Home » Ed Marx » Recent Articles:

CIO Unplugged – 9/1/08

September 1, 2008 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.

Green Standard Time
By Ed Marx

In the last few years, the Green movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_politics has picked up momentum as the world comes to grips with the reality that we belong to a single ecosystem and must be prudent caretakers of our shared Earth. Sidestepping political foray associated with the movement, one principle I agree with is conserving our precious resources. The most precious non-renewable resource of all is our time.

I advocate “Green Time.”

My audiences and Blog subscribers often ask how I manage to accommodate all my passions—and do them well. After a recent talk on mentoring, a woman said to me, “I have read your blogs and seen your YouTube Ironman videos where you share the amount of hours invested in training. If you were to take a 20 week period and subtract the time for training, sleeping and working, how do you have time for anything else?” She stated the exact hours associated with each.

Part of the answer boils down to personality where my wife will attest to my unconventional modus operandi. Aside from that, however, I do not subscribe to the work-life balance philosophies popular over the past decades. Technology has created the capacity for more fluidity and integration in the post-modern lifestyle, freeing us from the bounds of compartmentalization. If I am inspired at 3am to work on something, or on a Saturday, so be it. If I want to be home for an important mid-day occasion, I do it. I measure my productivity in outcomes, not hours.

There are numerous books on time management that will do a far better job than I in providing tools and tips, but here are a few that work for me.

· Team Work Makes the Dream Work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Maxwell)

You are only as successful as the people around you (see post “Talent Rules!)

You must have a great assistant like I do

Delegate authority and responsibility to the lowest levels possible

Provide vision and remove barriers, then get out of the way and allow your team to make it happen

· Multi-Task

I carry out the majority of my conference calls while in the car (Safety tip: integrate a complete bluetooth environment in your car to do this)

My laptop with “aircard” shadows me everywhere enabling me to catch-up on miscellaneous tasks during any unexpected downtime

I keep up intake while biking and running indoors (see post “Chief Intake Officer”)

All division leadership meetings include 29 minutes for professional development

Outdoor runs, rides, and swimming incorporate prayer and reflective thinking; Blackberries are great for spontaneous note taking

· Meetings

I attend fewer meetings by allowing others to represent me

Too often, I have looked around a meeting room at the people involved and wonder at the duplication of effort and wasted resources

I ask myself, “Is my attendance really necessary?”

I adopted principles from “Death by Meeting” and improved outcomes http://www.tablegroup.com/books/dbm/

I create regularly scheduled “block times” where I do not attend meetings

Practice those things you probably know but don’t do: Agenda, Meeting Purpose, Facilitator, Timekeeper, Action Items, etc.

· Stop Watching TV

The average person watches somewhere around 20 hours per week. Set yourself free, and buy back 20 hours!

I married my college sweetheart between our junior and senior years. Possessing little cash, we lived without a TV and never became addicted. Today, we watch a couple of movies per month and enjoy an exceptional TV moment such as the Olympics. Even then, one of us will climb on the elliptical or stationary bike instead of acting the couch potato (see multi-task)

· Vendors

I only spend time with strategic partners; my team handles tactical and emerging partners

I rarely do lunch or dinner meetings or other boondoggles. Instead, I do occasional breakfast meetings, which are quick and part of my existing work routine (see multi-task)

I’ve started doing workout meetings. We meet at the gym and talk while working out (see multi-task)

· Work from Home

I save up many routine and/or intensive tasks for my home workday, Fridays. My productivity easily increases by 50% or higher. My assistant does this as well. My entire division is encouraged and free to work at home as much as possible

If the above is impractical, carve out a minimum weekly 4 hour block of time and visit your neighborhood Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Panera, Library, etc. Free yourself from distraction, and concentrate on work for an extended period of time

· Be mission and vision driven, and take control of your destiny (see Post “Taking Control of Your Destiny”)

· Focus

Where ever I am and whatever I do, I am in the moment

I begin each workday by seeking God and preparing for the day’s and week’s tasks and objectives

I give everything I have to the task at hand

· Outsource

I hire others to do tasks that sap my energy and time, such as lawn care and household/car repairs. Some say they can’t afford this. I argue you can’t afford not to if you want to have energy to focus on what will help you realize your vision

“Outsource” other home tasks. Teach your children certain tasks. (Our son received his A+ certification training at age 12; for 6 years, he became the household go-to person for all things technical.) The neighbors hired him on several occasion for computer needs. Do your neighbor kids have skills you can employ?

· Exercise

Studies have shown that exercise not only improves the odds of a longer more healthful life, but sharpens the mind

I do the majority of my workouts while others are sleeping. My workout facility opens at 5am and is 5 minutes from my office. Time and location are significant conveniences

Golf! I’ve never stepped foot on a course, but many CIO’s do. Are you using those 3-4 hours wisely? Can you golf with family or with vendors?

· Family time

Evening walks. Weekend bike rides

Got teenagers? We connect with ours by playing Rock Band. (Although I am the lead vocal, my kids warn me not to quit my day job)

My kids let me practice my speeches on them and use them as sounding boards. They get a taste of what I do, which keeps us connected and broadens their perspectives

Part of my weekly dates with my wife include a joint workout and prayer, things we both believe in

Regular dates with the kids is crucial

Family first + work second = everybody happy

· Rest and the Sabbath

I get to bed around 9pm each evening for an average of 7 hours sleep per weeknight, more on the weekends

I attempt to reserve Sundays for pure rest, no work of any kind. Counterintuitive, this principle applied leads to more time abundance

· Mood affects everything

Gratefulness allows me to enjoy the time I do have

Always give thanks. I was a janitor and I was thankful. I was a pizza delivery driver and I was thankful. I was an Army Private and was thankful. I am a CIO and am thankful. In all things, give thanks. It’s a choice.

I don’t believe our environment is completely controlled by the actions of the population, but I do know I’m responsible for how I manage my personal time. Hence, my choices govern my impact on those around me. In this sense, I’m a dogged proponent of “Green Time.”


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 8/15/08

August 15, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined: Chief Intake Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post continues a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We continue with the “Chief Intake Officer.”

Regarding my training schedule, many have asked, “How do you keep from going crazy while biking and running for endless hours?”

Sound boring? Leading up to the Ironman race, I biked indoors every weekday for hours at a time. Often that was followed by a long run on the treadmill with a cool down on the elliptical. As one who dislikes wasting time, I spent many of those hours reading magazines, books, and newspapers. I drank. I ate. I read. All essential intakes. This pattern did not work well in the pool…

One factor that adds complexity to the practice of medicine is the amount of new information a clinician must absorb to stay current. Studies suggest it would take a clinician an average of 351 hours of study monthly to stay abreast of the latest in medicine. That is a tall order for any profession, especially when you combine it with the age-old equation of balancing work and life.

I have not encountered any equivalent studies, but I speculate that the effort required for CIOs to remain current is equally as challenging. This post does not convey how to make the time but rather gives a feel for my personal amount of “intake.” The sources below detail the individual reoccurring resources but exclude the interactive ones (conferences, professional organizations, staff, education, etc.)

· Newspapers (online when practical)

Local paper

Local business journals

Wall Street Journal

· Magazines (online when practical)

Healthcare

Read ~5 healthcare IT magazines (Advance, etc)

Read ~1 clinical journals

Read ~3 healthcare business/leadership magazines

IT

Read 3 general IT magazines

Read 2 IT leadership magazines

Business/World

Business Week

Harvard Business Review

Time

Other/Fitness/Spiritual

Outdoors

Running/Biking

Triathlete

Miscellaneous spiritual growth

· Books

Top 10 Books for CIOs (updated annually)

Books based on our division IT book review clubs

Bible (attempted at beginning of each day)

Miscellaneous spiritual growth

· CDs

Monthly subscription for business books

Monthly mentoring series

Miscellaneous cross genre

· Blogs

HISTalk

Miscellaneous (IT, healthcare, fitness, spiritual)

· Online

Healthcare

Reference sources (Gartner, KLAS, etc)

Miscellaneous research

Professional organizations (CHIME, HIMSS, AHA)

Other

CNN addiction

General business

General fitness (nutrition, Ironman, Argentine Tango)

Sports

Social Networking

LinkedIn

Facebook

My main points:

· Drive home the vast amount of intake required for the CIO 2.0.

· Intake does not solely focus on IT and healthcare. You must see the bigger picture, beyond healthcare and IT and from a broader context.

· A key to personal health is pursuing interests and passions outside of healthcare and IT. This also aids in innovation (see “glorious mashup” post.).

· Continuously invest in yourself.

· Be a good steward of your time. (More on this in a future post.)

Too many leaders lack adequate intake. Would you go to a physician who was behind in CEU’s, the latest in technology, or research? Are you recycling old ideas or stifling your learning environment. What are the last three books you read? How much time is allotted in your schedule for professional and personal development and renewal? As with cycling, you can stop pedaling and coast based on previous intake, but eventually you will lose momentum, then balance, and then you will fall. Meanwhile, others will pass you by. So get on your leadership bike and ride!

