Googling for Success
It’s time to switch from studying the creaky and uncertain (quality wise) workings of Toyota (“your Dad’s high-tech company”) to innovation companies such as Google, Apple, and IDEO as models for us to emulate.
So, according to Google, here is what might be called “The Eight Behaviors of Highly Effective Google Managers.” We provide these along with our Quick Assessment (QA) of how health care management culture and practices compare based on our experience with over a thousand healthcare delivery organizations. Of course, over the last 40 years I have met some tremendously talented and skilled healthcare managers, but these tend to be the exception not the rule. Our interest is in reversing that statement.
The Eight Behaviors of Highly Effective Google Managers
- Be a Good Coach by providing specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive, and creating “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems. QA: Healthcare managers tend to be old-school bureaucrats – the enforcers of rules. In a Google world, “coaching” and “managing” are nearly synonymous – they believe their people are their most important assets.
- Empower Your Team and Don’t Micromanage by giving freedom to your employees (autonomy) while being available for advice and guidance (technical support and coaching). As mentioned above, set “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems. QA: We see a lot of micro-managing and a lot of no-managing. We’re not sure which is worse. But we see a pervasive lack of freedom to make individual decisions – to use one’s mind.
- Express Interest in Each Team Member’s Success and Well-Being by getting to know your employees as people with lives outside of work. QA: Notice the consistent use of the word “team?” We still have not organized our workforce into teams. Teams, almost paradoxically, force managers to focus on individuals and each person’s success.
- Don’t be a Wimp: Be Productive and Results-Oriented by focusing on what the team wants to achieve and how each team member can help achieve it. Also, help the team prioritize its work and use your authority to remove roadblocks. QA: Once again, the emphasis is on teams, which we in healthcare have in name only. Then add the lack of tough, or stretch, performance goals – like increasing productivity, enhancing patient access, or decreasing obesity as a health outcome. Then take into consideration how many organizations do not have performance goals at all (or at least not that are communicated throughout the organization). It all adds up to a bleak assessment. This is why Toyota is not studying us, never mind Google.
- Be a Good Communicator and Listen to Your Team by listening and by sharing information fully and transparently and by conducting all-hands meetings. Be straightforward about messages and goals. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees. QA: We are a long way from full dialogue and transparency around messages and goals. Too many managers speak the jargon from conferences they’ve attended so most staff members leave meetings more baffled than illuminated. Personally, if I have to hear the phrase “meaningful use” one more time I’m going to gag. Just say “Stop using technology like your Grandma” – assuming your Grandma’s not hip. A clearly communicating manager is “a gift from God” – that’s the way staff see it.
- Help Your Employees with Career Development. QA: Oops… The hierarchical-to-an-inch-of-its-death healthcare organization isn’t exactly designed for career development despite, ironically, the inherent and abundant opportunities for personal growth and change in our field.
- Have a Clear Vision and Strategy for the Team by keeping the team focused on goals and strategy as well as involving the team in crafting the vision and strategy. QA: I know you’re asking yourself: “Will they ever stop talking about teams?”
- Have Key Technical Skills so You Can Help Advise the Team by rolling up your sleeves and working side by side with the team, when needed. QA: Many of our middle managers have been promoted from line, i.e., “floor” jobs where they had direct contact with patients. Sadly, they see the promotion as a reward in the sense that they no longer have to work on the floor. All too frequently they sequester themselves in their offices. A manager has to get out of the office as well as the interminable meetings and be where folks work. Demonstrate to them that you can personally excel at the work you are asking them to do. The best managers do this.
Our healthcare management philosophy, structure, and ethos are woefully in need of a serious overhaul. We are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to recruiting the Google demographic – young, bright, educated, and tech savvy youth. This demographic has little taste for bureaucracy, hernia-inducing policy manuals, or people who think they’re bright because they know every public regulation, Joint Commission edict, and NCQA requirement. They want autonomy. They want to be part of a team. They want technology. They want to solve problems. They want an inventive, creative environment. They want to be listened to. And they want to be mentored and coached and developed into their full potential.
That’s a mandate for us to install biological organization structures that foster innovation, creativity, and impressive performance outcomes. A place where the best ideas, not the most authority, rule. A place where teams and coaching are the primary tools for performance and individual development. Then, and only then, will we compete successfully for bright, educated, tech-savvy young people – your sons and daughters perhaps. Ask them why they are not going into healthcare. Ask them why they’re not working at Toyota. Ask them where they want to work and why.
Written by Roger Coleman
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