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CIO Unplugged – 1/15/10

January 15, 2010 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Why I Fired and then Rehired Myself
By Ed Marx

I received a message New Years Eve from a former colleague in human resources at University Hospitals (UH). In response to something I’d shared a few years back about firing myself, she said, “I loved it so much I’m firing myself today, too. Monday will start a fresh look at my job (that is, if I hire myself back).”

I think we all should give ourselves the pink slip.

A few years ago, Intel was losing market share and profitability. Consequently, the company floundered. Knowing it was a matter of time before the Board would take mending actions, the leadership (Grove, Moore) discussed a particular phenomenon they’d observed. Nearly every time a company or division installed new leadership or brought in consultants, outcomes improved. They concluded that the new leader came in energized and with a fresh pair of eyes. Knowing he was being evaluated, he took his responsibility more seriously than a tired leader.

Needless to say, Intel’s old leadership had a brainstorm. Why not fire themselves and come back to the job as the “new” leaders? "If existing management want to keep their jobs when the basics of the business are undergoing profound change, they must adopt an outsider’s intellectual objectivity." They fired themselves over a weekend, and, after shifting markets (memory chips to microprocessors), Intel became the clear leader in a very competitive market.

Although UH and IT weren’t in dire circumstances as was Intel, we needed to guard against complacency. I challenged my leaders to follow my example and take time over the holidays to reflect. Pondering how you would approach your position as a new employee is a healthy and worthy assignment. Look at yourself as a potential candidate for your position then ask: How will I evaluate the talent, change processes, and service mix? Should I alter my interactions with customers, my personal engagement, or my attitude? Will I embrace innovative ideas I formerly rejected/feared? What strategies and tactics will I deploy to ensure business and clinical convergence with the health system? Do I have the courage and fortitude to remove employees that no longer add value? Am I stretching the boundaries of innovation? How will I be a better servant…?

The variations are endless! To survive, you probably won’t need to change anything you’re doing. But to thrive means constantly reinventing self and operating differently. We embraced change, adopted an innovation oriented culture and began to walk in the fullness of our authority. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Several other University Hospital leaders fired and rehired themselves that New Years Day of 2007. The result? We experienced a dramatic shift moving from transactional to transformational services that had a net impact on our business and clinical operations. Our business, quality, and service metrics shot up to new heights. I experienced exponential growth, personally and professionally.

I’m due for another firing. What about you?


Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each 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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