In a subsequent CIO 2.0 post, I will discuss the art of integrating and distilling all this information for key stakeholders such as staff, clinicians, and non-IT leadership.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 8/1/08

August 1, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined. CIO 2.0 Disruptive Leadership
By Ed Marx

I was privileged to be part of the CHIME faculty for a forum entitled “CIO 2.0”. Gartner was on hand with research and helped define the meaning of CIO 2.0. Faculty gave tangible examples from their unique experiences. In preparation, I did some introspection and analysis so I could succinctly convey my thoughts on how a person could transcend from the traditional CIO into the technology leader for today and beyond.

For me, CIO 2.0 is not about doing a couple of things differently in the workplace, changing the rhetoric, or upgrading your eyeglasses. CIO 2.0 is the external representation of an internal transformation. It is a interacting with life holistically, as juxtaposed from traditional thought and action. I narrowed it down to five things to share with the forum. This post focuses on one.

CIO = DQ

One of my favorite post-triathlon indulgences is a large cookie dough DQ Blizzard, high in fat, sugar, and best of all, taste. During the last few miles of the run, amid high heat and humidity, I begin to hallucinate about the DQ experience. Like an oasis in the middle of a never-ending desert, I cannot only see it, but taste it, which adequately keeps me running through the finish tape.

But the DQ for the CIO is not about ice cream. It’s something more satiating: the Disruption Quotient of a leader and, more specifically, disruptive leadership. I’m linking this term to the broader “Disruptive Innovation,” as portrayed by Clayton M. Christianson in his sentinel books on disruption http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation. Disruptive Innovation explains how a technological innovation, product, or service uses a "disruptive" strategy rather than a "revolutionary" or "sustaining" strategy to overturn existing dominant technologies or status quo products in a market. CIO 2.0 must embody the concept Christianson describes.

How can you calculate your DQ? One immediate measure is to take a tally of how many calls you receive from your organization’s leadership and how much resistance you get from decisions that upset the status quo. I determine my influence on IT and ultimately on the organization by my DQ. If I am not upsetting the proverbial apple cart, then I am adding little value. By merely maintaining what has been done in the past, I will bring about little if any gain?

Don’t misunderstand. This is not about stirring the pot for the sake of stirring the pot. Disruptive leadership must be purposeful and backed by a vision. I recall a meeting where we discussed the difficulty of getting clinicians to adopt CPOE. Why were they persisting at using paper-based records? As I looked around, I detected part of the problem. Every exec in the room had brought along a giant binder of information. Stacks of paper. So I ruffled a few feathers. “We cannot expect clinicians to change if we are unwilling to transform ourselves. Once we as leaders set the example, they will follow.” I received a few negative calls, as expected. But over the next few months, most of those leaders switched to carrying tablets instead of binders. Today, CPOE adoption is higher than the national average. That’s disruption with purpose.

What is your DQ? Are you making the necessary adjustments in your IT strategies and tactics? If so, how many IM’s or texts did you get this past week attempting to pushback your tactics? Are stakeholders uncomfortable, especially those who have been around the longest? Are you seeing healthy change in response to your leadership? A high DQ will not only reinforce your direction, it is more satisfying than the tastiest Blizzard following your hardest run. Best of all, no empty calories!


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 7/15/08

July 15, 2008 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.

Go to Grow
By Ed Marx

One year ago this month, I dropped off my oldest child at Biola University in LA. We arrived a few days early so Brandon and I could attend the student/parent orientations together. During our free time—and in the name of father/son tradition—we squeezed in some workouts and ate bad but tasty food. After we got his belongings organized in his dorm, we huddled for a final prayer and blessing, embraced and shed a man tear or two, and then I left. Sitting in my car in the parking lot, I watched him walk to the final student orientation. During his life at home I had planted seeds: I encouraged him to grow, encouraged his testing of personal boundaries, and discouraged signs of complacency. Brandon had officially begun his journey into the future and to independence, and the results of my optimistic seed planting were soon to blossom.

What happened next surprised me. As I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, I began to wail. From the depths of my soul, I cried so hard my stomach convulsed. Wheezing in breaths, I mourned my treasured son’s rite of passage. Then my mourning turned to dancing, and I rejoiced for Brandon and his future. I can only imagine what the drivers in the cars next to me must have been thinking of my spectacle.

In the time that has passed, we have seen amazing growth in our son, growth that could not have occurred had he stayed home. Despite an enriching and loving environment, his potential would not be fully realized without a dramatic change and challenge. Part of us would have loved to have him stay, but we knew, and accepted the truth, that he needed to go to grow.

My career has been much the same. I can’t think of a single employer that I have ever wanted to leave. Yet with each one, I knew at some point I’d need to go to grow. Indisputably, my former employers offered ample career growth and challenges, but for exponential and accelerated growth, I had to enroll myself on a journey: break out of my comfort zones, push the envelope of security. Each successive move has pushed me out of my natural bent toward complacency. They’ve shaped and sharpened my abilities. The breadth and depth of divergent experiences have broadened by skill set in an extraordinary fashion. My talents have gained a sharper focus, and my leadership quotient has multiplied. I attribute my growth, personally and professionally, to pushing my boundaries and circumventing the traditional career path.

I believe it is a leader’s imperative to fight complacency in the workplace and encourage others to go to grow. If it benefits our children and ourselves, then we must be willing to encourage subordinates and peers to do the same. Sound inconceivable? Untraditional? Scary? Of course we need to create internal opportunities and have career ladders, something for every kind of employee. Yet, at some point, the best thing for some will be a new environment, a place that challenges them to accelerate to the next level. An exceptional leader is not afraid or insecure to give away their best.

I have helped some of my best go. I have brought them opportunities for external advancements and served as their reference. At each departure, I felt the loss of their friendship, skills, and talents, and I cried in secret; yet I never regretted a single endorsement. I’ve stayed in touch, and what a thrill it is to see how they’ve grown in ways far more enriching than the opportunities I or my employer could have given them. They had to go to grow, to reach their fullest potential.

Are there people in your life and work who need to go to grow? Does complacency have a hold on your organization? Are you selfishly clinging, or do you have a heart to see the best opportunities made available? (Picture the able-bodied forty-year-old still living at home.) If one of your staff has significant potential but circumstances are such that you can’t fully exploit that, do you give that person the freedom to advance elsewhere? Are there other staff members who need you to encourage them to leave for these same reasons but who won’t on their own out of fear?

We have four years left with our teenage daughter, and we will cherish every minute. But we’ll also do our best to prepare her mind to take on challenges and enriching opportunities. In love, we will push her to learn from the past and fail forward and to maximize the present in preparation for the future. Ultimately, the time will come when she will go to grow, just like her brother.

Now it’s your turn. Go to grow!

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.”

CIO Unplugged – 7/1/08

July 1, 2008 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.

Glorious Mashup!
By Ed Marx

A common question I’m asked, and I suspect it is true of all leaders, is how do I come up with the constant flow of ideas on innovation, leadership, business and clinical strategy, creativity, application, etc.

(Short) Safe answer: I’m not sure.

(Long) Theoretical answer: The stuff I intake gets glomped by other intakes and existing information which generate fresh perspectives. My mind is a Mashup.

According to Wikipedia, a Mashup is “a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool.” The example used is “the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source.”

Mashup originally referred to the practice in pop music (notably hip-hop) of producing a new song by mixing two or more existing pieces together. Gwen Stefani is a good example of an artist who makes creative use of Mashup with songs such as “Rich Girl” and “Wind it Up.” Adam and the Ants did this decades earlier by combining African drum rhythms with punk to help define their sound. Perhaps we can credit Bach as the original orchestrator with “St. Anne” in E-flat Major where he mashed a triple fugue.

To enable a personal Mashup, you need to be well rounded and have multiple input sources. Lessons learned as a young Army officer studying engineering concepts continue to influence my present intakes. My experience working with clinicians prior to my technology baptism was foundational. Thanks to earlier mentors, I established a career long study of business. I’ve devoured hundreds of books to enrich my formal education. I feast weekly on a range of newspapers and magazines, most of them outside of healthcare and technology. I harvest inspiration from my external passions—family, faith, tango, music, and athletics—that each add uniquely to my portfolio of intake and experience. The breadth and depth of my Mashup is exponentially improved by engaging with individuals who possess a diverse set of experiences.

Mashup is rarely intentional. Most often it is happenstance. An excellent work example is the new training technique we developed and have since branded as CareTube. During a meeting with physicians, we discussed the challenge of training docs on CPOE. The only training that seemed effective was “at the elbow,” but that’s expensive to maintain, especially across numerous hospitals. Ideas started to pinball, and out of it came the Mashup: a training solution combining the requirement of brevity with the need for 24×7 access—and ideally, entertaining. We started creating application-linked short video vignettes supplying content and levity at the time and place needed most. Although not at the elbow, it is at the fingertip.

