December 1957 — Recollections of H.J. Harwick #throwbackthursdays

H. J. Harwick
H. J. Harwick

H. J. Harwick, former executive officer of the Board of Governors, chairman of Mayo Association, chief of Clinic Administration, wrote his recollections of significant people and events in the Mayo Clinic story. The result was a little book Forty-four Years With the Mayo Clinic: 1908-1952, published this year in a private printing. In excerpts here from one chapter, Mr. Harwick discusses medical administration.

"First of all, I believe that the old days of the chief executive standing on a rostrum and thundering orders are as dead as the Pharaohs. This is true among other reasons because it is no longer possible for the chief executive of any large enterprise to know all of the intricate details of his own organization, much less all of the external factors affecting it. Thus, one great objective of the present-day executive must be to develop teamwork, and teamwork implies shared responsibility rather than the simple giving of orders."

Mr. Harwick goes on to say, "On the other hand, the ranking administrator cannot avoid or delegate final responsibility for decisions. This is his job. And there are some things that he must do on his own initiative, not in a week or even a day, but in minutes. In these circumstances he will sometimes make mistakes, but it would be a worse mistake still were he to do nothing."

When asked what qualities go into the make-up of the successful executive, Mr. Harwick says, "He cannot ever be arrogant, which is to say that he needs humility and an understanding of people, with special emphasis on the second quality. The greatest single problem of the executive is to learn the pertinent facts of a given situation, the facts he must have to make his decision. There is a real danger that juniors (whether from exaggerated respect, misplaced affection or misguided ambition) will tell the superior what they believe he wants to hear. I personally have never hesitated to ask a man who disliked me for an opinion of one of my ideas, and I have seldom failed to learn something from the answer. I am not an admirer of the “born again’er” that dour individual who can be depended upon to oppose everything. On the other hand, I have even less regard for the rubber-stamp “yes-man,” with his distorted conception of cooperation. Give me the team man, ordinarily quick to get behind the majority opinion, who yet will fight doggedly for something in which he believes, even if in so doing he must oppose his own chief. In my opinion, the “loyal rebel” is an asset to any organization."

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Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.