People often ask me how I find time to write a weekly blog with a big, busy CIO job. I tell them all the same thing – it’s a discipline. I try to start early in the week with an idea, draft it one night, come back to it the next night to finalize and then post it on Thursday or Friday morning. Topics are often timely; something strikes me and I tell myself “that will blog”. I add the idea to my running list. This week it included tips on doing presentations for executive groups, personal organization challenges and tips, and what’s possible to accomplish as an interim leader in just 6 months.
But this week I had as many as five new ideas but no time to start writing any of them. By Thursday night if I haven’t settled on a topic and started, I’m in trouble. Taking time to write may compete with critical work I need to finish up by the end of the week. This week was one of those weeks.
This week started out with a bang. By 9AM Monday, I was juggling 4 different issues. Continue reading
“You need to go beyond puppies and rainbows”. That’s the advice this week from a search firm expert. I’m part of the search committee for the new president of a non-profit organization where I am a board member. The search expert was telling us to go deeper in our questioning. Get past the fluff and canned responses. He said it’s ok to make candidates uncomfortable.
I’ve done a lot of hiring in my management career for direct reports. And I’ve been on search committees for executive positions. I’ve also been on the other side of the search process being interviewed for CIO positions.
You review resumes, you listen to the search firm’s summary comments on each candidate, and then you finally meet the candidates in the first round of interviews. It’s a process. And you only have an hour or so to get to know each person.
What you see on paper are the qualifications. In the interview you get to know the person. I said in one of my first blog posts, hiring the right people is one of the most important decisions managers make. For executive positions, the process is more rigorous with more people involved. After all there is much more at stake when you are choosing one of the top executives.
You are all working off the same position description and the organization’s mission and strategy. Yet search committee members come to the process with different perspectives. Continue reading
History was made this week. For the first time, a woman was nominated by a major party for President of the United States. Nearly 100 years after women won the right to vote and 240 years after the founding of our country, Hillary Clinton has broken this barrier. Did you hear the glass breaking? I did and it was music to my ears.
Across this country, women have proven they can do anything a man can do in any field. Yet women lag behind in pay, in executive roles and are poorly represented in fields like technology. In a longitudinal salary assessment, HIMSS found that women’s share of health IT salaries for comparable jobs is smaller than it was ten years ago. That means we are losing ground!
I’ve written and spoken about this and will continue to do so. As I was quoted in a recent article, Removing the Glass Ceiling in Health IT, we need to be open about this problem. Naming a problem is the beginning of addressing it. I could sit back quietly but I won’t. I owe it to the next generation of women, my daughters and my granddaughters to speak up. I was influenced by the women’s movement of the 1970’s, so I know that if we don’t speak up, we will never make the changes we need.
At last year’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, I was greeted by a 10-year-old boy with, “I thought only men were managers”. Continue reading
It’s been 3 months since the IT leadership team here launched a visual management board and started a thrice-weekly huddle. Since then, we have made numerous adjustments to improve our process.
Initially, the board was in a conference room; we sat around the table for the 15 minute huddles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. While it was not the ideal setup, it was the way to deal with a distributed leadership team. A few weeks ago, we moved the board out into an open area where everyone walks by and started doing the huddle standing up. We installed a speaker phone next to the board. It’s not a perfect arrangement but it works.
No surprise that it is very different when the group is standing in an open area: more transparency and visibility. We can invite people to observe our huddle and show the board to others who want to learn about it.
Working with the leadership team, we refined our goals to be:
- Reduce cycle time – “get things unstuck”
- Reduce preventable incidents
- Ensure ownership and accountability
- Reduce variation
- Increase coordination and communication between teams
- Ensure we deliver on top priorities
- Focus constantly on customer satisfaction and provide superior service to end users
The sections of the board are the same ones we started with:
- Production environment – To track major incidents and any open tickets that need escalation. We display the number of open tickets by system, critical open tickets, and approved system changes for the week.
- Top priority initiatives – To confirm our highest priorities and review issues that need to be addressed. We display the go live calendar, project successes from the previous week, and the dashboard from the Project Management Office.
- Metrics – To track key department wide metrics. We display metrics including key infrastructure stats, and operating budget vs plan.
- People – To highlight new hires, recognize staff, and raise awareness on recruitment efforts. We list open positions, pictures of new hires, and employee appreciation awards.
- Everyday Lean Ideas (ELI) – To provide a central place for staff to suggest improvements.
We have a standard script for our huddles. Continue reading
If you are an IT professional supporting major production environments and applications, you have most likely experienced a significant system outage at some point. We had one of those events this week. As in previous experiences in other organizations, I saw people at their best come together as a team working diligently to restore systems. This team included IT, clinical and operations staff.
I know CIO colleagues who recently managed through a week long outage of their business systems in one case and a multiple day outage of their electronic health record in another. They could probably share similar lessons following those experiences.
In the spirit of teaching and learning from one another, I offer these key points if you have a significant event: Continue reading
My husband and I are as in between as anyone who has ever done a long distance move. Our possessions are on a truck somewhere between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Providence, Rhode Island. Stuffed into our cars is everything that can’t or shouldn’t go on the moving truck.
This is the fifth long distance move we’ve done together and we hope, the last. We are headed back to New England, the part of the country where we wanted to end up.