Thirty days later, we were Live with CareTube, a Mashup of Saturday Night Live, YouTube, training, and speed.

Imagine if all your staff were active individually and corporately as a Mashup. Think of the collective potential. One way we encourage this phenomenon is by investing heavily in training. We complement this training with voluntary in-office book studies. During the 6 months we’ve used these studies at THR, we have taught over 10 books, none of which were technical. Several were on leadership, a couple dipped into creativity, and the remaining explored service, business, and change. “Rick’s Library” is the brainchild of one of our analysts who has donated his office space for a library where anyone can check out tapes, CD’s and books of all sorts. The intent is to encourage creativity and increase the opportunity for exposure to ideas. More people are beginning to think outside of IT parameters and add experiences and wisdom to form their own Mashup. It’s fun! And perhaps it’s one of the reasons we just cracked the top 50 of Computerworld’s recent “Top 100 Companies to Work For.”

So don’t just read about this. Apply it personally. Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish before you die and stretch yourself, your mind. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Personally feed the orphans in Guatemala. Swim the English channel. Learn a foreign language. Dance on top the Eifel Tower. Go hang gliding. Read the Bible. Hike the Napali coast. Glean wisdom from your grandmother. Become a Big Brother/Sister. Play games with your family. And for Pete’s sake, stop wasting hours in front of the TV!

Do you want a never-ending flow of new ideas? The more diverse your collection of experience and input and the more people involved in the same will determine the rate at which you create Mashup. As Nike put it, “Just Do It!”

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.”

CIO Unplugged – 6/15/08

June 15, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined: Chief Interview Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post continues a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We continue with the “Chief Interview Officer.”

It shouldn’t surprise you to hear me say that an organization’s greatest asset is having the right people in the right places. If we lived in a perfect world, this process would be occurring naturally. But we don’t. Instead, the selection and development of talent may be the single most challenging responsibility for a leader. Selection of talent is more often a quantity game than a quality endeavor. Many organizations bring in as many candidates as possible to fill numerous positions in a department with the focus being more statistical than productive. Although this has spawned a billion dollar industry that gives us tools to attract and select the right people, by the end of the day it still comes down to a 50/50 crapshoot.

As the leader, it is my responsibility to ensure my department is hiring only the top shelf of candidates, especially when it comes to senior leadership ranks. For starters, we must offer a compelling employment proposition to attract the right people, a topic I’ll tackle on another post downstream. Assuming you are reaching the right candidate pool, how do you elevate the 50/50 crapshoot to 75/25 or better?

Absolutely, you must leverage the tools typically available through your HR division. I am not big on “requirements” filters, but I see value in sophisticated “cultural fit” assessments that show a scientific correlation between candidates’ scores and performance outcomes. These tools are good grounds from which to build and make the following even more effective.

As suggested and supported by Gallop research, we create a talent profile for each leadership position. Some leaders have gone on to create talent profiles for all their positions, a practice I endorse and applaud. Determine what talents are common to your most productive and effective leaders and use these as the baseline during your interview process. Engineer correctly, your questions can help you unearth an interviewee’s talents. If they have what’s critical to the success of the position, consider everything else fluff.

Common to all leadership talent is the ability to lead, think, and communicate. Using the conventional interview, these talents are hard to access and evaluate. Anyone who has reached this point in his/her career will be good at answering questions regarding his thought processes or how she communicates, etc. Once the top 2-3 finalists have been identified, the greatest differentiator in singling out the best candidate is the “presentation.” We require each candidate to choose one of two real world business/technical scenarios. He/she then returns in a week and presents his recommended solution to a jury of peers. This separates the great from the good.

Through the “presentation” technique, you’ll observe an actual real-time demonstration of these talents. In the standard interview, any candidate can tell you that she can handle conflict and even throw in an anecdotal example. During a presentation, however, a peer will deliberately disagree with a point so you can watch how the candidate responds. Is he nervous, timid, aggressive, thoughtful, etc? During the interview, a candidate can share the academic, five-step process on how she tackles a complex situation; during the presentation, she’ll have to apply that five-step process (or not!). How much research did she do? Was her process rational? Did she communicate clearly? Did she reach out to others? Oh, the things you’ll pick up on that are impossible to discern in the conventional interview.

And the bonus? You get free consulting! Sometimes the solutions are ones you’ve missed and can now apply.

Let’s face it, interviewing to ensure you hire only the best is not easy. Ensuring that the right people are in the right places, especially at the leadership ranks, is one of the most critical functions of the Chief Interview Officer. Whatever interview process you use, those around you will follow your example and carry the tradition down through the ranks. So do it right.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 6/1/08

June 1, 2008 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.

Got Clinicians?
By Ed Marx

If you don’t, you should. How many credentialed clinicians should a healthy IT department have? We presently have twenty percent—MDs, RNs, Radiology, Medical and Pharmacy techs, Pharmacists, therapists and a smattering of other less common specialties. I’m pushing to raise that figure.

I was recently requested to be the keynote speaker at a Nurses Week celebration at one of our system’s hospitals. Being a keynote is an honor in itself. But for me, speaking to the caregivers of our patients put this opportunity over the top. Although my presentation did not rank at what I’d have labeled top notch, preparing for it proved invaluable. It reinforced my admiration for caregivers, especially nurses. It also reminded me to permeate my IT staff with clinicians to ensure that our labor is accomplished with the caregiver in mind.

I long for the day clinicians are present throughout IT, including technical domains such as networking, data center, and other atypical areas. True, they are more dominant in application areas, but why limit the potential? The blending of clinicians with technologists could lead to higher levels of transformation and innovation. Here is our most recent revolutionary venture: we just added a physician employed by our organization that possess clinical and technical skills and leadership talents, and who will work closely with our CTO. I’m watching eagerly for the effects to unfold over the next few months.

Okay, so you’ve read the existing articles on how clinicians benefit an IT staff. But once you have them, how do you best position them and your traditional IT staff for success? What are the inherent challenges for clinicians and IT?

Note: Are you aware? When a clinician comes aboard as an IT staff member it is equivalent to starting a brand new job?

Think back to your own job changes. Could a swim coach apply her swim skills to her new waitress position? What about a massage therapist employing his talent in a paralegal job? Keep in mind this concept as you read the following practical tips on clinicians joining IT as shared by one of our clinicians, Diana Gibson, RN…

Challenges for Clinicians:

· Adapting to the office environment

Cubes vs. nursing station reduces the sense of teamwork

Use of meeting rooms is equated with loss of casual social interaction

Taking work home

Going out to lunch vs. grazing between patient care tasks

· Difficulty recognizing accomplishments/results

Need to understand the bigger picture (see beyond the patient)

IS systems are configurable with lots of gray areas; reduced workflow focus

No more rapid results (average patient los is 3 days)

Used to implementing changes quickly

Giving up precision and timing on tasks

· Loss of familiarity generates stress. The clinician must:

Learn new tasks, find new resources, and create a new employee network

Learn basic IT software (No more IVs)

Fight pressure to already understand IT on the first day of work

Assimilate IT language/acronyms

· Facilitation skills are not in the typical nursing repertoire

Scheduling appointments

Creating agendas

Taking minutes

Using a meeting room to solve problems as opposed to on-the-spot interactions

· Common conflict areas and issues of concern for clinicians

IT staff is generally unaware of clinician’s former environment and the required adjustments

Lack of training for clinicians in IT subjects

Clinicians are expected to already know what to do

Downtime scheduling affects issues regarding patient care

Clinicians have an inherent desire for more testing on software/applications (like testing a drug before giving it to a patient)

Bridging the gap and investing in clinicians:

Preceptor program

Increase depth of typical IT orientation

Pair new clinical staff with experienced IT person; identify future clinician leaders

Document and publish referable guidelines

Create web based training on IT tools

Project Management Training

Create PM processes that nurses/doctors can relate to

Help user/clinician visualize the big picture and break it down into tasks

Professional Development

Develop a Facilitation/Leadership class

Provide Continuing Education Credits (CEU)

Create internal training opportunities specific to clinical IT

Develop clear development pathways, like a clinical ladder

Clarify the position’s responsibilities

Embrace the significance of melding clinicians with IT. Be more intentional with it, maximize the value, and encourage further adoption. A healthy mix is a key to a high performing healthcare IT organization.

Got Clinicians?


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 5/1/08

May 1, 2008 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.

Talent Rules!
By Ed Marx

Unlike Hillary, I landed in Kosovo under relative calm. We flew in an unmarked military aircraft that was appointed more as corporate jet than government transport. While there were only Army soldiers awaiting us on the tarmac, we had no fear of danger. Coming off the plane we were greeted by a chiseled young soldier, Army Sergeant Jeff Masters. “Welcome to Kosovo Ma’am/Sir”, which he than punctuated with a crisp salute.

