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CIO Unplugged 7/13/10

July 12, 2010 Ed Marx 5 Comments

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

Strategic Plans — Getting to 2.0

I recently met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a decade. After breaking the ice, we shared deeper life stuff. As I tried to understand the aura of weariness and apathy hanging on my friend, I realized with sadness that he had no focus for his future. No vision.

He was going nowhere and getting there too quickly. Opportunities crossed his path, but he didn’t take them or he had taken notice of them too late. I dreaded to think how many regrets he’ll face on his deathbed.

As you know, this bankruptcy of success doesn’t just occur with individuals. I listened to a guest speaker ask a leadership team to cite the enterprise vision. The audience fell silent! A departmental vision? she said. More silence. Personal vision? Silence. The group was wandering, but you’d never guess that by reading their strategic plan. A plan written but not lived out is an epidemic tragedy.

In a 2007 post, I shared my thoughts on “Taking Control of your Destiny,” encouraging readers to have a carefully crafted plan for business and for life. The number of businesses and individuals who wander through time without connecting to their purpose is frightening.

Try this test to see if your organization has an effective plan. Ask staff members to cite from memory your mission and vision. Could they explain how strategies are aligned to clinical and business imperatives? Ask them to tell you the one thing that provides focus. A failure to pass this test reveals a failure of future success. It’s time to act.

Moving on …

For those who have past the above test and have a functioning plan in place, what’s the next level? As you would imagine, I’m a deliberate planner, forever exploring creative and innovative approaches. Here is one.

This spring, the IT leadership teams of Texas Health Resources and Pier1 met for an all-day strategic planning session. In the morning, my team and I presented the Texas Health strategy and dived into the IT components. In the afternoon, we reversed roles.

Together we rolled up our sleeves and challenged one another throughout the presentations. We shared experiences and best practices, offering unique perspectives as consumers and patients. We poked holes and pressed buttons and then commiserated. What we learned from one another added value not only to our corporations, but to each individual.

The big takeaway for us affected our approach to (clinical) business intelligence. Recognizing that we were headed in a direction sub-optimal to our potential, we heeded their experienced-based counsel and immediately changed direction to avoid significant future pain. In fact, Pier1 CIO Andrew “Andy” Laudato now serves on our business intelligence committee.

Another takeaway tactic I intend to employ: if Pier1finds an IT-related expense in the organization that’s not currently part of IT, they move it to the IT budget immediately. Even though this causes a negative budget variance, it allows the organization to understand the complete cost of IT and provides them control in the future. Simple, but profound.

This fall, we’ll have another exchange, this time with Radio Shack. I had lunch with their CIO Sharon Stufflebeme this week to hammer out details. Our teams are psyched. I’m hoping to celebrate a Le Tour victory when we visit their headquarters.

How do you make this happen? Look for innovative CIOs outside of healthcare. I serve on the Texas Christian University advisory board, and when I first joined, Andy (Pier1) presided over the board. Fascinated by his leadership and accomplishments, I made an appointment. While visiting in his office, it became clear to me that Pier1 would be a good match for my team.

At another time, I was speaking on a panel with Sharon from Radio Shack. Her leadership style differed from mine, and she was very successful. On the panel, we worked as contrarians, and I benefitted from that diversity. I have great expectations for the impact she and her team will have on our planning and thinking. We need people to rock our world, business and private. Iron sharpens iron.

You might be asking, Why doesn’t he have these exchanges with healthcare providers?

Good question. In specific areas, we tap into peer organizations on topics ranging from cost allocation methodologies to enterprise PMO. For example, we belong to excellent think tanks like Scottsdale Institute that enable exchange of ideas. Although these are helpful, they carry limited value, for if we restrict ourselves to healthcare peers only, IT will continue to lag. So we reach out beyond our protective covering to break free of the chains binding us to lack of foresight and preventing the fulfillment of our purpose.

Avoid the epidemic tragedy that plagues present day IT. Encourage your subordinate units to develop plans that support the organization so you have complete line of sight from top to bottom. As a bonus, encourage them to create personal plans. They’ll thank you for it. Remember: living without purpose is the greatest invisible tragedy that’s never perceived until the end. And then, it’s too late.

Update 7/16/10

Thank you for the feedback to my recent post on strategic plans — Getting to 2.0. I am pleased that some are finding the ideas and concepts helpful. One of the first questions I ask when I see a floundering person, division, or company is for a copy of their plan. I have never met a person or company with a well thought out plan who is floundering, but the inverse is true 100% of the time. Those who flounder have no plan.

I am sorry for Hamon Tower Patient experience. As articulated by HHS in the MU announcement, transforming healthcare delivery with technologies such as EHRs and RTLS is a journey and that we are continuously working with our caregivers to improve their experience and that of our patients. In the spirit of continuous improvement and openness to collaboration, we would welcome the opportunity to connect with you offline to learn more about your  experience. Please send me an e-mail directly and I will set something up.

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. 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 "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Thanks Ed, I really enjoyed reading your views tonight.

    Very refreshing and very relevant!


    Don Lyons

  2. I always enjoy reading your blog as well as listening to your presentations as a former vendor in the HCIT space. I have had the (un)fortunate position of being a patient at THR Presby Dallas location and had some thoughts and feedback. During the admission process I was chosen to be part of a pilot/poc for RTLS which I think is really cool technology and a must with the recent healthcare reform, but when I came out of surgery and was back in the new patient tower (real nice btw) my tracking device was gone and no one knew what happened to it. The question I have is whether this project falls under IT or another group? The nurses could definitely use help in articulating what THR and/or Presby is trying to accomplish so when patients are handed off from unit to unit everyone is on the same page and ultimately THR can measure an outcome. I “enjoyed” my time at your facility, but I had to do informal survey’s with the clinicians about EPIC…Nurses and ancillary said they have gotten used to it though it was clunky, but the Docs definitely didn’t hold any punches and were hands off.

  3. Great idea to look outside of healthcare for ideas and fixes. Healthcare’s isolation in the stone age of IT is probably one of the main reasons for lack of progress. But Pier 1 and Radio Shack both are sinking ships unless the current leadership can get them turned around quickly! Healthcare needs to operate with more of a retail perspective but I would suggest more successful and progressive models.

    Mission and vision statements great if leadership will adopt and socialize the mission. The right leadership can get this done. Marx is cut from the cloth that can accomplish a good outcome.

    Why would Radio Shack hang their hat on Lance in the Tour, he needed to stop at 7 wins there is little if any interest in this country around Lance and Radio Shack is not significant in Europe.

  4. Ed,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. Full disclosure, I work with an app performance vendor, and striving to learn more about how I can approach my role in evangelizing what we do in a truly consultative and partnering fashion. This is but my first foray into HIS Talk, but thus far I am finding the blog and your posts helpful and intriguing, particularly in terms of gaining insight into what’s important to you and IT leaders more generally. I’ll be sure to tune in regularly, and in time to contribute to the conversation as well.


  5. Ed,

    Thanks for the interesting insights and fresh perspective. I have a meeting with Andy tomorrow in Ft. Worth.

    Best Regards,


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