I will continue working at University Hospitals in Cleveland during the week as the interim CIO until we hire a new permanent CIO but my home base now shifts east.
We made some close friends in a few short years in Michigan. We did a long goodbye with them on weekends over the past few months. And we promised to continue what we started by keeping in touch any way we can. We issued an open invitation to our guest room.
We started this move in March getting our house ready for market. We thought (and hoped) we’d sell quickly. Instead, we found ourselves buying in a hot market where houses were gone before we could see them but selling in a slower market. Once again we’ve learned that you can’t count on the market being in your favor.
As we packed and purged, we found goods that others could use and filled the cars with donations. We donated lots of clothes in good shape but in sizes we’ll never see again. This included business clothes that women needing a fresh start can use for interviews and getting back into the workforce.
I’ve once again learned about making tradeoffs and letting go. Continue reading
Many organizations have a Project or Program Management Office (PMO). If not at an organization wide level, at least within the IT department. There are different models. Some PMOs provide standards, tools, methodology and overall tracking. Others provide this foundation as well as a team of project managers (PMs) who can be assigned as needed to major projects. Our PMO at University Hospitals is the latter model.
Our PMO has evolved under our new manager, Joe Stuczynski. He and his team are making significant improvements with the support of IT leadership. They have developed a roadmap for further changes and improvements for the next year.
It is refreshing to be in an organization where we are not debating about the tools and whether they are good enough. We are not debating about what projects need to run through the PMO and if everyone needs to follow the standards.
Instead, we are embracing and leveraging the tools and the PMO is able to focus on what it should be – tracking projects and providing PMs to manage projects. Continue reading
My fourth grandbaby was born this week. I helped out by taking care of his 19 month old big sister while his parents were at the hospital. Being able to be present to give this support to my daughters is one of the reasons I started my next chapter back in January.
Why is it so important for me to spend time with my family as my four grandchildren grow up? My father died when I was just 4 years old. His death left my mother to raise my 3 older siblings and me alone. Her parents lived 3 hours away. We only saw them a few times a year – a 3 hour drive for a mom and four kids was a big deal back then. My father’s parents had died before my parents were married. And my own daughters grew up without grandparents. By the time my husband and I were in our 30’s, all of our parents were deceased. None of them lived to age 70.
As a professional woman, I have worked far more than 40 hours a week since my late 20’s and been in management since 1984. When I had babies, a 6-week maternity leave was the norm. Both my daughters went to infant programs in daycare centers when I went back to work. I learned that babies start to smile at their parents (and it’s not just gas) at around 6 weeks old. I realized that I would miss her first smile being back at work.
I treasure the times I have now with my grandkids. My daughters are appreciative of the help I can give but don’t want it to be a burden. I have heard people my age say being a grandparent is great but it’s really nice to be able to hand the kids back to their parents. Yes, kids are demanding and tiring when you are no longer young. Continue reading
While I try to stick to the topics you would expect in a professional blog, there are times when I can’t ignore the events we all witness. Whether they are joyous or tragic, they all leave a mark on us. Last July I wrote about marriage equality sharing the story of my Aunt Dorothy.
During the fall as a US presidential candidate repeatedly talked about building a wall along the Mexican border, my post “Build bridges, not walls” was a message about the importance of embracing diversity. In that post, I quoted a church hymn that really struck home for me. “Our World is One World” by Cecily Taylor included this verse:
Our world is one world, the thoughts we think affect us all. The way we build our attitudes, with love or hate, we make a bridge or wall.
I closed that post with this statement: “Let’s continue to work together to build the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren and generations to come.”
My fourth grandchild is due next week. I look forward to holding this new baby and welcoming him into our family. I am busily crocheting his baby blanket trying to get it done in time. While I crochet at night, I watch hours of television news about the worst mass shooting in US history – 49 people were killed in a gay nightclub, a place they considered safe and welcoming.
My maternal grandparents were born in Slovenia and came to the United States as immigrants in the early 1900’s. My grandfather was one of 11 children. One of his sisters had 10 children; two of her sons and one of her son-in-laws were rounded up and executed along with 30 others in their Slovenian village by the Fascists in 1942. They were my mother’s cousins. Continue reading
This past weekend we did another major upgrade – this time the ambulatory EMR. It went extremely well and was met with smiles and kudos from our senior executives. While we’ve done several major upgrades recently including revenue cycle and acute EMR, this one had a lot of eyes on it. Those same senior executives have been rightly concerned about the performance of our ambulatory EMR while we worked through some significant issues during the past several months, including software, hardware and infrastructure. So, kudos to the team that turned the corner on those issues and pulled off a very successful upgrade with minimal issues and disruption to our physician providers and operational practice teams.
We called our 200+ physician practices before the upgrade to make sure they felt prepared. A few actually said “what upgrade?”. Apparently they had not read the any of the advance communications. So we worked with each of them to make sure they were ready.
The command center was open all week and will close early today as we have fewer and fewer calls. Over 62% of the reported issues had been resolved as of late yesterday. Our users gained a lot of new functions and features which has made everyone happy.
In addition to a strong and collaborative relationship with your vendor, here are some critical success factors for any major software upgrade: Continue reading