It was near Christmas 2004 and the Army asked me to join a handful of generals, politicians and business leaders to encourage our activated Reservists and Guardsmen stationed in Kosovo. I was honored to be selected. The bonus was that I would be able to visit with my Deputy CIO who had been voluntarily activated to Kosovo a few months earlier for this tour of duty. Most memorable was the don’t ask for permission lights out, fly by terrain Blackhawk excursion we took late one night. What a rush. It felt as if my Deputy pushed the allowable flight envelopes trying to get me sick but surprisingly I did not require my sickness bag. My CFO who accompanied me… well that is another story.

Sgt Masters was assigned as our purser if you will, our guide to make sure we got from point A to point B without getting lost or killed, He went out of his way to make sure our party was comfortable, answered all our questions and pointed us to the mess hall and latrine. He was polished, confident and the passion for service was self evident. In fact, the first evening we sat in on award ceremony where Sgt Masters was being decorated for superior performance. Generals sang his praises. I turned to my CFO and at the same time we said “lets hire this guy”!

Sure enough, Sgt Masters had no technical experience. He was an Army Reserve Combat Medic and was a carpenters apprentice when not on duty for his country. We did not care. He could learn all that but he had one thing that is near impossible to learn, service passion and leadership talent. We observed him closely the entire week and our convictions grew stronger. Once discharged from his activation, we had to bring him to our organization.

I have never been big on resumes. I suspect this was in part because I struggled to land my first “professional” job where recruiters cited either my lack of experience or targeted education. I knew I could do the job but I would never get the chance. I was armed with a Master’s degree, modest experience but moreover, passion to move mountains and a work ethic that was built on huge chore lists growing up and by working my own way through college.

As I finally did enter the workforce, I found little correlation between experience, education and actual performance. Certainly the ideal is to find a high performer with requisite degrees and experience, but by no means is the robust resume a guarantee for success. Time taught me that it was more about talent, the natural reoccurring behaviors and patterns of thought. In fact, while I was slow to land my first professional position, I owe much of my career acceleration to leaders who embraced this philosophy. Each took what traditional managers might have perceived as great risk in offering me opportunities for which I had the talent for, but not necessarily requisite experience and education. I am forever grateful to you Mary, Mike, Jim and Kevin. My own journey brought great clarity and success to my own recruiting and hiring decisions as my career progressed.

Jeff Masters joined us 9 months later. We assigned him to manage a challenging project that was frought with disorganization and poor leadership. A year later the project successfully wrapped up and yielded promised benefits. He worked very closely with our technical division and was learning field engineering skills along the way and took a leadership role. One more year and he moved into the clinical application realm and supported our CPOE system. While there he brought a new level of enthusiasm to the team which was languishing on this legacy application. Jeff brought organization all the while learning the complicated world of supporting clinicians using CPOE. It was such a joy to see him flourish because he was given the opportunity to fully utilize his talents. Today he is a manager coordinating the technology that will be leveraged in a Greenfield hospital at my former employer. I have every expectation that this apprentice carpenter and combat medic will continue his growth and achieve great things for those whom he serves. He has since completed his Bachelors and is now working on his Masters. But that is just window dressing on what already is a talented and highly competent professional who was given the chance to blossom, just like me.

Note. Unlike what is portrayed in the media, the American military is largely embraced by those they are deployed to help. We went on patrols through local villages and little boys and girls would see the soldiers and run to them and hug them. Their parents were warm and welcoming. I never have seen pictures or clips of this in the news.

We stopped in Ireland at 2am to refuel on our way home. We waited in the gate area when another plane pulled in. The soldiers who disembarked were amongst the first rotation of troops returning from Iraq. Once we realized what was transpiring, all of our generals and colonels and accompanied politicians formed a troop line welcoming the soldiers for a job well done. There was not a dry eye. One of my proudest moments as an American.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 4/15/08

April 15, 2008 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.

Culturally Relevant Leadership
By Ed Marx

One of my favorite things to do as a youth was to visit my dad’s office. To get into the French Army compound unnoticed, I had to be smuggled, cloaked in an air of mystery and suspense. I’d hide under the dashboard of our military sedan as French security forces saluted our vehicle through the gate. Once inside, my dad would park the car in front of the U.S. Forces headquarters and, when given the clear signal, I would run inside where I savored a free existence among the U.S. military and civilian officials.

As my dad worked, I would pull up a chair to the massive wooden conference tables and desks and play office. I toyed with paper clips, erasers, pens, rubber stamps and other office paraphernalia. I loved using the electric typewriters and placing my classified papers into filing cabinets that filled much of the hallway space. I made pretend phone calls to other consulates and raided whatever candy jars were available.

Fast forward…

In recent years, I have entered ex-IT leaders’ offices to discover that not much had changed since my youth! Searching desk drawers, I was surprised to unearth rubber stamps, legal pads and stickers. (Remember those gold stars teachers used to put on report cards?) With the exception of computers, these offices were even equipped with yesterday’s furniture. Although digital automation was functioning, you’d never know it by the amount of documents printed and processed via historical methods. Despite all the digital storage media available, I’d speculate that we still store more paper than ever before.

We have an aging leadership issue, and I’m not necessarily referring to chronological age. Evidence supports the likelihood that our antiquated styles and methods are creating hindrances in raising the next generation of IT leaders. These future leaders need our wisdom; but are our succession plans hip enough to give us credibility? I am not the most avant-garde CIO out there, but I am cognizant of my need to continuously update my team and myself lest we become irrelevant to those whom we lead and serve. So I push myself. I still have a long way to go.

If I have offended you thus far, check your desk drawers before you reply.

Cultural relevance manifests itself in many ways: how we dress, lead, talk, use tools, interact with staff, innovate, etc. Assuming you already have the requisite IT skills, endeavor to keep up with cultural trends. What was relevant when you graduated is not so for today. Here is a test. Bring your father into your office. If he is comfortable with the tools you use on a regular basis, give yourself an F!

How to stay culturally current:

  • Hire and promote it. Do not be afraid to hire new blood right out of school. Promote talented individuals even if they don’t have years of experience. If they’re talented, they’re teachable.
  • Hang out with culturally current people. Having had two teenagers in our home has acted as a catalyst for me. I have also created advisory groups to keep me on my toes. The best one was made up of second-year residents who gave me advice. I first learned of wikis and the power of blogs from them.
  • Experiment. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn and MySpace account, you are way behind. Bonus points if you conduct business via SecondLife.
  • Hang time. Set up monthly after-work parties at the local watering hole, where people will be more likely to let down their guard and deepen relationships on a different level. You’ll reap the benefits back at the office. I even had a foosball table in my office that helped eliminate intimidation and similar barriers.
  • Cross-pollinate. Avoid spending your conference investments solely in health care. Attend non-healthcare venues and get to know people who don’t look like you or share the same points of view.
  • Wardrobe. Honestly, how old are your suits and ties? I picked the sharpest dresser in my IS shop and had him stop over to my house. He systematically eliminated about 75 percent of my work wardrobe. He then took me shopping — and not where my dad shops.
  • Read voraciously. Read blogs! Read from non-traditional sources of media. Gain fresh perspectives on everything from innovation to leadership. Managing Gen X requires different diplomacy than Gen Y, which requires completely different techniques than do baby boomers.
  • Speak and write. This process will force you to differentiate and expose yourself to new ideas, vocabulary and trends.
  • Reduce e-mail. Email is from the 90s. As my kids say, e-mail is for when you want to send a thank-you to your friend’s mom for having you over for dinner. Push the limits with IM, txt msg and video.
  • Furniture. My office furniture has no place to store paper. There is no table, except for coffee. There is no trashcan. There is no printer. Everything (phone, projector, tablet) is wireless. We are tearing down several cubes in favor of contemporary design that encourages innovation and collaboration.
  • Music. Hey, I love 80s music. But I do my best to mix it up with the latest in sound. Listen to all — yes all — that your employees listen to, from Mozart to Moby. Admittedly, I still struggle in Texas with country.
  • Phones. Do you still have a flip phone?

Being culturally current cannot be delegated. Be proactive, otherwise you’ll end up only attracting employees who like to stamp documents and store them in mammoth filing cabinets. Candy jars are acceptable.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 4/1/08

April 1, 2008 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.

Who Are Your People?
By Ed Marx

As I sat down to blog, I had every intention of going back to a non-Ironman-related post. My attempts to post on matters more closely associated with health care IT failed to excite me. If I can’t be passionate about one of my own posts, my readers will pick up on that, and I will have failed to connect in a meaningful way. Not to mention that many of you have e-mailed me asking about the Ironman Arizona. So indulge me one final time and glean from the lessons that can apply to both leadership and life.

