Chris Greene Hutchings is staff specialist in the Office of the CIO. We have worked together closely during my tenure at UMHS. With my pending departure, Chris asked to be guest blogger this week.
When the leader you report to announces she is leaving, a parade of emotions marches through your life.
The first is denial. “NO! She can’t leave, because we need to. . .”
Then it’s the blues. “What does this mean for me?”
And ultimately, acceptance. “We did some good work, didn’t we?”
It’s a bittersweet feeling because it’s the first time you stop to look back and see how far you have come together. And you realize you didn’t take enough time to celebrate the successes, or appreciate the good along the way.
Our CIO, Sue, is starting the next chapter in her professional life. As I look back, I see how much our organization has changed. I’ve been here for more than a decade and I know what things were like before. I know how long the status-quo had been in place, and the comparison of then and now is sharp relief. And both meanings of that word, “relief,” apply.
Our future boss asked what is working well in our department, and what is not. I realized the items on my list tied back to the values that Sue shared with us at our very first all staff meeting.
Sue came to UMHS in November, 2012 and we had already scheduled a meeting with 600+ employees just 6 weeks later. I remember thinking how brave she was to walk out on that stage so soon after coming onboard. After reminding us of our institutional mission and priorities, Sue shared her 7 values with us. And those values have come to fruition in our organization.
A departmental Teamwork Workgroup was established under Sue’s leadership. They created a Team Ambassador program so IT staff can connect with the right person in our very large department. However, our greatest improvement to teamwork has been the Major Initiatives Report that Sue established. This report tracks those IT projects that are high priority, large scale and high visibility. The report explicitly states “these projects will take priority over other work in IT.” Having this list stops IT staff from arguing about the relative priority of “my work versus your work” so instead they can collaborate on the work that brings the most value.
Sue’s commitment to communication has increased the awareness and engagement of IT staff at all levels. In addition to the Major Initiatives Report, we now have a monthly newsletter that includes a message from the CIO. Sue also communicates in person, from re-instituting regular all staff meetings to hosting a monthly breakfast where staff can interact directly with her. Information is power, and Sue shares that power freely whenever possible.
When Sue came, we had multiple IT service desks. A customer might have to call a different number depending on what building they were in, or which device they were using. Needless to say, our customers were confused and frustrated. With Sue’s support, hospital and medical school IT leaders unified the service desks to create a seamless experience for our customers. Today my PCP still doesn’t understand what my department does, but she knows that she can make a single call to get her IT needs met.
Sue brought accountability by requiring major projects like ICD-10 and Meaningful Use to do regular report-outs at our institutional IT governance group. Sue has initiated multiple visual boards so she and other leaders can see the status of work efforts and can intervene to keep things on track.
Our first attempts to solicit employee ideas delivered minimal results, so Sue assigned me to do ‘A3 problem solving’ around how we handle employee ideas. After talking to many IT employees at all levels, the lack of a standard process for handling employee ideas plus a long history of not responding to the submitter surfaced as root causes. There was a perception that few ideas are implemented; a perception that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sue’s support for this A3 generated the momentum we will need to make improvements to how we take in, consider, and respond to employee ideas.
If you’ve been reading Sue’s blog, you know that she is passionate about lean process improvement. She has promoted a lean perspective across the institution, and instituted lean tools in many areas of our department. Recently, we established lean ‘daily management system’ teams that span the organizational hierarchy. These experiments enable our executive directors to understand challenges the front line staff face so they can work together to solve problems. To learn about other lean experiments during Sue’s tenure at UMHS, see “On Lean” under the “By Topic” listing in the right hand column of this blog.
We also want our employees to have opportunities for improvement. In 2015, Sue assigned me to lead the Employee Training & Development Workgroup. Managers now have annual conversations with each employee about their career plan, and then inform our workgroup what resources are needed to help staff develop. In response to this feedback, this month we kicked off our employee shadowing program, which is the first of multiple phases of a robust employee mentoring program.
Sue focuses on results every day. In our management huddles, and with the tools she uses for accountability, she always closes the loop. When an issue comes up, she assigns it and tells you when she wants to see the results. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I don’t want to still be talking about this in 6 months.” Other times it is “I want you to bring a proposal to the executive team by the end of next month.” And other times it is “This is a ‘just do it,’ how soon can you have it done?”
The coming days will bring opportunities for us to thank Sue for the ways she impacted us personally. I’m still processing those feelings. But when the emotional parade is over, this fact will remain: we did some good work.
Chris Greene Hutchings is a staff specialist in the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers. Chris has worked with health care leaders for 19 years.