My car was being repaired on Wednesday, so I took the bus home from work. Fortunately, the main bus terminal is one block from our IT offices in Appleton. Unfortunately, the closest the bus gets to my house is over a mile a way.
I jumped on the bus looking forward to getting a little exercise with a crisp fall walk. By the bus arrived at my stop it was snowing hard and snow was accumulating on the sidewalk. I was feeling so sorry for myself I almost didn’t notice the person that got off the bus at the same time. When I did, he was smiling and trying to catch my attention. I returned the smile he went on to tell me that he was so happy to see the snow. It turns out he is a college student, on an exchange program from Guatemala, learning Business and English. He had never seen snow before. We shared much of the same path and time and weather seemed to disappear from my list of concerns as we had a pleasant conversation as we walked. Seeing his joy in what I was dreading completely changed my attitude.
At work attitudes are so powerful. Not only does a manager set the tone with their attitude and non-verbal signals. But all employees’ attitudes have so much influence over how a meeting is perceived. I value every employee’s opinion and when they appear uninterested or disagreeable, I cannot help be affected by that. Luckily, the folks I work with are supportive people.
Being a good listener and bringing a sense of excitement to your work is powerful. When I was relatively new to the workforce I remember listening to a fellow employee present some information. Whenever she missed a fact I would shake my head no. After a while I realized this was having a negative on her presentation (duh). Since then I always try to be a good listener. If someone is presenting and I am not expected to engage them in dialogue, I look them in the eye, I shake my head affirmatively and I smile. I know this puts people at ease which allows them to be their best.
I had the pleasure of being in a small audience to hear Wisconsin’s own Quint Studer speak. Most healthcare folks will recognize Quint as the guru of approaches to achieve great results in hospitals (patient satisfaction, employee engagement, financial performance and quality).
Quint criticized healthcare organizations that have tried to address financial challenges by reducing training budgets. I have been guilty of this short-sightedness in the past. However it is now clear to me that the only way we can continue to address the continually increasing demand for IT is to better leverage our employees. As we ask more employees to lead more complex projects they need the support and education to be successful.
I am working on several fronts to address this. One small but meaningful effort is to encourage employees to read. Recently I sent every IT team member a Barnes and Noble gift card so they can get a book. The only thing I asked in return is that they post a short book review on our internal social networking site (we user Yammer). Some bought traditional books, some of our road warriors bought audio books and others bought ebooks for their nook.
I love the Dave Ramsey quote: “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.”
I told my team that the book did not have to be related to their work. I did not want people to buy SQL Server Administrator guides that would collect dust on a shelf next to the Lotus 1-2-3 floppies. As I have have blogged in the past, inspiration will come from unlikely sources as long as you are open to it.
To that end I just finished Operation Mincemeat. This is a wonderful non-fiction account of a British WWII deception plot. Toward the end of the book I was struck by this quote:
“Wars are won by men…storming up the beach with all guns blazing…They are won by planners correctly calculating how many rations and contraceptives an invading force will need. By tacticians laying out grand strategy. By generals inspiring the men they command. By politicians galvinizing the will to fight. And, by writers putting war into words.”
At the risk of being overly dramatic, it strikes me that large IT projects (like an EHR) are similar. They need champions willing to take on risks; great planners; people that envision how the system will serve a larger strategy; people at the top that can motivate the team and the users; and people communicating the right message to the right target audience. Contraceptives are probably not so important.
I am also developing a multi-day curriculum for IT Analysts that will make them more effective project leaders and team members. It is essentially a brain dump of everything our IT veterans have learned (often the hard way) implementing healthcare IT systems. I am thinking about opening it up to people outside of our organization. Let me know if you think there would be an interest.