APRIL 10, THURSDAY– I pulled in a few days early to acclimate to Tempe and to finalize preparations. Though it was a long haul from Dallas, I chose to travel via car so I could bring everything I wanted, plus keep control of my bike. You can better guarantee success by having the right tools and by making sure they stay in optimal working condition.

FRIDAY/SATURDAY– No grand feat, whether it’s a major race or going live with CPOE, is performed well if attempted alone. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. One of my employees, Don, stopped in my office a few weeks prior to inform me that he had started running for the sole purpose of praying for me. He timed his April 13 run to coincide with the start of Ironman. Another employee, Aaron, flew out after the race to help me drive back to Dallas. I welcomed both their embraces.

My son, also an experienced triathlete, flew in from college on Friday to assist me with the final prep and provide counsel. As a film major, he shot all aspects of the race — a potentially interesting YouTube feature this summer. We attended the Iron Prayer event to connect with other like-minded athletes. My wife and daughter, whose support I consider invaluable, arrived the day before the race.

RACE DAY– Athlete #1345. I awoke at 3:00 a.m. to begin the nutrition phase. I consumed a few hundred calories then slept again. Waking at 4:30 a.m., I mixed my drinks and headed down to the transition area. My son was filming and helping carry the specialized bags of equipment. By 5:30 a.m., my body was marked and my bike tires were pumped one last time. I found a spot under a tree and lay down to rest for the next 45 minutes. Appropriate preparation and planning can allow time to rejuvenate while others around you are scrambling to meet the deadline.

T-MINUS 30 MINUTES– Under the scrutiny of the camera, I changed into my wetsuit. After final interview, I jumped into the lake with the other 2,299 Ironman wannabes. I remained unusually calm, partially because I did not shortchange my preparation. When the cannon fired, I was physically, mentally and emotionally ready to race. Proper preparation preludes proficient performance. (Say that 10 times…)

SAM– Climbing out of the water, I picked up my bike bag and ran into the transition tent. My first transition was dedicated to Sam, the young son of one of my employees who got hit with cancer last autumn. I pulled out the handwritten card with his name on it and placed it on the ground before me. I prayed for him as I put on my bike gear. His fight to the finish line would far surpass mine.

112 MILES in 6+ HOURS– The strong head winds and the 95 degree weather were killing my expected biking pace like a defunct router on network uptime stats. Complaining wasn’t going to change it. I had to make the best of it. Persevere. Keep focused on the bigger picture. I loaded up on fluids and consumed 400 calories per hour, a total intake of 3,000 calories, partly to prepare for the marathon ahead. Combating an urge to keep rolling, I made myself stop and reapply lotions to keep from chaffing. It would pay off later. At mile 80 — my last time up the wicked hill — one leg started to cramp, and I realized I had yet to urinate. I forced down more drinks and salt tabs and the cramps subsided. At last, the final 15 miles were downhill and flat. Relief engulfed me.

* During the last lap, the cameraman passed me backwards on his motorcycle, which meant the Ironman leader was right behind me. I sped up a little so when the scene unfolded on TV, it would look like I was in second place! That lasted about 3 frames as the leader made me look like I was standing still.

PAM– The transition from bike to run was dedicated to Pam, who had breast cancer, the wife of one of my employees. I placed her name card in front of me and voiced prayers as I changed. Only a marathon to go, and I would be an Ironman. But how many marathons of treatments did Pam have left? My suffering paled in comparison. Thanks for your strength, Pam and Sam.

DEDICATED PLAYERS– Ironman staff had trained an abundance of volunteers to assist at every stage. At the first transition, volunteers stripped me out of my wetsuit while others applied sun lotion before the bike. As I ran down the middle of the bike compound, someone was at the end waiting with my bike. When I returned to the transition area, one volunteer took my bike while another handed me my run bag. I was again rubbed down with sunscreen before the run. Planted along the run route were hundreds of signs created by race families in support of their athlete. My family had made 3 to help focus me on my purpose in doing the Ironman. Surround yourself with people dedicated to your success, positive people who will encourage you despite the circumstance. They will get you through the loneliness and pain of challenging times.

STRENGTH vs WEAKNESS– In training, I deliberately chose to concentrate on my strengths: bike and run. I had invested a combined total of 353 hours on these two events. Had I invested extra time on the swim, I might have gained 5 percent in overall time. By concentrating on my strengths, I gained an estimated 20 percent. Twenty years ago, I almost made the mistake of returning to school for a technical degree. Realizing my strength was in leadership, I opted to develop those skills instead, and it paid off. What I might have learned in technology would have already been lost — and outdated. Don’t misallocate precious resources by strengthening weaknesses.

FIRST, BREAK…THE RULE– I violated a cardinal race rule, which warns to never ingest something during a race that you have not used in practice; it could make you sick. Following a fellow Ironman’s suggestion — that he declared had saved him on the run — I indulged in a flat Coke. The sugar-caffeine high juiced my battery. Picking up the tempo, I cruised along with renewed vigor. Sometimes you’ve got to shake things up a bit and not do the same things over and over, especially if they are not working.

THE END– I remember spotting the 26-mile mark on the marathon, but the last few hundred yards were a blur. Roaring crowds lined the grandstands. Officials held out the Ironman finish ribbon, and I raised my hands in triumph and received my medal. It was over. I had held nothing back. There is no rush like that of a mission fully completed.

Yet my eyes were searching for my family. My wife and I cried as we hugged. While my son continued filming, I embraced my daughter. This had been a long journey of very early mornings and regular sacrifices. A journey that took over our bathroom and kitchen with a plethora of Ironman gear and foods.

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGER PICTURE?– At the end of the greeting pen was Ellen, the person for whom I had run this race. I had given her all my medals from the events leading up to Ironman with high hopes that in some small way they would be an encouragement to her and to her family. Throughout training, I had focused prayers against the cruel disease that had invaded her body. I desired that, through the providence of God, those prayers would improve Ellen’s quality of life. I presented her with the Ironman finisher’s medal, and we both put up brave fronts for the camera though tears were streaming down our faces. Ellen does an Ironman daily, especially on chemo days.

As a leader, do you have a significant purpose? Or is it solely about the money and the new house? Put people first. Seek to serve. In health care, the Sams, Pams and Ellens are the ultimate endurance athletes running a race that nobody should ever have to run. We are there for them.

FYI- the last 20 weeks training log:
• Swim 111 hours (lost count)
• Bike 235 hours 4230 miles
• Run 118 hours 944 miles
• Lift/Stretch 76 hours n/a

I did get the Ironman tattoo which was nearly as painful as the Ironman itself.

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.”

CIO Unplugged – 3/15/08

March 15, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined: Chief Interpretation Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post continues a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We continue with the “Chief Interpretation Officer.”

3:15. Shanghais. After taking the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong, we take the bus across the border into China. It is our honeymoon, but we separate as we head into customs. If one of us is caught we don’t want to put the other in jeopardy. Plus, because we were just recently married, my wife’s passport has her maiden name and we don’t want to bring any more attention upon ourselves than is wise. We are both carrying contraband.

We both are stopped and our bags inspected. They don’t find our contraband but we can’t find each other on the China side of the massive and busy custom center. As I sit on a bench praying and contemplating the next move, a smiling customs officer walks quickly towards me and with gestures informs me that there is another young person from America traveling alone and than he introduces us. Little did he know the beautiful young woman was my wife. We play along, lose the helpful official and head to a taxi stand. Our Chinese is straight out of Berlitz and the drivers English is wanting but we are able to traverse the right directions. Our 4 hour journey begins to Shanghais where we will transfer our 120 bibles to the underground church.

All we have is an address to a hotel where we will stay for several days and honeymoon. We expect a call on our first night with more information for the drop. The call comes in. Per the instructions, we go to the downtown bus station and walk around, toting our bags full of treasure. After a few minutes of walking the length of the station, two old Chinese ladies walk along side of us, put their hands over ours, we release our grip, move to the side and they walk off into the night. Our hearts were racing but we were overcome with a sense of relief. Despite language and cultural barriers, we completed our mission.

Sometimes in healthcare, it can feel as if we are speaking different languages surrounded by a multiplicity of cultures all trying to complete a common mission. And it is true. Healthcare is a melting plot of clinical, business, academia and technical languages all coming together in service of patient care. You mix these languages together in a pot with an equal number of varying cultures and its no wonder that the father of modern business, the late Peter Drucker, called healthcare, academic specifically, the most complex organization in the world.

We have seen a dramatic shift taking place with the emergence of CIO 2.0. No longer a technophile, the new CIO can speak and understand multiple languages interpreting and synthesizing the messages amongst related complex cultures. This CIO often has a varied background with a healthy mix of clinical, business and technology skills along with the requisite leadership talents. When with clinicians the CIO speaks clinically, when with business persons they speak business speak and when with technologists can communicate equally well. In each case, the CIO must interpret what they hear in the language of the speaker and translate that amongst all the stakeholders. Conversely, if the CIO cannot communicate technical innovations or challenges to the clinician or business person, outcomes will be substandard.

