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Statewide Public Heath Leaders Assemble, Launch ‘Good to Great’ Movement

June 9, 2014

With health outcomes in key target areas continuing to improve throughout the state, leaders at the Georgia Department of Public Health are rapidly expanding a program aimed at moving the entire organization from “Good to Great,” literally. The agency is embracing a program – more of a movement, inspired by the popular business improvement book by the same name.

“The people of Georgia deserve a great health department. The dedicated people of the Georgia Department of Public Health are capable of greatness. Let’s do this,” a determined Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., declared as she opened the two day conference at Emory University’s School of Public Health.

The commissioner’s remarks brought applause and cheers from more than 150 public health leaders from each of Georgia’s 18 public health districts and state offices, most hearing for the first time about the movement that bridges discipline and decision-making into a “culture of greatness.”

“We’re talking about achieving something far greater and it feels good,” said Courtney Sheeley, the risk communicator and public information officer in the South Health District headquartered in Valdosta. “I like what I see.”

Good to Great involves improvement and focus on true discipline in the areas of leadership, thought, and action. Reconfiguring the approach to all of the areas is expected to bring “greatness” and results, which endure over time.

“Some organizations succeed and others fail. And the difference, we’ve learned, is largely dependent upon culture. We’re striving for absoluteness greatness in all we do and that doesn’t happen in silos,” Fitzgerald said, adding that deep collaboration and information sharing throughout the agency are essential.

“We’ve overcome a lot and we’re winning now. The principles of Good to Great can enable us to win by even bigger margins and over a longer period of time,” said Carole Jakeway, DPH’s director of district and county operations who has been planning the introduction of Good to Great for nearly three years.

The planning process brought closer connections between state and district leaders and, many say, a larger sense of government operating in a businesslike world. Jakeway says the two-day gathering of leaders in May is merely the beginning.

“Our intention is to have more Good to Great conferences in the future to involve more of our public health staff across Georgia,” Jakeway said, while noting the complex structure of Public Health in our state.

At the state level, DPH functions through numerous divisions, sections, programs and offices. Locally, DPH funds and collaborates with Georgia's 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts.

“We all have the same shared mission,” said Diane Weems, M.D., district health director in the Savannah-based Coastal Health District. “We must all lead with passion and ambition toward the mission.”

Good to Great is based on Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't.

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