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CIO Unplugged 4/6/11

April 6, 2011 Ed Marx 6 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

The CIO’s best friends. This is the first in a short series of posts BFFs who are critical in ensuring CIO effectiveness.


The CMIO/CIO relationship: Lennon and McCartney Minus Yoko

The magic key to the Beatles’ success was the convergence of songwriting talent and musical genius from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. While individually gifted, together they created one of the most celebrated musical teams ever. I grew up on these guys and I think I have their entire catalog memorized. My family indulges me in Beatles-themed Rock Band nights. Below is my version of Lennon and McCartney as healthcare heroes.

CIO: To be successful, I need a physician who can innovate and sing tight harmonies with me. I want someone who will tell me when I’m off the beat or flat. Depending on our audience, I might need this person to take the lead, or just play bass. For sure, I need someone I can trust who shares the vision. And I have to have a physician I love to be with. Meet Dr. V.

4-6-2011 7-06-06 PM

Dr. V:  Foundations of a great friendship are the hallmarks of a strong and effective CIO-CMIO relationship: mutual respect and trust. Ed and I work well together because we have a deep understanding of and respect for what each brings to the relationship and to the organization.

CIO: How do we accomplish this rich relationship? Spend time together in and outside of the workplace. Our families should mix virtual and physical. Common interests are bonus tracks be they World Cup Soccer, Starbucks, or shared faith. In the workplace, we do interviews together, rigorously debate strategy, lament losses, and present together. We’re to the point we finish each other’s sentences and sometimes ideas. At other times, work is plain fun, like the 45 minutes we spent posing for pictures for a magazine cover. We bantered about taking more photographs together than we had with our wives during our wedding ceremonies. Our diverse backgrounds, talents, and skill sets provide opportunity for creative mash-ups that lead to innovation.

Dr. V: Thanks to a level of transparency only attainable by best friends, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses intimately. Like brothers, we support one another.

CIO: We fight, too, which makes us more effective in the end. Sometimes it’s over silly things. For example, during video chats, he’ll shut off his camera because his hair is not perfect (I don’t have hair issues). But mostly, our arguments are serious, i.e. the adequate deployment of resources to support the medical staff. Only after a significant debate can we push our organization into new genres. Our sound is not always welcomed, but eventually we’ll even win over the crooners. Synergy at its best.

Dr. V: As healthy friends should, we hold each other accountable for our decisions and for performing at the highest level of our abilities. This sometimes means challenging the other to live up to his full potential, even if that requires putting up with uncomfortable changes.

CIO: To have an effective relationship, we have to lower our guards, be vulnerable, and deliberately set aside time for nonsense … not something typically easy to ask of a cardiovascular surgeon and a Type-A personality. We’ve gotten to the point where we know we won’t be judged for our voices cracking on a high note or for forgetting lyrics. While I receive kudos for use of social media, much of that came from him relentlessly pushing me to try new rhythms and styles. I also know that in a moment of weakness he won’t take advantage of me. Rather, Dr. V will lift me higher. And I do the same for him. I’ve got his back.

Dr. V: A good example of a challenge: Ed encouraged me to assume a matrixed reporting relationship to another leader in the organization. While a logical path to follow, I questioned the wisdom. Ed and I have a great working relationship. Why risk it? Trusting Ed’s vision, I acceded. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made to advance my personal development.

CIO:  Without a doubt, my CMIO makes me stronger. Together we have made an impact larger than either of us could have accomplished on our own. My CMIO gives me confidence that our clinical staff is taken care of and protected and that their interests are heard and acted upon. He gives the clinical staff a voice, and when mixed and played back, it’s music to the ears of our patients.

Dr. V: As the song from the ‘80s goes, “That’s What Friends Are For

Tips for Building That Foundational Relationship

  • Have families over for dinner and parties (significant time together)
  • Follow each other on Twitter
  • Share on a personal level (requires honesty and transparency)
  • Create and give presentations together
  • Conduct joint interviews
  • Maintain trust by following through on commitments
  • We’re still planning trip to Rome together

And like brothers and good friends, we don’t always agree on everything. Case in point: just like the Beatles, only one of us has an affinity for Apple.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed, thanks for sharing your experiences. It seems like the close personal bond you and Dr. V have created is a real benefit to the hospital. But is your scenario realistic? If there is no shared faith or love of soccer, or similar world view, will it be worthwhile to bring families together for awkward attempts at bonding?

    I’d be interested in how effective relationships and mutual respect can be created when there is not so much in common. Isn’t that the more likely and common situation?

  2. Nice article, Ed. I believe relationships like this can foster and improve all of our lives, not just at the CIO/CMIO level. They are important at all levels.

  3. No doubt about it Ed, Good synergies end up into Great Achievements . In the world of polarized views this a great example.One of the major driving forces for a new Organizational paradigm is a Great working culture and developing a Friendly environment . Your tips for building foundational relationship among two leaders are great and inspiring. Luckily you got good buddy to work with. What tips you have in such scenarios when CMO and CIO have had a tenuous relationship, with each role vociferously complaining about the other’s lack of understanding, knowledge, and respect. What are your perspectives on creating a good synergy within a team with diversified groups and different ideas ?

    Its well observed that “a harmonious work environment transcends long-range efficiency”. I hope there should be some parameters anywhere outlined to assess and measure KPIs in terms of “Cohesive Learning and Doing” . Is there anything out there yet… ? Any management technique or specific analytical tool …..?

  4. As an employee of Texas Health, I appreciate the influence that Dr. V has on our organization. Our success would be severly limited if this CIO-CMIO relationship did no exist. Dr. V is the bridge to our physicians which validates our direction within ITS.

  5. To: lostincali
    Good point. While Ed and I have much in common, we have many important differences as well. For example, we have very different personality types according to Myers-Briggs. We have different tastes in music. He enjoys the challenge of preparing for and joining ultra-competitive races. I struggle to get a few miles of running every couple of days. The main point is that what’s at the core of our friendship is our shared mission, vision, and values. If CIOs and CMIOs recognized this mutual aspect of their roles in the organizations they serve, they’re more likely to enjoy a productive and effective working relationship.







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