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

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

Shattering the glass ceiling

No more hitting it, or even breaking it – let’s shatter it!

I’ve been vocal in urging more women to pursue technology careers and in supporting women as they face challenges moving up the ladder.canstockphoto28787142

HIMSS16 attendees can focus on many topics this year. I will be pursuing my passion for developing the next generation of leaders, especially helping women deal with barriers they face as we try to level the playing field.

I’m happy to be a voice for women – but I’m not alone.

  • On Tuesday at 10AM at the HIMSS Spot, the annual #healthITchicks meetup is happening. I’ll be one of the guest speakers along with Rebecca Freeman, Chief Nursing Officer at ONC and Dana Sellers, CEO at Encore. Jennifer Dennard, #healthITchicks founder, organizes monthly TweetChats on a range of topics as well as this annual meetup at HIMSS.  Join us for some interesting Q&A and networking!
  • On Wednesday at 2PM, I will be one of two female executives speaking at the Views from the Top Session – “Shattering the Glass Ceiling – Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives”. I’ll be joined by Deanna Wise, Chief Information Officer at Dignity Health. Carla Smith, EVP at HIMSS will be the moderator. A similar session last year was a big hit with a large crowd so let’s make this year even bigger and better! Kate Gamble with HealthSystemCIO.com wrote an excellent preview of the session this week.
  • And in a two hour closed session on Monday morning, I will be one of six executive women that Carla has pulled together for a Women in HIT roundtable session. More than 900 women responded to a recent HIMSS / Healthcare IT News survey on the women’s professional needs in the health IT field.  According to Carla, those responding overwhelmingly wanted more recognition of female leaders, and more gender-focused resources that support networking, mentoring, and educational and career opportunities. She hopes that the roundtable will give HIMSS valuable input towards developing a year-round, comprehensive, and meaningful program to empower women, and to nurture the next generation of women leaders.

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Get started by asking the right questions

If you are drinking from a fire hose, you need to focus or you will drown. When so much new info is coming your way every day, you need a framework.  When I started my present interim CIO engagement, canstockphoto16518323I knew I needed to understand some key areas right away. They included strength of the leadership team, staffing, system performance, user satisfaction, budget, vendor relations, security, and IT governance.

Issues with system performance and dissatisfied users will find you even if you don’t go looking. Without solid system performance for your production environment, it’s hard to discuss anything else with your executives. If the issue affects your clinicians and their ability to see patients and manage their workload, you need to pay close attention. And you need to work with your team to figure out what’s going on and resolve it. System performance affects user satisfaction.  Whether users love or hate a system they depend on, it has to be fast and reliable.

To quickly assess the IT leadership team, you need to understand their background and experience, their current scope of responsibility and their primary concerns. What are they struggling with?  What help is Continue reading

Interim management is different

I am wrapping up week 3 as the interim CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio and I’m drinking from the fire hose. I have to learn a new organization, a new team, a new set of projects and priorities, canstockphoto3961050 (1)and a new set of tools. This much change takes patience – first with myself. I realize I can’t learn it all in one day or one week.

The good news is that there are many common themes and issues between health care organizations. With so many years of experience in health IT and leadership roles, I can jump right in. Imagine trying to learn this industry for the first time at this level!

I meet with other executives for the first time in “meet and greet” sessions. I want to get to know them and understand what they need from IT.  So, I’m asking each of them 4 key questions:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What’s working not so well?
  3. Considering I’m interim, how can I have the greatest impact?
  4. What are the key requirements for the next CIO?

I’ve asked all of my management team in IT to consider these same questions. More good news, Continue reading

Build bridges, not walls

As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of the global society we now live in. It is a difficult time for political discourse, let alone the kind of rowdy yet friendly debates that can erupt at Thanksgiving tables with people we know well and love.

The current political climate in this country is fraught with tension. The 2016 presidential campaign dominates many news stories with more and more outrageous statements and declarations by candidates. We hear that many want to close our borders. We see the Syrian refugees seeking a new home and a safer life as they flee the war in their homeland. We grieve with the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. And we watch with horror the continued instances of police brutality in our own cities and wonder why people have a problem with the statement “Black Lives Matter”.  As I write this, I am following closely the story of white supremacists shooting protestors in my home town of Minneapolis. And on university campuses such as University of Missouri, Yale and Harvard where students seek to learn, there is racial strife that threatens to splinter them.

We sang a new hymn at church this past Sunday 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.

