Success

Learn the three Ds

Use the three Ds from the process of “Get Stuff Done” to make good decisions and be more successful at work and in life.

The three Ds are Discussion, Debate and Decision from the process of “Get Stuff Done” described in Radical Candor. I happen to be reading the book this week and used the three Ds as a framework for explaining my process for flushing out the problems, generating ideas and developing the right course of action from a project.

My application of the framework isn’t an exact textbook example. However, it has served as a good way to frame the complexity of the project and balance the complexity with the drive to get the project done.

Discussion:

According to the book, discussion is supposed to take place in 1:1 meetings. Meetings between managers and direct reports are supposed to provide a safe and constructive environment for discussing new ideas, challenges and other issues.

The discussion phase for me happens with a small group of subject matter expertise. It’s a low key discussion to flush out the details of the problem and constraints so that we can generate new ideas for how best to address the need. We basically spend the time thinking about what’s possible. Afterwards I send out a recap of our discussion and capture any additional thoughts on the matter. The recap ensures that we all left the discussion with the same understanding.

Debate:

Debates are bigger meetings to present the ideas so that others can raise their questions and concerns before a decision is reached. Keeping people in debate rather than decision mode is tricky when you have debaters and deciders in the room. Debate can be almost painful for those who already know what they want and/or want a quick decision. If you have ever felt like you got shut down too early during a debate meeting it’s a clear indication that you have debaters and deciders in the room.

The best thing you can do based on my own experience is to communicate your expectation for the meeting and what you want to get from it. If the ideas aren’t flowing, directly challenge the group on a specific problem or idea to spur further debate. The book has some techniques for making sure everyone is in the mind space for a debate meeting and for making it a fun process.

Decide:

People who have a strong grasp of the facts need to make the decisions. Those people are usually closest to the work. That’s why leading edge companies have a process for decision making and why many use the process for Getting Things Done. All of the meetings to discuss, clarify and debate the issues facilitate the decision making process.

The three Ds also help me respect the boundaries of my role as a consultant which is to help flush out the problem, generate ideas and facilitate the decision making process – and not make decisions no matter how tempting.

Application in life

You could apply the three Ds to other relationships as well. Think about the 1:1 meeting framework. When friends and family have problems, they often just want to someone to listen and to ask questions that help them clarify their issues and ideas. They don’t want to be told what to do and definitely don’t want to be judged.

Debate is necessary when decisions affect others. It gives everyone an opportunity to ask questions and raise their concerns so that they can be addressed before a decision is made. Debate often ends too early in the process and unfortunately, the relationships suffer. So keep the debate going until you can make a good decision.

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.

Power of Habits

Your habits are the key to your success in business and life.

A habit is something you do when triggered by something that only you know when you crave the reward.

The Anatomy of a Habit:

A habit has four (4) parts. Once you understand the parts, you can change any habits that is limiting your success.

Cue: The cue is the trigger which can be a feeling, time of day, specific event or anything else that makes you start a specific routine.

Routine: The routine is the action or series of actions you take when triggered. The routine is specific to the trigger and is almost an automatic response.

Reward: The reward is something you get at the end of the routine such as a sense of calm, satisfaction, connection, belonging, completeness, control or whatever you feel from completing the routine.

Craving: The craving is your need for the reward.

 

The Problem:

The routine is the problem. It’s the action or series of actions that you take when you crave the reward that is limiting your ability to achieve your goal. To change the routine and your outcome, you have to identify the cue and the reward so that you can replace the routine with something equally rewarding.

We all have some habits that may not be serving our wellbeing or limiting our success. I have been referring to my need for innovation as a “nasty innovation habit” for the last several years. Like other bad habits, my innovation habit affects my wellbeing in a number of ways and it’s hard for me to break the cycle because it’s so automatic. Let me explain why…

Cue: What drives me to innovate?

It all starts with a problem or at least something that seems harder than it needs to be [cue]. I crave the challenge of adventuring into something new, something that challenges my thinking and the status quo. I’m not as satisfied by the nuance of refining one skill over the lifetime of a career as many others do.

Routine: Develop a solution to solve the problem

I ventured into e-learning during the dot com boom because it seemed like the best way to make a big impact on the industry. I didn’t know anything about the technology or methodologies for developing courses at the time. However, I hired consultants to collaborate with me.

At the time we launched, Health South missed their numbers by more than $2 billion which materially misstated their financials and caused the dissolution of the company. Unlike the other CFOs who had unintentionally misstated their numbers, Health South executives intended to deceive investors and succeeded for a long time. Several of them ended up in jail.

The contractual write-offs are still a big problem for most healthcare companies because the system is fragmented, the contract terms for payment vary from payer to payer, systems lack the needed sophistication to administer the payment permutations and the people doing the day-to-day work and reporting the numbers rarely get the needed training.

Outsourcing only solves part of the problem. Every step of the process and very transaction posted into the billing system makes a difference to the accuracy of the numbers. Rather than fixing the problem, the industry added more solutions to address the consequences and shift the blame. The revenue cycle industry generates more than $52 billion annually and is still not satisfying any of the stakeholders – especially patients.

