Putting a face on IT

As IT leaders, we get used to hearing complaints about IT: we are not being responsive enough; our systems are unstable; too many clicks in the applications; not knowing who to call. The list goes on and canstockphoto20456258on. There are times when you think you can’t possibly please everyone. It’s may be why so many people have sat across my desk and said they’d never want my job. But I have learned that proactive, honest communication with your users is critically important.

One step is to survey your users about their issues and their satisfaction with your solutions and services.  This can be an extensive survey about a particular system or of one group of users. Or it can be a simple, few question survey after calls to the service desk. Regardless of the type of survey, make sure to let your customers know you’ve heard them. Publish the results and action steps to address problems. No matter how negative some of the results may be, you have to be transparent. And re-survey at the right interval to check if you have moved the dial.

Another step is to make the IT leadership team very visible and accessible. Provide easy to find information on who is responsible for what and how to contact them. Get out to the right leadership meetings and forums to provide IT updates; solicit feedback and concerns. Show you care and are listening. Continue reading

IT governance – basic but critical

The first three months of my interim CIO engagement at University Hospitals has flown by. I’m fortunate to be working with a very talented IT team and we recognize there is always room for improvement. We canstockphoto22767750have already made some very positive changes and improvements. We are tightening up how we manage and monitor the production environment to reduce preventable incidents. We do a root cause analysis on every major incident and review them as a team at our bi-weekly leadership meeting, tracking all subsequent action items. We are making progress on numerous major priority projects and there have been several system upgrades and go lives during this period. We are doing detailed planning for our new hospital integration efforts. We are launching our visual management board and leadership huddle next week as part of our lean efforts. And we have re-established an executive level IT steering committee addressing the critical need for IT governance.

Our third IT steering committee will be Monday evening. Our CEO and other senior executives are engaged – exactly what we needed. They are developing a deeper understanding of our current work and the many new requests we have received since this year’s budget was approved. We have reviewed with Continue reading

Equal pay, who can argue?

My mother had to go to work to support four children after my father died from cancer. I was active in the women’s movement in my college years. So, I can’t imagine women not having a career outside the homecanstockphoto6033421 if they so choose or if they have to support themselves and their families.

Although I was very interested in math growing up, I got into IT somewhat by accident; I had wanted to be a math teacher. But in the late 70’s the field of computer science was exploding and there was an easy entry path. I went to a technical school and got a certificate in programming.  I learned to code in 7 different languages. I doubt that any of them are still remotely useful.  I didn’t work as a programmer for long but stayed on the IT path. I worked as an analyst for a while and then moved into management in 1984.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTW) is coming up soon – April 28th. Last year, we had a very successful event at University of Michigan Health System and I’m hoping they are doing it again even bigger and better this year.  I’ve learned that we don’t do any TODASTW programs at UH. With everything else on my plate, I wasn’t going to try to start it in our IT department.

Technology is a significant part of our future – as workers and consumers. Technology jobs are some of the highest paying jobs. Continue reading

Corporate functions, local service

Mergers and acquisitions in health care have been common in recent years. Small community hospitals are becoming part of much larger integrated health systems.  One of the common challenges these canstockphoto34427718systems face is providing effective local service from central corporate departments.

Health systems may span a large metropolitan area, a portion of a state, or a multi-state region. And there are systems with a national footprint.

The health systems I’ve worked for are mostly the first; they have covered a large metropolitan area. Local hospitals may be as much as 100 miles apart and the corporate office somewhere in the middle.  While much of the work goes on every day without face to face interaction, people are often expected to drive to key meetings either at the corporate office or at the hospitals. But the distances and the traffic can challenge support models for corporate functions. Continue reading

Do you know your big rocks?

April is a mixed month for me. No, I’m not talking about the fact that we had snow this week. In April, I celebrate many happy milestones, including my birthday and my wedding anniversary. Andcanstockphoto25793802 now, both my daughters have April wedding anniversaries. And the blooming daffodils along the road remind me that spring is finally here. 

Yet, there is always a sad part of April for me. My father died from Hodgkin’s disease on April 23rd, just a few days before my fourth birthday. Losing a parent as a child leaves a hole in your heart and shapes who you are.