When I participate in our IT department meetings and events I am reminded how wonderfully diverse we are. Continue reading

Leaders learning lean — time for a field trip

Say that title fast! We held our quarterly IT leadership retreat this week. As we continue on our lean journey, I decided a field trip was in order.

James Goebel explains how employee can see their scheduled tasks on the resource management digital board at Menlo Innovations.

We spent two hours at Menlo Innovations getting a private group tour from co-founder James Goebel. To prepare, we read the The Joy of Lean Innovation: A Case Study of Menlo Innovations and listened to a Gemba Academy podcast of an interview with Richard Sheridan, Menlo Innovation’s founder and CEO. Many others from University of Michigan Health System have visited Ann Arbor based Menlo over the years. I’d been encouraged to make a visit by my lean coach, Margie Hagene, and our internal UMHS lean champion, Dr. Jack Billi.

Menlo is a software design and development company. But we weren’t visiting to understand their approach to software. Rather, we wanted to understand how they have applied lean principles to run their business and create the culture that Richard Sheridan describes in his book, “Joy, Inc. – How We Built a Workplace People Love.”

Two of our new IT directors are in their third week, so we started the retreat by each describing the most effective leadership team experience we’ve had. The themes that emerged Continue reading

At work and at play: IT leaders connect with patients

Monday was the 42nd annual  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Golf Classic. While the golfers have a lot of fun, it is a significant annual fundraising event that makes an important difference in the lives of children and their families at Mott Children’s Hospital. Over the years, individual and organizational sponsors have provided support for computers at patient bedsides, medically safe camps for children with serious health issues, assistive devices for children with special needs, and many more important projects and services.

The Mott Golf Classic is committed to advancing pediatric medicine and enhancing the care experience for patients and their families. It supports unique initiatives that distinguish Mott Children’s Hospital which is ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Reminding all of us in health care why we do what we do, each year a child and their family are recognized as an honored guest and we hear their story.  This year Larry Prout Jr. and his parents, Larry and Kathy, along with his five older siblings and other family members were the guests of honor.  Larry Jr. was born with three birth defects – Spina Bifida, Cloacal Exstrophy, and a massive Omphalocele. His parents didn’t know if he would make it through the first 24 hours after birth and there were many times during his first six months that he had to fight for survival. With their love and the specialized medical care of a multi-disciplinary team at Mott, Larry Jr. overcame many setbacks. He is celebrating his 14th birthday on June 11th.

One of my IT leaders, Joe Kryza, Executive Director of Infrastructure and Systems Operations, has made significant contributions over the past 10 plus years to the Mott Family Network, a non-profit volunteer organization that many of our IT staff contribute time to. Continue reading

Making the tough decisions

We make all kinds of decisions every day. Some are small yet seem difficult at the time. One I sometimes joke about is ordering off a restaurant menu that has too many good choices. When I finally make my order, I tell the server that I have made my “major life decision” for the night.

Sometimes a group makes a decision after weeks or months of lengthy deliberation: many groups have weighed in, expressed their concerns, asked their questions, refined the plan or recommendation, and only then ultimately provided their support.

And then there are the potentially very impactful decisions that must be made in a matter of minutes with the best information you have available after a very quick weighing of the risks. I had to make one of those decisions last Friday.

We had scheduled our Epic version 2014 upgrade for the weekend. The plan was to bring down the production system at 12:30 AM Saturday. The system would be down until 5:00 AM while the final conversion tasks were completed. IT and operations staff were scheduled in the command center to monitor the upgrade and address any problems. Leadership calls were scheduled daily to review issues starting Saturday.

At 11:51 AM on Friday, I got a text Continue reading

Leadership huddles: not just another meeting

It’s huddle time! No, I’m not joining a sports team.  But along with my leadership team, we are taking the next step on our lean journey. In a few weeks we’ll be starting twice a week 30 minute leadership huddles. This is part of Lean in Daily Work which also includes key visual metrics, visual boards, Everyday Lean Ideas (ELI), and leadership walks.

In a post last summer, I talked about the lean journey.  It is important for leadership to set common expectations throughout an organization.  So if we’re going to practice lean thinking as a department, our leadership team has to set the example.

The goals of this lean experiment include the following:

  • Create a common understanding of what our performance is compared to what we want it to be so that we can understand the gaps and improve
  • Make our work visual and actionable
  • Understand our business more deeply by asking questions and looking at trends
  • Surface, track and trend problems
  • Gain experience and practice with lean

Continue reading