My first solution addressed the training deficit of the people doing the work and reporting the numbers. I thought it would be kind of like writing a book in that it takes an upfront investment of time and effort but then pays off over time. Like Starbucks, our courses provided professional credits that could be used for college courses. With a 10% initial pass rate, I worked harder than I ever imagined. It wasn’t like a book at all because clients transferred performance expectation to me. I tried to be really inspirational during virtual meetings and relatable in our marketing collateral. Our messaging was on the right track but we missed the need for teaching basic life skills.

Starbucks’ program reportedly teaches skills such as “how to live, how to focus, how to get to work on time and how to master emotions”. My sister who is a psychologist identified that her clients at the time were similar to my students. She was just trying to get them through life whereas I was trying to turn them into star performers. I connected the dots, but still couldn’t close the gap.

It was a missed opportunity because we’ve created more problems since then. Offering people a way forward in life empowers them with keystone habits that makes it easier to change other habits to improve their lifestyle and live their best life. In short, education has the power to change lives.

Reward: What do I get for solving the problem?

I often joke with people that I got the whole employment equation all wrong. When you innovate with your own money it often requires significant sacrifice and for some, it seems like unnecessary hardship.

The reward while on the journey are all the “small wins” that reinforce the belief that the goal is achievable. I can actually feel the pleasure center of my brain light up with a win. Another entrepreneur who I met early in my career used to talk to me about progress. The concept of progress stuck but I didn’t fully appreciate the value of it then.

It took experience for the value of progress to really resonate. As with any big goal it takes months or even years to achieve and there are many setbacks that make you question whether you can get through another week or month. I have a sticky note on my monitor with the words “Do whatever it takes”. I move it to eye level on those days when I need a constant reminder to get out of my comfort zone. Of course there are some ethical limits to the “whatever” but I have had to do things and have had conversations that were way beyond my comfort zone. It’s something that needed to be done. Everyone has the power to bust through their self imposed limits.

Carving: What makes me keep going?

My friends and family wonder what drives me to keep innovating. I do well as a consultant and consulting without personal projects provides for a more balanced life. Truth be told, there are times when I crave more balance. Some days I can even hear my subconscious saying “I want my old life back” as though a pouting child. However, the craving to feel the “rush” of solving a bigger problem is more compelling. So I just keep going.

Goals: What are your goals?

I have always wanted to have a “positive impact” on healthcare. Those words alone have served as a guiding force for the type of work that I do as a consultant, the way that I conduct myself within the industry and the types of problems that I tackle on my own. It’s kind of like Google’s “do no evil” mantra.

When Paul O’Neil became CEO of Alcoa, he focused the company on safety. When he spoke about safety at his first annual meeting, investors thought he had lost the typical Republican plot of “synergy, rightsizing and co-opetition”. However, what the investors didn’t understand was that by focusing on safety he united the company around a common goal. As safety improved, productivity and profit improved.

We need a common goal to unit the healthcare industry. The triple aim lacks identity and is hard to remember. I like Patient Wellbeing because it encompasses safety, outcomes, experience, cost and wellness. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Power of Habit

If you haven’t read the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg yet, I encourage you to do so. It was enlightening for me on many levels and provided food for thought about how I want to approach my work and life going forward.

If you’re struggling to loose a few pounds, I’ll leave you with the two most important things from the book that you can do everyday:

Eat Breakfast — It will help to keep you full throughout the day and eat less.

Weigh yourself Everyday — It will help inform you which foods make you gain weight and which foods make you loose weight.

Of course, if I was to add a third it would be exercise.

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.

Join us on Hello Workout for help covering the weekly minimum requirements for good health, advice from professionals and other tips to help you achieve more success in work and life.

Understand your Brand

Whether you know it or not, you have a personal brand.

A new year is right around the corner. You or someone you know may be thinking that they need or want to do something different and need help refining their personal brand.

One of my friends found a mentor earlier this year because she is contemplating the next step in her career and felt that she could benefit from having some guidance. We went for a walk this weekend and when I asked what was new, she told me about her recent meeting with her mentor.

There may have been more said during the meeting but what was relayed to me was that her mentor suggested that she develop her brand attributes and establish a schedule for regular blog posts. It was clear that she didn’t know how to start.

I’ve outlined the plan we talked through during our walk this weekend. It’s designed to be done over the course of a year. You may be able to do it faster.

Establishing a personal brand

If you’ve been hired to do a job, a project, a gig of some sort then you already have a brand. It’s the reason people chose you over all the other people applying, pitching or trying out for the gig. Do you know why they chose you and not someone else?

The first step to developing your brand is to understand why someone chooses you. If you’re not sure — ask your your boss or your client — why they chose you.

The plan

I started living my life in quarters when I started my own consulting business back in 2000. Not many people other than those sales likely think of life in quarters, but for me it helps set my focus for a specific effort and gives me a specific timeframe to evaluate that effort.

Thinking in quarters, we talked through a plan to understand and refine my friend’s personal brand so that she’s ready to start a new consulting business in 2018.

