Five lessons from Rob Campbell, CLO of Cerner Corp.
When Rob Campbell was a boy, he probably didn’t think he would become a catalyst for change. But his shining moment began when his boss challenged him with the following: One, develop leaders for roles not yet known. Two, reduce the time between discovery and adoption of new practices from two weeks to two hours, for more than 2 million users. Three, create a simulation to bring together — often for the first time — key stakeholders in local health care. Four, create a new organization inside the company — one nearly unheard of in business. Five, challenge the team to produce real, measurable business results. Oh, and do this in a company growing 30 percent a year, in the rapidly changing — often besieged — health care industry.
Campbell accepted that challenge as vice president and CLO of Cerner Corp., a multibillion-dollar information system and services provider, and is knee-deep in reinvention, preparing for whatever is over the horizon. Here are five lessons from Cerner you can use.
Prepare leaders for unknown roles: How can CLOs build new leaders when the competencies they will need are not yet known, but will be required in two to three years? The answer is easy: make employees smart and ready for anything. “We created an executive health care leadership program with University of Missouri — Kansas City and draw from top experts across the country,” Campbell said. “This is not lecture and note taking. It requires absorbing major works from the best thinkers, writing position papers, interactively discussing with guest experts and a final capstone project that involves putting new ideas into action within Cerner.”
Collaboration at uCern: Sometimes technology for learning spreads merely because everyone has a similar device. In 2008, some were ahead of the pack, searching the unfamiliar for a new, maybe risky, solution. “We had millions of people using our solutions,” Campbell said. “Our customers and staff were finding better ways to use our software, find answers and document procedures. We wanted to know how we could close the gap between discovery of a better practice and its adoption.”
Campbell found bright people, threw them in a room for two weeks, tossed pizza in every few hours, and uCern was born. It is a collaboration system using Jive and Confluence software that produces business results: reducing help-desk calls, speeding documentation and solving client problems faster than before.
Simulation: Health care has many stakeholders: patients, insurers, employers, hospitals and government to take into account. Recently, in Liberty, Mo., Mayor Greg Canuteson and various health care providers used Cerner’s Healthy Community Simulation to get them to sit, talk and work together to learn how to balance health care’s triple aim: patient care, cost and community health. Teams compete in the program: each has roles, laptops and worksheets, and after three rounds, those who share data and collaborate the most end up with the highest scores. Then the group focuses on its real community and builds an action plan.
Learning plus marketing: Robert Mager, author of 10 books on performance improvement, taught about “can’t do” problems and “won’t do” problems. From this we know behavior change requires skills and motivation. Organizations have big departments with deep expertise in each of these areas.
Learning divisions build skills and knowledge to overcome “can’t do.” Marketing departments influence and motivate to overcome “won’t do.” The two rarely speak. At Cerner, learning and marketing report to Campbell. “Both are focused on changing opinions and behaviors. Pooling the resources just seems to make sense to us,” he said.
Challenge the team: “I work for people who really challenge me. My boss, Jeff Townsend, thinks a decade ahead,” Campbell said. “He pushes me and my team hard to think outside of where we are currently. He can be a challenge to work with, but two things result: First, you grow by trying to accomplish the unaccomplishable. Second, you begin to think like that yourself. Over time, you begin to make connections and start thinking three or four steps ahead, three or four years ahead.”
Brandon Hall is chairman of Brandon Hall Group. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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