CIO’s can learn and sharpen these skills. There are multiple ways to do this and I have found the following personally helpful.

Mentors. My formal mentors have purposefully included administrators and clinicians. I have mentored with CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s and CMO’s. I asked questions, listened and transformed myself.
Rounding. I have rounded routinely with physicians and nurses. Despite my time as an Army combat medic and in the OR, I still have so much more to learn. Every time I round I deepen my customer understanding.
Reading. I read journals for administrators and clinicians while staying current in technology. I learn their languages and culture and apply them when possible.
Hire it. I try and surround myself and embed my department with individuals who have business and clinical backgrounds. By introducing their languages and cultures, I hope to create an environment where there is no longer a need for interpretation but we have a common language everyone understands.
Listen. When I am with administrators and clinicians I do a tremendous amount of deep listening. As I gain greater insights into their challenges and opportunities, I am able to respond with technology enabled solutions but in a language they can understand.
Conferences. At conferences, I always try to attend sessions outside of the technical domain. I want to know the top issues facing administrators and clinicians alike and see if there are answers that leverage technology.

Sometimes it can seem like we are all from different cultures and languages and everyone is speaking but no one is understanding. It is imperative for the CIO to be multi-cultural and proficient at multiple languages. Even if you only begin with modest understanding, these are skills that can be learned and mastered. You may not find yourself on the other side of the globe interpreting languages and signals to complete your mission, but you may feel like it at times as you gain mastery. This is no longer optional, but required to be a successful Chief Interpretation Officer.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 3/1/08

March 1, 2008 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.

Chief Ironman Officer Update: Leadership Lessons Learned from Champions
By Ed Marx

At the time of this post, I am 30 days out from my Ironman. I am a mix of nerves, enthusiasm and fear. Am I fit enough? Have I trained enough? What if I get injured before race day? What if I miss the swim cutoff time? (I’m a snail swimmer.) What if I flat more than twice? What if…

…And why am I doing this?

Ah yes, now I remember. It’s not about me. This Ironman race is about something much bigger than myself. See 01/02/2008 post.

To facilitate my training and to familiarize myself with the racecourse, I recently attended a “multisport” camp. The camp was run by former professional athletes who have organized many Ironman events. One of them, Paula Newby-Fraser, had won 26 Ironman titles including eight world championships. To this day, Paula has recorded the fastest finish among women. My first day at camp, I ran a warm-up 5K with her and gleaned all the wisdom possible regarding the course, the Ironman and running in general.

After an initial day of a short run, a short bike, and a long swim, we settled down for a hearty dinner. Camp leaders announced the cycling ride groups for the next day, which were formed based upon predicted finish times. I was selected to be in the fastest group led by the #1 ranked woman Ironman in the world. Fear struck me like a bolt of lightning, and I considered putting myself in a slower group. Michellie Jones, Miss #1 Ironman (my assigned group leader), happened to be sitting across from me at dinner. I promptly confessed, “I can probably hold my own at 20mph for five hours, but that’s my max.”

She no doubt heard the fear in my voice, yet still replied, “You’ll be fine with that.”

I didn’t believe her.

She added, “I like to start off slow and finish fast.”

God save me!

Apprehensive about the ride, I woke up three times that night. I wanted to drop to a slower group, and yet I couldn’t shrink from the challenge. Finally, I decided if I got dropped I’d just slow down and wait for the other ride groups to catch up.

That sounded like a reasonable backup plan until my ride group gathered that morning. Of the 10 riders, five were professionals; of the other five — mortals like myself — I was the only virgin Ironman. Talk about a clay blob among marble statues. Their bikes and aerodynamic outfits were three times as costly as mine was, and I was the only soft body amongst hard bodies. This was going to be a long day.

We set off at a blistering 26mph pace. Despite a fitful sleep, I had fairly fresh legs and was able to stay steady for the first 40 miles. In search of hills, we headed off the Ironman course and found some rollers with lengthy inclines. We had already lost two mortals; I was determined not to be the third. I was sixth in the draft line, and I noticed the cyclist in front of me falling off the pace, which meant I was falling off the peloton as well. At first, it was just a couple yards, but that stretched to ten yards, and I knew we were in trouble. We wouldn’t be able to push back up to the pack.

Lesson number one: Be sure the person you are following has the vision and stamina to keep you on the straight and narrow. “Followership” is a critical talent for survival.

The turnaround point for our hill excursion was coming up, and I managed to get back in the line. I understood clearly that the key to my survival was drafting closely, if not right behind the leader, in this case Michellie, Miss #1. I stayed slightly to her left with my front wheel overlapping her rear wheel by an inch or two. I drafted well, and during this stretch, at about 28mph, I was smiling, having the ride of my life. I was drafting behind the world’s best! My legs felt fresh again, and my confidence reawakened. About mile 80, we started to hit a gradual incline. As the last surviving mortal, I slipped to third position, then fourth, and was soon passed by the peloton. Heading up the incline, they stayed steady at 25mph, but I was too far off to draft. I ended up facing the wind resistance alone. Despite increased physical effort and motivation, my speed dropped to 18mph. I was alone in the desert. I could do nothing in my own power to reach them.

Lesson number two: Riding in a pack you can gain 40 percent efficiencies over riding alone. Teams can accomplish more. Pushing and pulling together, a team outperforms the loner every time.

A few miles down the road, I was saved by the refueling vehicle that carried extra drinks and food. As we resumed, I took 2nd position behind Michellie and did not let go. I was smiling again. No more inclines, all flat terrain. The closer together we rode in the peloton, the greater the “eddie” we produced, which helped propel Michellie forward. A truly symbiotic endeavor. As we reached the 90th mile, however, I was riding on empty, and Michellie razzed me for the umpteenth time about inadequate hydration. She made me a concoction out of two of her bottles, and we finished in a flourish. By the time we coasted into the finish lot, I was cracking up. I had just ridden over 100 miles with the Michellie Jones. And this woman led no patsy ride!

Lesson number three: Sometimes it takes sheer grit and hunger, but you can push yourself to do amazing things. Test your boundaries, then break through and grow to the next level. Just do it!

Throughout the camp, someone kept saying, “It’s about performance, baby!” One definition of performance: the efficiency with which something fulfills its intended purpose.

Last year’s trophy looks nice on the shelf. I have a few of my own, including work-related awards. But their beauty is fleeting. Their intended purpose has stagnated. Sitting back and bragging about yesteryear’s accomplishments is fruitless, inefficient. At some point, the past no longer matters. It is about what you’re going to do in the next race. Sponsors aren’t seeking out racers because they were yesterday’s champ or because they’d been doing Ironman for 20 years. They’re searching for the continuous quality, or excellence, of a racer — the guy who keeps pushing himself to perform and improve. The same should hold true in our health care careers.

Lesson number 4: You can coast for only so long in the draft of a trophy, but when you cease pedaling, you will fall over.

I’ll wrap this up with bullets of wisdom gleaned from champions:

· Teamwork

· Followership

· Sheer grit

· Breakthrough

· Performance

· Even gifted leaders need a coach

See you at the finish line!


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 2/15/08

February 15, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined: Chief Interception Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post continues a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We continue with the “Chief Interception Officer.”

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending the annual Davey O’Brien awards dinner, honoring the year’s best college quarterback. For the 2007 season, the honor went to the University of Florida’s Tim Tebow who added this hardware to his Heisman trophy. Highlights of his talents were shown and much of the Gator’s success was attributed to a low interception rate. In football, the interception is often considered a game changer. A momentum killer. One team has the inertia and is headed for a likely score. Victory looks certain. Then an errant block, a pocket that collapses, an ill-advised pass, and the opposing team catches the ball. That catch not only snuffs the scoring drive, it discourages the intercepted team. Keep that concept in mind as you read on.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that everything moves from order to disorder. A shrewd CIO can learn to intercept strategies, projects, or activities that perpetuate this law before they take hold. It takes about 10 minutes to identify an organization that lacks a Chief Interception Officer. In fact, you don’t even have to meet this person, just look at their application portfolio and the core technology mix. For further validation, review the number of FTEs per adjusted occupied beds or similar benchmarks. The more complex the environment and the larger the staff on a comparative benchmark basis the more probable the defense is out of sync.

To complement a solid offence, the primary defenses of the Chief Interception Officer are a visible strategic plan and an enforceable IS governance process. A large body of work already exists on IS strategic planning, thus I will simply touch on some of the less reported aspects. While a strategic plan must be aligned with the business objectives of the larger organization, make sure it directly supports all key performance indicators. Ask key stakeholders what drives their personal and departmental incentive plans then call out these specific objectives. Develop the plan in collaboration with key stakeholders without excluding anyone from providing feedback. As a final play, gather stakeholder signatures to signify that they have given adequate input and are endorsing the plan. Let the signature page be your initial slide in your overall plan. I keep a framed copy in our IS lobby as a reminder to those we serve and their commitment back to us.