Q1: Discovery:

Collect the information needed to define what and who. During the first quarter of 2017, my friend is tasked with talking to at least three (3) people that she has worked for in the past to learn why they chose her and what she did that they valued most. I know some of her colleagues so we talked through some specific people and what to ask. In general, you want to consider the person that you’re speaking with whether they are or were your manager, client, colleague or co-worker to frame your questions in a way that draws out the answers you need.

Remember, you’re not looking for flattery but rather honest input about the value you bring to the organization, department, project, team or whatever is relevant to your relationship with that person. Your job is to uncover the attributes that they find valuable so that in the future you can identify others like them that will realize similar value.

Q2: Review the feedback

Define what and who. During the second quarter, my friend will be reviewing all of the responses carefully to distill the themes. She needs to identify the cross section of what people value and what she likes to do and wants to do next to uncover the “what”.

Some of the answers may be revealed quickly and others may be harder to distill. People at different stages of their career, different levels and with different backgrounds will likely respond differently which is why you have to look for the common threads or themes. If the answers you need aren’t clear, ask more questions, speak with additional people or do some research about the field to get the needed clarity.

Q3: Test your work

Publish a few blog posts. During the third quarter, my friend will be writing and publishing a few blog posts to test her hypothesis of “what” and “who”. The tone of her posts will also help develop the “personality” of her brand and flush out a manageable publishing schedule.

Blogging is no easy task which is why many companies outsource the work to professional writers. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed but it requires creativity and discipline. If you haven’t done much writing in a while, start slow and don’t be too critical of your work. It’s a skill that gets better with time. Publishing has never been easier with so many different social networking sites.

Q4: Commit to your Brand

If everything has gone well in Q1 — Q3, my friend will be ready to formalize her “brand attributes” next year at this time. Brand attributes are the foundation of the brand and include the name [if different than her own], logo, personality and pricing.

Knowing your brand attributes is just as important if you’re looking for your next job.

Photo: Your logo may be a professional photo that you can use on a blog and all social sites you choose to share your ideas, case studies and examples of your work.

Posts: Your personality should come through in your posts so that people hiring you or who will be working with you, get a sense of you before you ever step foot through the door.

Pricing: Your pricing should be reflected in the compensation package you negotiate. Understanding the fair market value of your work is the first step in negotiating a fair package.

I was introduced to the idea of a personal brand years ago at a HBA event when Ellen Looyen presented. I hope the process outlined above makes it easier for you or at least gives you some ideas of how to start. Let me know how it goes.

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.

Join us on Hello Workout for help covering the weekly minimum requirements for good health, advice from professionals and other tips to help you achieve more success in work and life.

Structure to Win

Organizational structure is the foundation for how people communicate, collaborate and perform on the job and affects overall performance of the company.

Most people talk about organizational cultural as being one of the key principles of creating a great company but structure is equally important. Culture is a function and reflection of the structure.

Leading companies use the customer’s voice to align the organization, foster teamwork and create products that meet the customer needs.  Most have adopted a matrix structure and assigned people from functional departments to cross functional teams responsible for managing products and/or services.  Moving more expertise to the front lines gives the product managers and/or general managers respectively the timely support needed to solve problems, develop solutions, create new products or processes and enhance service that meets the needs of their customers.

Many companies operate with a weak matrix structure meaning the company is structured according to function [aka: functional silos] rather blending resources from the different functions into cross functional teams.  A functional structure helps develop expertise, systems and processes needed to enable staff do a specific job well, but are weak structures for promoting collaboration and enhancing customer focus. In fact, functional structures are thought to tilt the organization away from the customer which is never a good thing.

Granted there are challenges with every organizational structure and matrix structures are no different.  Studies of cross functional teams have reported that 75% are dysfunctional.  Getting people to work together is no easy task.  However, there are a few learnings from leading companies that can help make cross functional teams more successful in any organization.

People: Functional managers need to assign people who have the knowledge and experience to contribute to the cross functional team and the people assigned need to be open to working with others that think differently than them.

Support: Functional managers need to support the cross functional teams and evolve their method of monitoring, developing and supporting their people working outside the department.

Rewards: Functional managers need to be rewarded for supporting the cross functional team and the success of the team.  Broader metrics that reflect the company goals should be more heavily weighted in their compensation structure.

Developing an organizational structure is not a one and done type of exercise. Structures need to evolve to help the organization outperform in good times and be resilient to changes in the economy, industry and technology.

The changes underway in healthcare are a good example. With healthcare becoming more consumer focused, healthcare provider organizations should be adopting a matrix structure of cross functional teams to support and develop their service lines. The main role of a service line manager is to help build the business – similar to a Product Manager or General Manager in other industries. Speaking from my own experience working as an interim Service Line Manager for a prominent teaching hospital, few have the direct support needed.  Most have to manage from the middle with influence as their main method to get the information and resources needed to do their jobs well.  Granted influencing others is an essential skill for any manager but influence alone can limit management effectiveness especially in a weak matrix structure.

Structural changes should also be made to help employees be more efficient and productive with their time so that they have time off from work to live healthy, happy lives. If people are routinely working more than 8 hour days, is it a function of the culture, structure or their job? It would pay to find out.

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

– Peter Drucker

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success.  She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.