Not long after becoming a manager of organization development for a large healthcare system, the OD team and I decided we needed to develop a written statement that succinctly expresses our commitment to keeping things simple. We were going to post this statement boldly as a reminder that although healthcare is incredibly complex, we were committed to simplifying things where and when we could. So we did. We decided to start preparing for this new way of thinking by all reading “Insanely Simple: The obsession that drives Apple’s success“. The idea was for us to develop wildly impactful interventions that operational teams and leaders could use easily and deliver them in an insanely simple format. The iPhone is a crazy complex piece of technology but it’s interface was designed to be intuitive and simple to use.
Understanding healthcare finance is about as complicated a thing as a leader has to decipher…but instead of learning the many theorists and academic nature of finance, how about helping leaders translating that data into information. I’ve encountered some incredibly intelligent and strategic finance leaders, but rare is the one who has such a command of the data that they can translate it into operational information. My friend Dave is one of them and I can honestly say that I look forward and enjoy hearing him deliver his financial reports.
As a leader, we are live in a world of complexity. For example, our department scorecards have a litany of metrics – all very important mind you. My current scorecard, for example, has 40+. Every month, I go through a ritual of gathering data from multiple sources to populate my scorecard and report it monthly to the hospital executives. This process forces me to remain vigilant of the results of my team’s performance. I also share that scorecard with my team because it’s important for them to be aware of the end result of their work. Month after month we go over a few of the areas we didn’t quite meet the target and a few areas where we can celebrate successes…and we have a lot of celebrations. My team is amazing. Our current employee engagement scores at the 93rd percentile (Gallup) and our patient experience scores are consistently in the top decile (OAS CAHPS/Press Ganey). I could go on and on about my team, but you’d get bored of hearing all the accolades.
I followed this routine consistently for almost three years before attending a Studer Group conference. Sure I’d heard of them, read a couple of their books, but had never met the legend himself or heard him spread his wisdom in person. Forgive me if you aren’t a Studer fan, I understand, but I am and I’ll share why. And no, I’m not some paid promoter – although for the right amount of money I could be! Quint Studer’s processes are time tested, developed through experience as an operations leader, and if you execute accordingly – you get results. Basically, it works.
I came back and actually integrated some of my learnings into practice. Not in a, “Hey I went to this conference so the flavor of this month is hardwiring excellence”, but in a strategic, methodical, team-inclusive way. I started with cascaded leader accountability…sure my leaders knew their roles, but we lacked true alignment. This included a single-page (read: simple) matrix of goals and individualized weights – not all leaders had direct accountability for every goal, along with 90-day action plans, and individual scorecards. These are to be reviewed monthly at our now-consistent leader meetings. There are other things on the agenda, but that’s a large chunk. Now you may be saying, but Gary, that doesn’t sound revolutionary…and you’re right. But it’s a foundational component to simplifying focus. My leaders went from trying to manage to the entire scorecard to just a handful of true Key Performance Indicators. How “key” can something be if there are 40 other “key” indicators?
We also changed the way we present the scorecard to the team. We created a single document listing only the goals/metrics on the leader accountability matrix, categorized them by campus priority and color-coded them in the traditional red-yellow-green. Simple. In one glance, you can get a snapshot of our performance. Does that mean everything else is unimportant? Of course not, but those other 30+ metrics on the full scorecard are on maintenance mode. How has this worked? Honestly, it’s taken some getting used to. I am cheap and being a good steward of resources, I took the screenshots of the fancy software and created my own templates in Excel – sure it lacks some of the functionality – I run a surgery center, not Apple – but it gets the job done. There’s a learning curve for using the templates. There’s a learning curve to learning how to prioritize using this new matrix. There’s a new process of reviewing process at monthly leadership meetings in a structured way. So we started this journey two months ago and my leaders are resilient and agile…so we’re making good progress. Is it hardwired yet? No. Will it be? Absolutely…because we are relentless. Making things simple isn’t easy…in fact, many would say it’s harder than creating the original “thing” but it’s necessary for operations leaders. Our teams are busy and bombarded with too much “stuff”. Let’s help them stay out of the weeds.
Take a few minutes to look at your processes, reports, activities. Are there ways to translate data into information in ways that are easy to understand? How can you help create focus and accountability without adding complexity?
If you’re interested in reading the tool-packed book from Studer, it’s called, “A Culture of High Performance: Achieving Higher Quality at a Lower Cost.“