Women’s College Hospital Case Study

Using Strategic Initiative Management to Create Change


With an announcement that the Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and the Sunnybrook hospital would be separating, came a new mandate for WCH to become a premier ambulatory care centre and a provincial leader of women’s health, education and research.
The executive team at WCH recognized the need to initiate this undertaking as a transition program, which required the expertise of outside consultants with experience in executing a demerger and the creation of a new entity. They had little or no working knowledge within their sta to undertake the work involved in managing this program which included oversight, governance and accountability. In addition, a new board was in place with minimal experience in this type of initiative. WCI was engaged to guide the leadership to ensure success with a minimal amount of disruption to operations.


A number of key challenges were identified at the onset of this engagement. A complex set of stakeholders – government and assigned representatives, both hospitals, Ontario Women’s Health Council, University of Toronto, Centre for Research in Women’s Health, as well as partner organizations. The majority of the sta members who had been involved in the original merger were no longer available for consultation. A high level of necessary knowledge-transfer was essential to ensure stakeholder involvement was maximized. Timelines and agendas were ambitious and aggressive with the goal of achieving early wins in the eyes of the community and key groups.
Mitigating disruptions and maintaining service levels during day-to-day operations was crucial and set as key measurement criteria. Resource constraints would ultimately impact the design and execution of the initiative and its ultimate success or failure.


Over the last twenty years, WCI has worked with many organizations to develop and execute a variety of strategic initiatives at different levels and with significant reach. Our substantial Knowledge Network encompassed best practices, tools and operational models to increase the likelihood of initiative success was used to support the core team.
Focused on rapid-fire results, with minimal impact to the regular operations of WCH, a core team from WCI was put in place. It consisted of a project director and a project support team, as well as a process and systems infrastructure that included, technology, processes and best practice experiences. Additionally, task force teams were established, work was divided into manageable pieces to create meaningful successes. Initially, the timeline was believed to be approximately 18-24 months in duration. With a focus on results, minimal disruption and effective project management, the work was completed in the shortest possible time (6 months), creating enormous cost-savings while achieving all of the original stated objectives.


The formal project management framework was handled from the announcement to turning on the new lights. WCH became a new entity over a rapid 6-month process. Proudly, this initiative was the fastest demerger in the history of the province.
Key results were:
  1. Negotiation and vision of the new entity between the existing two hospitals;
  2. Effective and fully executed communications plan to all key stakeholders, including the public;
  3. A new WCH organization including all legal components, structures, governance, and new entities;
  4. Operational readiness to ensure no disruption in service and a fully functioning hospital;
  5. Process and structures to support physicians and multidisciplinary functions;
  6. Time savings of 18 months to complete the work, saving over $3 million in demerger costs;
  7. The process was executed at a high level of integrity, transparency and collaboration due in part to the objective counsel of WCI.

Why Watershed CI?

As experts in the field of Change Integration™, we recognize that one size does not fit all. Each client comes with distinctive needs, culture, level of maturity and tolerance for complexity. We weigh these factors when selecting the appropriate solution – this ensures the suite of deliverables achieve high-quality, customized results.