What a day!

Today’s a special day in Cincinnati, even though most people in our fair city don’t know it.

James M. Anderson

Today is James M. Anderson Day, as proclaimed by our mayor, Mark Mallory. It is so named to mark the accomplishments, and to say thank you, as we near the day, the first one of 2010, when Jim steps away from his post as CEO of Cincinnati Children’s.

Hundreds of people filled the Sabin Auditorium at Children’s this afternoon to pay tribute to Jim. Speaker after speaker talked of his vision, his humility, his drive, his command to put children first and make quality “job 1.”:

“You set a revolution in motion,” said Scott Hamlin, the Chief Financial Officer who has helped document the business case for quality: doing the right thing is right for not just the children’s health, but also for the bottom line.

Uma Kotagal, senior vice president of quality and transformation, said she was skeptical of Jim’s vision when he arrived in the CEO’s office 13 years ago. He wanted to transform the culture. He wanted to make safety and transparency more than buzzwords. He wanted Cincinnati Children’s to live them.

“You are leaving the place better than you found it,” she said. “And it has become a beacon of optimism … not just here, but around the world.”

Lee Carter, former chairman of the Board who helped hire Jim as CEO (after serving together on the Board), told the story of the Harvard Business Review’s case study about the transformation of Cincinnati Children’s. There were a lot of skeptics, and when one of them questioned how it could happen without a “burning platform” (something that has gone terribly wrong that you need to fix), Jim calmly told them, “A compelling vision trumps a burning platform any day.”

“I wish I would have had that line,” Carter said.

Jim, true to his natural leadership, used his few, unscripted, remarks at the podium to challenge those in the audience to even greater things.

“I am often asked how it is that we’ve been so successful,” Jim said. “I don’t have a short answer for that so I want you, as you go about your business, to think about that. How is it … and keep doing it.”

With pleasure, boss.

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