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Five Lessons From A Healthcare Business Operations Director

Posted by Israel Ovalle on January 25, 2016
You may have noticed recently how the topic of understanding the millennial generation is extremely popular. It seems every few days there is a stat, research or an editorial about catering to this growing segment. From the Pew Research Center to BCG and Forbes, there are a plethora of perspectives published on the subject.
As a leader in your organization, whether you are at a non-profit healthcare system or a corporation seeking the best performance for your shareholders, harnessing talent for your clinical teams or business units, is a critical mission. (By the way, if you're looking for a position at Medalogix, be sure to check out our careers page.) In as far as knowing what makes different age groups unique in the workforce, we are still learning.
As a Generation X member, I've been bridging a unique gap that seems to be top of mind for many. I'd like to share a few lessons I've learned in the last 12 years of working and leading some highly effective teams--mostly in healthcare--made up of great people from all walks of life.
  1. De-clutter your tool kit. Every once in a while I am in awe of the intellectual ability displayed by my peers, managers, co-workers, friends, etc. The ability for someone to quickly process information from multiple sources and clearly express a point of view on the most important issues at hand is very impressive. I don't believe many of us have that "intellectual horsepower" naturally, and as such, our focus needs to be narrowed. As you begin to own the responsibility for the success of a team, there are some technical skills that may be cluttering your manager's tool kit. As you set the course for your team, whether it's better patient experience or better vendor relationships, there will be action items that you are capable of accomplishing, however, some technical skills that you performed yesterday, could weigh you (and your team) down. Clearly, and honestly, break down the skills required and match to your team. The result may be that you place that skill behind you and rely on someone else. De-clutter your tool kit and place that skill aside, you need the space taken by it for developing other tools as a manager. If you don't, burn out and your overall team's performance could be at risk.
  • Match plan to personnel. Similar to the goal for nurses to practice at the top of their license, discovering what is the path that your team members envision for themselves is key for a high performing team. I often use a sports analogy where one is a coach or a GM and has a number of players and a season to play. Some players are unique and have certain way of producing for the team and for you. Certain teammates are able to physically or mentally fill voids that others cannot. Since you are not likely to to get a highlight reel of your new business analyst to gauge her fit in your new project, strive to clearly understand each others expectations from the beginning. Include your team members in the planning of what needs to be accomplished and discover where they want to excel. Making assumptions is a big no, especially when this work can be highly rewarding and an invaluable opportunity to really get know your team.
  1. Measure it and move it. I don't recall where I heard it first, but, "if you can measure it, you can improve it" is an axiom I live and work by. It has often been heard from my lips in talking about myriad of topics, not the least, team performance. Establish a unit of work and outcomes that can be measured and lay out a plan that has the end clearly envisioned. Having uncertainty is not necessarily a deterrent, however, it's important to differentiate from unknown uncertainty and known uncertainty. Be frank with your team in setting a work plan and highlight uncertainty. Unknown uncertainty, for some, is a cause of anxiety and anxiety can slow productivity. Know how your team will overcome uncertainty. In developing this tactic, I also recommend including the team members. One practical exercise is to develop a statement with a desired result. For example, if your organization wants to begin an initiative for more referrals, you may state; "We will pilot a new technology in 2016 for referrals and the success of the initiative will be assessed by increasing _______ or lowering _________ by ______ as compared to the performance in year 2015." You may be familiar with the buzz words "moving the needle," knowing what the needle measures is imperative.
  1. Do no harm with technology. When planning, developing and/or implementing a technology solution, start by understanding the problem. Adding technology to a broken system or process does not fix the problem you are tasked to deal with. Projects regularly experience scope creep. In addition to the overrunning of resources, a greater risk lurks when one does not clearly define the future or desired state of the process that will be affected by the technology project your team owns. The most practical and widely used tools for discovering risks brought by technology is the documentation of the desired state (process mapping is popular) and naming, in detail, the stakeholders that will be supporting, using and maintaining the solution upon adoption and beyond. Drafting a "contract" among the stakeholders and establishing the expectations will prevent unnecessary risks.
  1. Know and take care of yourself. If you believe the performance of a team is as good as its lowest performing member, identifying that which slows performance takes a balanced person whose vision is not clouded by anxiety or unhealthy habits. An excellent team leader tries to maintain a balance of critical thinking and optimism and is influenced by solid data as well as intuition. Do no harm to yourself, exercise and see a therapist if needed. Genuinely discover empathy and genuinely accept the responsibility of a team - whatever that may mean to you.
I get a lot of satisfaction from the successes experienced by my teams and team members. I love learning from others and passing that knowledge along when the opportunity lends itself. I've worked with amazing people that have different values and/or have a different view of the world; working towards a common goal is extremely rewarding. Some say business decisions are not personal. I disagree. From the wins and losses, I personally get excited for the opportunity at redemption and chasing the next win. 

Topics: Medalogix Culture, Healthcare Industry

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