It started with a traditional survey.
As part of an effort to examine the evolving role of the CIO and determine what changes, if any, needed to be incorporated into its professional development goals, CHIME sent out a questionnaire to its board and staff.
“I thought it was important to have consensus view of the future state of healthcare or these key forces of change to really understand the leadership attributes required to transition to a future state,” said Tim Zoph, former senior VP and CIO at Northwestern Memorial Healthcare, who is co-presenting with Donna Roach, CIO at Via Christi Health, Ascension Information Services. In other words, “let’s really understand where we’re going so we can figure out the leadership we need to take us there.”
But when they started to view the initial results — which were “compelling,” according to Zoph — it became clear that the scope was too narrow. If CHIME wanted to understand not just the capabilities and attributes required to be a successful CIO, but also where alignment issues exist among member of the executive team, it was time to include more people in the discussion. And so more than 50 CIOs conducted one-on-one conversations with their executive leaders on how they view the CIO role in its current state, and what they believe the future state should look like.
The goal, says Zoph, was to “develop a new consensus view on how the role is changing,” rather than simply gaining one perspective. “We didn’t want to solely base our assumptions about what CIO leadership meant just on CIO perspectives alone,” he remarked. By involving other executive leaders, the project “took on a whole new life. Instead of simply trying to survey a senior team, we got the CIO to engage more directly, and we found that to be very interesting.”
In the track session, which will take place Thursday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m., Zoph and Roach will discuss the findings from the survey, describe the changes that lie ahead and the key drivers shaping the CIO role, evaluate the CIO attributes that CEOs and others in the leadership team value, explain the new traits required of the future CIO, and talk about the value gained from having a direct dialogue with the senior team on the evolving CIO role.
Of course, having this type of direct dialogue isn’t easy; in fact, Zoph says it was clear that it made many CIOs “a little uncomfortable” to say ‘here’s what I think — what do you think?’” But with the survey acting as a catalyst, respondents were able to bit the bullet and engage in much-needed discussions.
“We found there was a lot of value in really having CIOs seek out the expectations of their role and really work them to evolve that into how they perform on a daily basis,” he notes. “The survey became a neutral backdrop to ultimately talk about leadership expectations for the senior team.”
And, by default, it helped equip some CIOs with stronger communication skills, something that can’t be underestimated in the current health IT environment, where expectations are sky-high, and leaders are constantly being asked to up their game.
“The skills that got you here today aren’t necessarily the skills the skills that will get you where you need to be five years from how. We need to work with you and partner with you to develop you so that you’re getting prepared for the next set of challenges and the next set of leadership capabilities that are growing, changing, and likely outstepping what you’re doing today. And that’s a hard message.”
But it’s one Zoph and Roach are committed to delivering.