“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death,” Albert Einstein
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” Henry Ford.
These are the phrases that come to mind when I sit in on sessions with team members going through some kind of change – particularly change that is driven by technology adoption. I hear the term “change fatigue” a lot, although I think that is a bit overblown in some cases (for more on “change fatigue”, check out Six Leadership Steps For Creating Change – Fast and Making Change Happen – C-Suite Perspective).
But it isn’t only front-line staff whose work worlds are being remade by technology. Leaders in organizations also need to be adaptable, but at a completely different level. Technology has remade the transactional and transformational leadership roles of executives. The transactional part is more apparent – new processes, new data, and new organizational relationships to manage. But the transformational one is not so apparent – being the force that overcomes apathy and resentment of technology-driven change.
So what are the perspectives of chief executive officers who are in the midst of a sea of new technology? For a few lessons from the field, I reached out to Marilyn Cook, Executive Director, COMCARE of Sedgwick County; and Vic Topo, the Chief Executive Officer for Center for Life Management.
Speed Is A Blessing…And A Curse
Ms. Cook reflected on the changing methods of communication – with more reliance on data – for making operational decisions and learning to reset thought speed and response speed for new responsibilities. She explained:
When I started my career, the main forms of communication were phone calls, interminable meetings, letters, and memos. Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock warned us about the waves of change that would soon unfold. And unfold they did. What wonderful opportunities and efficiencies technology brought to us. It has streamlined our communication, helped us collect data that enabled us to make more informed operational, and clinical decisions; and has allowed us to increase access for those we serve due to telemedicine capabilities.
We have a literal world of data and knowledge at our fingertips. It has helped us to understand and implement population health strategies and to embrace the whole person as a focus of treatment. However, it’s also kicked up our sense of urgency “more than a notch.” It’s allowed us to be available virtually any time of the day and night and it’s challenged our work life balance in unbelievable ways.
While the more casual and “primitive” types of communication we had available in the past had their shortfalls, the opportunity for miscommunication and quick responses due to the large volume of e-mails and sense of urgency that accompanies that volume have impacted our performance as well. I so often see cases where staff are responding to communication before examining their thoughts and responses. And unexamined thoughts can really have lasting and unintended consequences.
Technology Is A Strategic Investment…Not A Cost
Mr. Topo noted that, in terms of basic management and leadership, there are a lot more chief information officers (CIO) than there were before – yet given the proliferation of tech and data, there still aren’t enough. This is because many organization’s haven’t learned that tech isn’t a “cost”, but instead an investment. He writes:
Technology has traditionally been placed down lower in the chain of importance from a strategic standpoint, where it was seen more as a cost/expense than an investment. When I took over the role of CEO at my organization, I changed that. Strategically, technology has to be seen as an investment both for short-term and long-term.
Strategic human resources and technology go hand-in-hand, and that needs to be recognized and instilled in management culture – especially given the generational differences (for the first time ever, there are four generations in the workplace at once). Post baby boomer generations expect access to up-to-date tools for purposes of documentation, messaging, and interaction with consumers. Interestingly, the unresolved dilemma of concurrent documentation and its effectiveness is a good example of how technology has become disruptive to the traditional talk-therapy profession.
Technology has also advanced in the behavioral health clinical intervention world with the advent – and in some cases adoption of – neuropsychiatric solutions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Finally, Center for Life Management developed and implemented its own enterprise software product, Webaisce. Over the many years we have continually made investments (not costs) to keep up with the evolving nature of electronic health records (EHR). The changes include e-prescribing, document management (recently recognized by Dell/CASO for progressive design) and health information exchange (HIE).
Great leadership cultivates the ability of everyone in the organization to change when necessary – but only if the leaders are capable of the same change first. For more, join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Jim Gargiulo on November 7 at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute for his session, “The Leader’s Challenge: Leading The Technology Imperative In A Provider Organization.”