Stephen Covey has a great story about “big rocks”. If you’re not familiar with it, just google it. Our families are our big rocks and my daughters remind me of that. And as little as they are, my grandchildren are also big rocks for me.  Every time one of my daughters calls me on FaceTime and I see a cute little toddler smiling at me from my iPhone, I fall in love with them all over again. Continue reading

Making the invisible visible

The whiteboard in my office has become a working draft for our IT leadership visual management board. And it’s become a focal point of discussion as I socialize the idea with our IT VPs, directors and canstockphoto26356044managers. I’m encouraged that everyone who gets the walkthrough supports the idea and sees the value in it. They see the potential it has to address some fundamental problems in how we work as a department.

Ownership of the board is shifting to the team. I’m using color coded sticky notes to add ideas and pose questions. I’ve encouraged IT leaders to stop by and put their own sticky notes up as we develop it together.

Some have asked if they should do something similar with their own team. The answer is yes! We need to commit at the leadership level and model behaviors. But to truly be effective, each team should have some kind of visual management and huddle that rolls up to the leadership huddle. Continue reading

Being in between

My husband and I are in that in between space. We have gotten our house ready for market – making it look like a showcase, and not the house you actually live in. We’ve had the pictures taken – the wide canstockphoto8356068angle lenses they use make every room look bigger than it is. Our house is now listed; anyone can peer into our house through any of the online real estate sites. We’ve had the first open house this past weekend. I hope it is the only one; every home seller hopes for an offer within the first few days. Even better would be more than one offer and a bidding war.  That would truly be good house luck for us!

You’re supposed to “stage” your house so it looks like you don’t live there. No personal photos as though you are an orphan from nowhere. No garbage cans or recycle bins visible as though you don’t produce waste. Nothing on your closet floors so they look spacious. Nothing on your kitchen or bathroom counters as though you never cook a meal or use any products. It is as though you have already moved out.

Being “in between” for us also means staging our house for selling and moving into temporary housing in Cleveland where I am doing a temporary engagement. What will we need in Cleveland and what should we pack to eventually go on the moving truck.

Like you, we have more stuff than we need. Continue reading

Lessons from an aspiring lean leader

This week I will be sharing lessons I’ve learned as a lean leader and champion – in particular around visual management. The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) holds an annual Lean Transformation Summit canstockphoto16267629where experts and practitioners come together from all industries to learn from one another.

My talk will cover a multi-year journey that has involved learning from others both in and out of healthcare, site visits, training classes, lots of reading, and experiments with my leadership team. Most of my talk is based on my experience and lessons learned at the University of Michigan Health System.

I was delighted to see that University Hospitals where I’m currently the interim CIO has been on their own lean journey since 2011. At our hospitals you will see huddles and visual boards throughout. Thousands of staff have been trained in lean concepts and methods. In contrast, there have been limited experiments with lean at the corporate office. I have a few allies in my IT leadership team who have experience with lean in other organizations. A good start!

I would have been making a mistake to arrive at UH as the interim CIO and start introducing lean methods week one. I needed to see and hear the problems that need to be addressed. Continue reading

Apps aren’t enough

Health care organizations are focused on increasing patient engagement and improving patient satisfaction. As consumers, our expectations are high. We are used to doing many tasks online with an canstockphoto29459472end to end digital experience in the retail, financial, and travel industries. Health care is clearly playing catch up.

But can we blame software limitations and hope for technology solutions when talking about what we need to do? I’ll be the first to say there is probably an app for any problem. But, it’s not just about technology.

Health care is a high touch business for clinicians and support staff. The processes and workflows have to work hand in hand with technology. Think about your experience seeing your doctor. Making the appointment, checking in, checking out, handling your co-pay, and getting referrals scheduled should be simple, consistent, and most importantly patient centered.

Culture is critical. Every person you encounter in your health care journey should have your best interest and satisfaction as their priority. After all, we care for people. It’s all about basic customer service, it’s not rocket science. Continue reading

Innovation – who owns it?

I’m back from HIMSS16 and the sensory overload of Vegas. Like every year, the conference and exhibit hall was filled with new vendors and products. Trying to find the really new, new that is a breakout canstockphoto19831405innovation can be a challenge with thousands of exhibitors. I expect to soon read many post HIMSS articles that will highlight the new innovations and the promising start-ups there.

The HX360 program was co-developed by HIMSS and AVIA, an innovation partner for more than 20 forward-leaning health systems. The program is an attempt to carve out during HIMSS an innovation focus for senior leaders. This year I attended the one-day HX360 Executive Program.

The highlight for me was a panel of CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers from leading health care organizations – Providence Health and Services, Dignity Health, Christiana Care and University Health Network in Canada. The panelists were forward thinking health care leaders and organizations. Continue reading