Values

Stand Up?

Should you take a stand on important issues?

It’s something many leaders are rubbling with right now.  Eric Topol MD wrote an article for the New Yorker recently about the potential for a new doctors’ organization that would enable physicians to take a stand on important issues affecting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Issues such as vaccines, drug pricing, climate change, stem cell clinics and false health claims spread by celebrities involved in lifestyle medicine businesses. 

In the article, he noted several female physician leaders who took on the NRA and claimed the lack of adequate gun control regulations not only as their lane but as their highway. What gave them the courage to stand up to the NRA?

Dr. Topol hypothesized that their courage was attributable to dealing with long-standing gender inequities in medicine. Possibly but it likely has more to do with their values and their frustration with the lack of change. 

Organizing to take a stand on important issues is commendable but also challenging. The values and interests of the group need to align for the group to have a powerful voice.

Whether physicians organize or not, they should be encouraged to bring their whole self to work as employees in leading edge companies do and to speak out on issues affecting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Otherwise, how can doctors be held accountable for the cost of healthcare if they can’t speak out on the biggest drivers of cost?

Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.~ Brené Brown

Valeant

There is a good documentary called the Drug Short that tells the story of Valeant to explain the problem with drug pricing in the US.

Valeant reportedly operated more like a hedge fund than a pharmaceutical company. The model was pretty simple:

1/ Buy companies that have a drug with a monopoly.

2/ Strip out the R+D so that the typical 18% spent on R+D goes to the bottom line.

3/ Raise prices on existing drugs.

The problem is that many of the drugs were life sustaining drugs for people in middle America who couldn’t afford to pay for them.

The company took extraordinary measures to bilk insurance companies for payment. To keep patients quiet about the issue, they provided just enough financial support to them through their advocacy efforts. 

Hillary Clinton started tweeting and talking about the issue during her campaign. Investors and board members could have looked into it and taken action, but they didn’t. They were reportedly paid large sums to look the other way. The company’s stock eventually tanked.

The returns on biotech companies now are largely due to price increases. The company’s can’t afford to lower their prices and profits. So nothing has changed yet.

Change in 2020 is likely because even though the pricing strategy is not illegal, many leaders feel that it is morally wrong.

Focus on Why

Do you know why your company exists?

If you answer is something like to provide high quality medical services or to provide a specific type of solution to the healthcare industry, you’re telling me about your company’s what – not the why. 

The why is the reason the company was founded and continues to exists. The why embodies the company’s beliefs about those that it serves and reflects the values that guide how the company operates. 

One Medical

I reviewed an investor report on One Medical recently that had this really wordy description of why the company exists. It made me wonder whether the company is loosing touch with their why [a common problem as companies grow] or if the why was just lost in translation.

However, most people are familiar with the company so it seemed like a good example to explain the differences between why – what – how and the value of focusing on why.

Early success:

1/ Why: The founder, Tom Lee MD believed waiting 29 days [the average wait time in the US] to see a primary care physician was unacceptable. So the company’s core belief is timely service is most important to their customers and members.

2/ What: One Medical found customers willing to pay a premium for on demand access to care. Employers and those without an established relationship with a primary care physician were willing to pay the premium. 

3/ How: The company solved the wait problem by incorporating nurse practitioners and technology into their service so that most if not all of their members are seen within 24-48 hours of scheduling an appointment. They also increased the length of the appointment to minimize the risk of wait times on the date of service.

Growth + Profitability:

The why has defined the company and is the reason existing customers and members value the company. As the company enters new markets and partnerships, the management needs to consider:

1/ Do other populations value timely access to care as much and are they willing to pay a premium for it? 

2/ Are they able to modify the how without sacrificing the why to achieve long term growth and profitability?

It will be interesting to see how the next chapter turns out.

Living your Values

If you’re thinking which values are you referring to – personal or company values? I’m actually referring to both because there should alignment in your personal and professional life.

If you need to google your company values or call human resources, chances are your company’s values have not been operationalized. Only 10% of companies have a short list of memorable values that they’ve associated with behaviors to reinforce their values.

Salesforce has done a good job of honing the values list to four [4] values and associating behaviors with each value. It’s how they are able to walk their talk in everything they do despite being a very large company.

Whittling down the values list from 100+ takes some time and careful thought. Most companies have a list of 10-15 values but within that shortlist there are usually 2-4 that encompass the company’s core beliefs. 

Operationalizing values is a process of linking values to behaviors so that people understand what’s an acceptable behavior as well as what’s not an acceptable behavior. Providing three [3] examples of each type of behavior is usually enough.

Once the values are operationalized, the company culture will develop to support and enforce those values.

If you’re questioning whether or not it’s worth your time, think about how much easier it will be for everyone in your organization to:

1/ Hire the right people 

2/ Manage customer relationships 

3/ Work collaboratively with people throughout the organization

4/ Make good decisions for the company

Defining and operationalizing your values is not something you want to put off until you’re the size of Salesforce. There are a lot of steps in the journey to realize that level of success. That’s why I think of it as one of those “the sooner the better” activities.

“Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.” ~ Brené Brown

Our Values

I’ve been working on refining the values for Rush360 too.

Innovation is the heart of what we do. There are 4 steps in our process [Learn, Engage, Design and Transform].

So I started with the steps and thought about the values we need to have in order to do those things well and support the people on our team.

These are the four values that resonated the most with what we do and why:

1/ Courage: It takes a lot of courage to step into a new environment and to get up to speed quickly especially when people see you as a change agent.

2/ Open: It takes an open mindset to be constantly working with new people, new process, new system and in new environments.

3/ Creativity: We get the benefit of having a fresh perspective on the problem but it takes a lot of creative energy to work with all the stakeholders and to design a solution that works for them now and in the future.

4/ Innovation: It takes someone who loves to innovate because the stakes are high and the risk of failure is real. Failure on any scale is disappointing and tough on the ego.

That leads me to balance. I think everything in life – from our bodies to our businesses – needs balance. In Dare to Lead, Brene talks about daring leaders having a strong back and a soft front. It seemed like a good framework to test the balance of our values… it takes a strong back [courage and love for innovation] and a soft front [open and creative mindset].

Political Risk

Lower cost is one element of the triple aim. How does your company’s values address the cost of healthcare?

Cost is a big issue for the 2020 election. Some of the government findings about healthcare pricing and billing practices are clearly an issue that could blow back on companies that aren’t proactively addressing cost.

What are patients being promised about the cost of their care? Is your company promising the lowest cost, a market rate or a high cost for a premium service? There is no one right answer but patients need to know what your company is promising. Why?

Stakeholders have the ability to influence government action now more than ever thanks to social media. Social pressure from stakeholders including patients, employees and employers will force the government to regulate the reported problem. We’re seeing it now with proposed regulation for pricing and billing practices.

Leaders of companies should be thinking about:

1. Risk profile as it relates to cost.

2. Prioritizing cost as a risk and integrating it into their values + strategies.

3. Mitigating existing risk.

Companies that don’t will expose themselves to unnecessary political and reputation risk by not making a clear statement about cost.