Though it is a newer concept, a large body of work also exists on IS Governance for your reference. The governance process exercised by most organizations tends to be soft. Executives pitch projects of great promise (ROI, Quality, etc) and obtain funding. Yet no one ever circles back around to measure the actual outcomes. Thus, I will illustrate two notable strategies often overlooked: the need for end-to-end accountability, and the elimination of ambiguity.

To ensure quality progress, I implemented the following governance strategy. One year after a funded project has achieved a go-live status I sent the designing executive back through the governance process to present the outcomes. This discipline reduced the number of project requests by 60%, and those executives that did present had put their project through a rigorous analysis knowing that they would be held accountable to promises made. Projects that passed saw an increase in on time, on-budget performance, and, more importantly, on value realization. Did you notice my purposeful use of “executives” that presented projects? I changed the players from IS to operational sponsorship for all but highly technical projects. Finally, IS Governance must be firm in allowing only two possible outcomes. Funded or Not Funded. Anything apart from this reinforces the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

For an organization to bring about an efficient and effective application of information technology, the Chief Interception Officer must create the proper environment. While primarily on offense in leading an organization, exploit the defensive plays in your handbook. Heroically intercept misguided short passes and long bombs before points are put on the board that are difficult to reverse.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 2/1/08

February 1, 2008 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 Offshoring Works
By Ed Marx

I feel fortunate to have relocated to a community with a thriving HIMSS chapter. Recently, I was honored to participate in a DFW-HIMSS luncheon meeting as a member of the CIO outsourcing perspectives panel. On the panel with me were two giants in the business, which enriched my experience. Rather than rehash what was said, none of which was particularly new, I want to give you a unique perspective on outsourcing. In particular, offshoring.

To lay a foundation for my perspective, I will acquaint you with my past experience. I had worked for years in a system where operations were entirely outsourced, and 25% of my staff was offshore. In other environments, I employed selective offshore sourcing for routine and project based work. I have collaborated with top global sourcing firms. More recently, I visited India and toured the universities and factories of select firms. Perhaps the greatest insights gained however came from hosting dinner parties in my home for the rank and file offshore staff as they completed mandatory onsite rotations. Breaking bread at the dinner table created the single most effective time for listening. Why? When you minimize formalities and distractions, people tend to be more transparent.

As a general observation, offshore staff has provided a higher quality of service. Couple this with the price, and the value equation speaks for itself. Not only have I found this true with traditional offshore services, such as application support and interface development, but with our service desk as well. More important than reducing costs, our key service desk indicators improved, including overall customer satisfaction. What was the key to this offshore success? Hunger.

From the analysts to the executives, my offshore staff had one thing in common. Hunger. Many of their American counterparts simply did not display the same intensity and desire. Yes, the offshore men and women were highly educated, but they also possessed an insatiable desire to further themselves through service and develop themselves professionally. The emphasis on quality and the execution of it proved far superior. While visiting some of the facilities, I sat back in amazement, asking myself, “What if we had this pervasive focus in America?” I had the offshore staff teach us continuous quality improvement and share their processes and best practices so we could adopt them locally.

In some cases, Americans have become complacent. We’ve taken for granted our prosperity and competitive position, and many have adopted an entitlement mentality. Rather than confronting the realities of the global economy and the increased competitiveness, we’ve rallied for protectionism and bantered “Buy American!” It wasn’t always like this, of course. I believe the Greatest Generation had this hunger, which enabled us to reap the benefits. In order to sustain our prosperity and position, we must rediscover our hunger.

How do we develop that appetite? I am at my hungriest after a vigorous workout, after maximizing muscle hypertrophy and sweating off pounds. It is almost self-perpetuating: work hard, build hunger, nourish, and repeat. As leaders, we must develop and perpetuate this ethic within our organizations. We must ensure that support systems, like exercise equipment, are in place to cultivate hunger. Remove barriers and allow staff to perform at their best. Instead of relying on crude formulas based on education and length of employment, we must hire people with talent and attitude.

As we do this, the disparity between offshore and onshore will decrease, and we will find ourselves competitive again. Hunger will replace lethargy.


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 1/15/08

January 15, 2008 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.

Faces: The Toughest Aspect of Being CIO
By Ed Marx

In answering an often asked question—what is the most challenging part of being CIO?—several dated situations came to mind. Losing a data center when the electric grid went down in the northeast. Personnel matters. Providing champagne service and applications on a beer budget. The weight of my responsibilities while knowing patient lives are at risk. Facing down angry physicians. A multi-million dollar project gone bad. These situations ranked as tough, but not toughest.

I think back to Zarema, a woman on the staff interview panel when I came through as a candidate. While her peers tossed softball questions at me, she played fast pitch. I loved it! I respected her glasnost approach and assertiveness. A recent immigrant from Russia, Zarema spoke with a thick accent and held to cultural mannerisms that sometimes clashed with our health system’s progressive environment. Nevertheless, as a tireless and productive employee, she evolved into the go-to person of our division.

Before I left that division and eventually became CIO, Zarema confided in me that she was ill. I stayed abreast of her condition. She was very private, but over time, she received my prayers and support. Then, one day, I got the call. Disease had stolen her life. I lost an exemplar employee. Despite being sick, she had demonstrated how to strive for excellence, for she never settled for less than 100% on her yearly review.

“I still see your face, Zarema.”

A couple of years later, our IS Division underwent an incredible transformation, and much of the progress was attributable to our Field Engineering Team. We suffered “ticket tennis” issues, meaning service requests were lobbed between internal teams while the customer’s needs remained unmet. By combining the silos of Desktop Support, LAN Admin, and Network, we adopted a Field Engineering concept that encouraged and rewarded collaboration, which resulted in higher velocity and customer satisfaction. Dale was one of our young field engineers and a solid performer. Outside of work, he engaged in another passion: his motorcycle. One morning, tragedy came at him fast, and he was killed while riding his cycle to work. That week, the funeral was packed, and the majority of our field engineers joined me in attendance. Listening to them share words of support to the grieving family I gathered morsels of this man’s passion and added them to my treasury on life.

“I still see your face, Dale.”

I recall “Bill,” the husband of one of my direct reports, taking ill. After a few days in the hospital, his wife told me that he had tired of cafeteria food. (Imagine that!) My son and I snuck tastier cuisine past the nurse station then hung out for a little bit and prayed with him. His death devastated me, as he left behind an infant daughter and a young wife. He was brave; he fought hard. And he reminded me how life was too short to not live it abundantly.

“I still see your face, Bill.”

Most recently, another member of my division passed away suddenly. I regret, given my short tenure, that I did not have the time to get to know “Maggie.” Co-workers shared that she was a dedicated employee and a wonderful person, someone I would have appreciated. During a moment of silence at an all-staff meeting, I studied this woman in a picture on power point. I imagined visiting her at her desk, and I wondered what wealth of character I might have gained from knowing her.

“I still see your face, Maggie.”

So what is the most challenging experience as CIO? Identifying with tragedies that befall my department: lives taken prematurely; the impact of death and disease on families and communities. A good leader will morn with those who morn and rejoice with those who rejoice. I have attended many wakes and funerals to console grieving staff who lost children, parents, grandparents, spouses, and other loved ones. I have kept some in my contacts and scheduled their birthdates to chime annually on those bitter yet beautiful days.

I still see their faces.

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.”

CIO Unplugged – 1/1/08

January 1, 2008 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.

CIO reDefined: Chief Ironman Officer
By Ed Marx

The roles of a CIO are as varied as the companies and sectors they serve. Even within these roles are multiple combinations and permutations that are expressed according to circumstance. The moniker “CIO” itself is not limited to “Chief Information Officer.” No, to be effective in our calling we must stretch the traditional definition beyond this commonly accepted interpretation. This post begins a series on how the “CIO 2.0” will push the boundaries of conventional thinking surrounding the role. We begin with the “Chief Ironman Officer.”

The photo that serves as my avatar melds two of my passions: delivering technology innovations to improve the patient experience, and triathlon. In the foreground is my laptop. In the background is my tri-bike with associated gear. My dress is a mix of business and triathlon attire. Needless to say, the typical business picture idea bored me.

The avatar picture’s conception is rooted in my Army Basic Training at Ft. Dix, N.J., 1982. Despite my varsity high school accomplishments and the recruiter’s assurance, I failed the Army Physical Fitness Test. I lacked the strength to perform the requisite push-ups, sit-ups, and run. Humiliated, I promised myself that I would pass the final test. I decided right then to never let anything I had complete control over compromise my ability to influence.

In the end, I passed. From that point forward, I consistently ranked with the top 1 percent of American soldiers in fitness for the rest of my military career.

