of a conference table, AV, and a couch with a sitting area and a fully stocked kitchenette. There were assigned times during the day or night when you and your Living Group would meet to discuss certain cases and topics in preparation for the large group sessions.

Our HBS Schedule for the week.

What you can expect from My Experience at Harvard Part 2.

  • This may sound silly, but the food, eating, and dining porting must have its own category.

  • Meeting (read: fan-girling over) Amy Edmondson, who is a brilliant thought leader in the areas of teaming, psychological safety, and leadership.

  • Learning about the project tools at Harvard.

  • My feedback and critiques for how the program could be improved.

Meeting Amy Edmondson with her new book "The Fearless Organization"

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