The evolution of the CMEPP Board: A Conversation with CEO Nils Clausen

The CMEPP Board is comprised of people with different skill sets and backgrounds, but what CEO Nils Clausen values is their ability to have difficult conversations and yet, always come together and support the organization with one consistent voice. A big part of it he says comes down to their personal dedication to helping people and making healthcare better.

How has the CMEPP board evolved over the years?

In the early days, when CMEPP was a much smaller organization, it was more of an operational board. When I first joined CMEPP and demonstrated my leadership capabilities, they purposely wanted to be more strategic. Moving beyond a pure operational focus, it became evident that they needed people with some new and different skillsets. The process happened gradually as board members started to retire or their tenure was up and new people were recruited in. It took a few years, but they’ve successfully made the transition.

What do you admire about the CMEPP board?

What I value and respect most about our board is that the majority of them work in healthcare at a time of extreme resource challenges. They’re working hard and they still carve out time for CMEPP. I think it boils down to their mission in life – they’ve committed their careers and their lives to helping people and making healthcare better. Whether it’s their day job or being on the CMEPP board, that’s what they want to achieve.

The challenge with any board is that you’ve got multiple people with different interests and different backgrounds. It’s healthy to have thoughts and opinions. But in order to guide and support the organization they need to speak with one voice. I think this board is very good at making sure we have one collective direction and that we’re consistent.

How does the board help you with your decision-making?

The board is always focussed on risk, and that’s a good reminder for me and the CMEPP leadership team. When you’re trying to grow an organization, like we have been, you can lose sight of that sometimes. Their perspective grounds us. They consider angles we might not have thought of and make sure we’re not moving too fast. They’re also valuable because as we present new initiatives, they consider them through the lens of the strategic plan. That’s the path, and everything needs to align with that.

How has your relationship with the board changed over time?

When I first joined the organization, they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. But we set goals and objectives and as those were achieved, that built up the trust and credibility on both sides. Getting their support took time but was also essential and has helped me grow in the position.

We have three new board members this year, all with different skill sets. Can you talk about how that’s enhanced the capabilities of the board?

They just joined officially in September, so it hasn’t even been a year yet. It takes a little while to absorb how we do things and what we’re all about. But I’m already seeing how they’re engaged and contributing. They’re providing different perspectives based on the organizations they come from and that gets all of us thinking. It creates questions and different topics of discussion. We’re off to a great start.

What kinds of issues will the board be tackling this year?

In the past, all our resources at CMEPP were focussed on driving surplus and savings. But we can’t ignore our hospital Participants who are facing critical resource challenges. It’s dire out there. It’s prompting us to take a close look at our value proposition – and consider additional services that will help our Participant organizations address those challenges.

This taps into the three words in our logo – Trust. Flexibility. Savings. We care about savings and will always deliver on that, but when it comes to trust we have to show we’re looking out for their best interests, not just financially.

It’s leading to some great discussions within the organization and the board as we consider going down this path and shaping what CMEPP will look like two or three years down the road? I know the board is well-equipped to help us grapple with these questions.