Because of my avid enjoyment of sports, not to mention my early Army failure, I pushed my son too hard to “be like dad.” As a result, he not only rebelled but maneuvered down the fast track to obesity. As an overweight middle schooler, he found team sports unpalatable — too much mocking and ostracizing. Thus, we toyed with multi-sports. Triathlons, biathlons and duathlons. A short time later he would become a routine podium finisher and eventually he ranked No. 4 in the country in duathlons. Our entire family had gotten involved, winning numerous races. My son and I in particular were hooked and have completed over 50 multiple sport events since then, including 2 half-Ironman events in 2007.

A full Ironman had not initially made it on my list of objectives. When a friend of mine was suddenly diagnosed with cancer early last year, I elected to battle the cause with her in my own way. All current training is carried out in honor and support of her fight. My time logged in preparation is sprinkled liberally with prayer for her and for the clinicians and researchers, that a cure might be found. In grooming for the Ironman (April 2008), I completed my first marathon in December (3 hours and 43 minutes). That’s a lot of prayer sprinkles.

While I am not advocating that all CIO’s should become an Ironman, I want to illuminate the profound lessons that apply to our profession:

  • Training. Many CIO’s believe no further training is necessary once they have reached the top. To the contrary, the requirements only increase with elevation. Continually equip yourself or you’ll end up being removed from the race for taking up precious space. Like riding a bike, you can coast for a little bit but if you stop peddling, you will fall over.
  • Shape. To the extent it is medically possible, stay in shape. The people you lead take their cues from you. Leaders bear the burden of visibility. Would you go to a pulmonologist who smokes? Or an orthodontist with crooked teeth? Studies have proven a correlation between physical and mental fitness. CIOs work long hours, which requires great stamina. You don’t have to be an Ironman, but I encourage you to, at a minimum, follow the fitness recommendations of the American Heart Association.
  • Embrace change. During triathlons, a racer faces many unforeseen circumstances. A strong wind. High tide. Or worse, a flat tire. No one is exempt from these trials. Do you accept the change and make the most of it, or do you spend energy fighting the elements you cannot control? Adapt to the curveballs thrown your way, and then thrive.
  • Guts. It’s not merely the most fit who wins Ironman. It’s those who are fit and who want it. Crave it. I have surpassed colleagues in my career who were much brighter than I, but they had neither the fortitude nor the focus to push through all the challenges. Painful things happen that will tempt you to quit. Develop and harness the power of passion, for passion will create guts and drive your success.
  • Boundaries expanded. Early on, a 10K seemed like the ultimate race, an Olympic challenge. I never imagined attempting a marathon. Today, a 10K is a walk in the park. Ironman is busting the boundaries I originally believed invincible. As a CIO, you must continuously bust boundaries lest your organization becomes complacent and your vision dimmed and potentially lost.
  • Planning. No one simply wakes up and decides to do Ironman that morning. It takes advanced planning and years of transformational steps to see grand visions achieved. You must plan similarly for your career and your organization, analyzing both from short-term and long-term points of view. No greater sensation will seize you than when you see a plan fully executed and realized. It will fuel you to carry the journey into the future.
  • Rest and refueling. There is a science to Ironman which includes rest and refueling. Continuous activity leads to burnout. If you do not take the time for nourishment you will run out of energy, perhaps even collapse. Constant action is not synonymous with effective action any more than eating junk food is nourishing. Build in time for rest and refueling.

Some may scoff at how, and why, I have portrayed the Chief Ironman Officer. Others will complain about the limitations, physical or otherwise, and to why this post is irrelevant. Yet thinking back, I recall events in which the blind, the aged, the amputee, even the quadriplegic passed me along a course and encouraged me to keep going. I never thought I would say it, but I am thankful for my experiences as a 17 year-old basic trainee and for Drill Sergeant Moultrie screaming at me to eek out yet another push-up and run another lap. It is not so much about the physical act that inspired me but the leadership insights I internalized. Little did he realize the impact he would have on my life and career.

Or did he? Thank you, Sergeant Moultrie. Now, get out there and race!


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.”

CIO Unplugged – 12/15/07

December 15, 2007 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.

Taking Control of Your Destiny
By Ed Marx

The capstone of holiday seasons past has been the Plunge — leaping into the icy waters of Lake Erie, wearing nothing but swim trunks. Each New Year’s Day, we triathlon club members gingerly — if not insanely — worked our way across the snow and ice then charged into the lake. Once we reached waist-high water, we crowned our feat with a head first dive. Like an arctic baptism, the Plunge magically washed away the old and welcomed the new.

Another holiday tradition my family has practiced for many years is a strategic planning retreat. From the oldest to the youngest, we’d evaluate and polish our personal plans. I first learned about the power of planning while studying business in graduate school. Later, in my first few jobs, I observed how leadership teams carved out time yearly to develop and hone mission and vision statements, which included values and objectives. These teams jetted off to exotic locations offering sunshine and sand or posh mountain lodges. Liberated from work distractions, they rated their company’s performance against these plans and made adjustments for the following year.

Literature searches provided ample evidence that businesses with a solid planning process significantly outperformed their non-planning peers. I soon asked myself, “Could these planning principles be applied to my life? My marriage. My family?”

The Marx family’s strategic planning adventure started modestly. Short, inexpensive, trips away from home reduced distraction and stimulated creativity. These trips eventually morphed into more elaborate excursions, but the focus always remained on strategic planning.

Since beginning this process, we have experienced dramatic increases in the quality of our careers, relationships and life. Even as preteens, our children possessed a solid knowledge of who they were, where they were going and what they needed to accomplish in order to fulfill their calling. We signed our plans and lived by them.

I could share numerous examples, but I’ll share the one that had the most memorable impact. My son, age eight at the time, took a ruler and pointed to the values section of our “family strategic plan,” which hung prominently in our family room. “Dad”, he asked, “was that honoring mom when you yelled?” Seven months prior, while deciding which six values needed improvement that year, he contributed the word “honor.” He was now calling me on it.

We were living what Rick Warren calls “The Purpose Driven Life.” Decisions on how to spend our time, energy and resources were based on those planning retreats, which are documented and kept in binders. I could go back through 15 years of documentation and show you at least one significant event that happened each year in my career, marriage and family.

Could you?

I’m astonished at the number of organizations, divisions and individuals not guided by a written plan. What is the standard by which they measure success? What foundations and principles are ensuring their sound investments and decision-making? What is the vision that brings out their passion and gives them sense of purpose? Do they know the end game? Which values are serving as beacons to ensure integrity?

Earth-moving ideas existing only in a leader’s head are not enough. He/she must write them out. Teach them. Actualize them. Moreover, there is nothing worse than going through planning exercises merely to have the plan collect dust. He/she must create a living vision!

Plunging into end-of-year processes and preparations for the upcoming year, my encouragement to you is to spend thoughtful time planning. If you don’t have a strategic information systems plan, or one that is embedded in the overall business plan, then get out your calendar today. Block out time to work with your staff and key stakeholders and initiate this critical process. You cannot effectively lead your organization without one. The old must go so the new can thrive.

On the personal side, pack up your family, get out of town, and spend time in a setting where beauty can inspire you. Arctic baptism not required! Just a place free of distraction. Design a mission and vision together. Let the kids submit values by which all can live. Help them develop lifelong strategies and objectives, as opposed to New Year’s resolutions that have the shelf life of unrefrigerated eggs. Envision your gang. Commission them. Then watch them rock not only your world but also the world around them.


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.”

Subscribe to Updates

Search


Loading

Text Ads


Report News and Rumors

No title

Anonymous online form
E-mail
Rumor line: 801.HIT.NEWS

Tweets

Archives

Founding Sponsors


 

Platinum Sponsors


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Sponsors


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments

  • Patient advocate: Hi. I don’t see our organization on the Commonwell slide. We have gotten a lot of value from the tool and have ac...
  • Anonymous: I worked for Cerner at the time of the fire, and Cerner had a few dozen associates at the Feather River facilities. Both...
  • monica: 'Champions of Heath' that is perfect and says more about the whole rebranding strategy in 3 words than I could in a para...
  • Bill Spooner: It would be great to know about healthcare costs and outcomes in China, India and Norway, to learn how the various care ...
  • Mr. HIStalk: I'm torn between wanting to make them stop by showing how ridiculous they are vs. shaming them by name publicly. Apparen...
  • Mr. HIStalk: My personal dilemma is that I don't want to assume that someone attractive who is working a booth must be a contractor h...
  • Ex Epic: My favorite is when you're appropriately washing your hands for the twenty + seconds with soap and somebody is standing ...
  • Evelyn Reed: Thanks for the detailed guide in the conference and other news as well. After months of public negotiating drama and sev...
  • MATTHEW HOLT: I’m getting very bored of the calling out of anonymous social media types. I’m deep enough into the genre to see you...
  • Craig Katz: Just curious - are booth babes gone? If so, when did they go? And was it complaints or companies realizing how much it m...

RSS Industry Events

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.

Sponsor Quick Links