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

Lead by example

How often have you heard that leaders have to “walk the talk”? But how often has a leader you admire disappointed you with either their comments or behavior? We ask ourselves “what were they thinking”?

Being a positive role model and leading by example is something I take very seriously – in both my professional and personal life.

I am deeply touched by the congratulatory notes and kind words I’ve received this week after it was announced that CHIME and HIMSS selected me to receive the John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year Award.

Awards like this don’t happen for CIOs without great teams.  I’m extremely grateful for all the talented and dedicated IT teams I’ve worked with over the years. Special thanks to my MCIT team at Michigan for the excellent work they do every day!

This award is named in honor of John E. Gall, Jr. who Continue reading

Culture change, slow and steady

You start in a new leadership position and you want to make changes.  Should be easy, right? After all, you’re the boss. You call the shots.Culture change

Not so.

You inherit a history and a culture, ways of working and thinking and behaving. You inherit a leadership team and a staff. You inherit a department that works within a broader organization and its culture. Still, you are the leader; you can make some changes, but it will take more time.

When I started at UMHS, there had been a 6 month gap with an internal interim CIO. She had kept things going but was happy to handoff to me. Continue reading

Plan for the future, manage for today

How often have you heard an IT leader say they want a position that’s “more strategic” and “less operational?”

The reality is that there is always a balance of both, depending on the level you work at in your organization. Sometimes, it’s not the balance you’d like to see.

Me too.

As the CIO, my typical day is back to back meetings. Plus, I squeeze in email and phone calls on a range of additional issues. I read and answer email well into the evening after I get home.

In the past week, I’ve reviewed presentations and read articles on health care in the future and how technology enables innovation: reflective thinking and planning.  Continue reading

Leader as conductor

Many leaders use a musical analogy to describe leadership: the leader is like a conductor. I wonder how many of them have actually been part of an orchestra or a choir member? I have been in HIT management for 30 years and I have sung in church choirs for over 20 years.

When I walk into our weekly choir rehearsal, I am just one of about 50 voices ready to take direction from our leader – an extraordinary young man, Glen Thomas Rideout, who just completed his PhD in Musical Arts in Conducting. Regardless of the job we hold or the day we had, we are there to take direction from him, to listen to one another and to make music. Continue reading