Comparing achieving Meaningful Use to climbing Mount Everest is probably a bit cliché, but at CHIME’s Spring Forum in Atlanta (held in conjunction with HIMSS), CIOs discovered there are a lot of accurate parallels. Alison Levine, Team Captain of the First American Women’s Everest Expedition was our speaker and her topic was Lessons from Everest: How to Succeed in the Most Extreme Environments. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors hiking and backpacking, so I was looking forward her talk, but I wasn’t expecting her topic to be so relevant to what we are facing as we tackle Meaningful Use. I’m not sure any of her points are new or unique, but all of them were spot-on accurate and crucial for survival.
First, it’s about having the right team — this point is very important. Assembling a bunch of superstars who are experts at what they do, but aren’t concerned about the team goal or other members of the team isn’t going to get you where you need to go. In order to achieve Meaningful Use there are going to need to be sacrifices which means that no one will probably get everything they want, but for the organization to succeed everyone needs to be willing to sacrifice some to achieve the goal.
When the task is overwhelming you need to break it down into manageable stages. Like Everest, Meaningful Use is a daunting task. There are days I go home excited to be a CIO at such a pivotal time, but there are others when I go home thinking about finding job in another field. As Alison points out, the key to accomplishing such a big goal is breaking it down. An EMR isn’t really an application, it’s a suite of applications or functions. In order to manage the task, we need to break it down and tackle each component. Even some of the sub components are pretty big to manage and need to be broken down further.
Fear is ok, complacency is what will get you killed. Meaningful Use is risky business; both patient lives and the survival of our organizations are at risk, but we can’t just do nothing and hope this all goes away. We may be afraid of making the wrong choice, implementing the wrong system or failing altogether — and those things may happen — but complacency and maintaining the status quo will guarantee failure. The clock is ticking, and Meaningful Use is a matter of survival for many of us.
Building relationships with the other teams can literally save your life. People die going up Everest all the time. Sometimes it’s from a fatal fall, but because the climber is in crisis and needs help, but no one is willing to assist. The other climbers are so focused on achieving their objective that the thought of sacrificing their success to save someone else is unimaginable. Whenever Alison was in camp, she would always go visit the other teams, make friends, share experiences, and build a relationship with them. She knew there may come a time when her team is in crisis and she wanted the other teams to feel obligated to stop and help, instead of just moving on towards their own goal.
The same thing can happen to your project teams. This isn’t about team building, although it’s important for teams too, it’s about relationship building. Connecting with people on a personal level, knowing what’s important to them, knowing what their goals are, and offering help when you can is the key. If you really want to connect, ask about their kids, their moms & dads, or how their favorite football team did last week. The catch — the really hard part for some — is to mean it. You must be sincere.
Alison made several other good points, and like the ones I have mentioned, none of them are new to me. However, I think sometimes it’s good to be reminded. Our journey to Meaningful Use will be long and difficult, but as leaders we must draw on everything we’ve learned, leverage every relationship, and work closely with our team to accomplish the goal one step at a time.