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How to Save Rather than Spend $871B on Healthcare

Does the government have a role in healthcare?  Absolutely!  Is the current healthcare reform it?  Absolutely not! 

 PillsFlagDollars_398x302

Besides the fundamental free market principles at issue (dictating what private enterprise must offer and charge, and who to serve) , what happened to the objectives and promises of Healthcare Reform?

  • Increase Quality of Care
  • Reduce Cost of Care
  • Increase the Number of People with Coverage

The current bills do not achieve these objectives and in fact undermine each of them.  More benefits, more services, aid to Nebraska to buy their Senate vote, protection of Medicare patients in New York for theirs, etc…  All these things increase costs rather than reduce them.

There are many others, but here are just four better initiatives the government should focus their energy and resources on to actually drive costs and inefficiencies out of the healthcare system, and stay within the domain of their responsibilities. 

Each by themselves removes more than a hundred billion dollars of cost out of the healthcare system each year.  Together and over 10 years they will reduce healthcare costs by more than the $871B the government wants to spend in the current bills before the House and the Senate.  While the current bills will not, these four initiatives will also actually achieve the objective of making high quality, lower cost healthcare available to more people.

  1. Tort Reform

    Every physician  pays liability insurance premiums to protect against being sued.  $150,000 annually is not an unusual premium.  If there are 300,000 physicians, that is more than $45B every year that needs to get funded OVER AND ABOVE cost of services and compensation.   

    Besides paying the liability insurance premium to protect against law suits, doctors exercise "defensive" medicine".  This is when a doctor orders unnecessary tests or procedures merely to document they were thorough in case of a law suit.   A February 2009 study in Massachusetts by the University of Connecticut showed that 83% of physicians practiced “Defensive Medicine”.  The study found that on average between 18 percent and 28 percent of tests, procedures, referrals, and consultations and 13 percent of hospitalizations were ordered for defensive reasons.  The estimated minimum annual cost in Massachusetts alone was $1.4B.  Extrapolate that across the entire nation!

    The government can take initiative to substantially reform tort law.

  2. National Electronic Medical Record Standards

    The elimination of inefficiencies of incompatible electronic and paper records that are exchanged between doctor, insurance company and every piece of infrastructure involved in claims processing across the nation represents a staggering inefficiency cost.   Some estimates put annual savings resulting from the introduction of secure electronic medical record storage and exchange standards and technology at $81B annually. 

    More importantly, standardized electronic medical records (EMR) will reduce medical errors resulting from incomplete treatment information.  Besides an increase in the quality of care, the cost savings related to eliminating these errors could be as much as twice the efficiency savings of $81B.

    The government can provide initiative and leadership for the creation of a national standard for the secure creation, exchange and storage of electronic health information.

  3. FDA Reform

    While it is easy to vilify “big pharma” for profits they make on their successful brand name drugs, the real cost drivers behind drugs is the inefficiency of the FDA.  It takes decades to get new drugs approved and costs pharmaceutical companies billions before the first pill is ever sold.  For every drug that generates large profits, there are many that don’t ever see a pharmacy shelf and many that’s aren’t big money makers if they do.  All that investment needs to be funded.  Pharmaceutical companies are no different than the Venture Capitalist who has to fund 9 busted companies by 1 big winner.

    Speed and efficiency in the FDA approval process can be achieved without compromising  quality and safety. Private enterprise is forced to figure this out every day. It’s time to innovate at the FDA and make them accountable to a higher performance standard.

    The government can make the FDA the epitome of efficiency.

  4. Open Market for Pharmaceuticals

    According to a study by IMS Health generic medicines saved the American health care system more than $734 billion in the last decade (1999-2008), with approximately $121 billion in savings in 2008 alone.

    The protection current law grants pharmaceutical companies to reap the rewards of their innovation and investments into new drugs if fully warranted.  While I am no legal scholar, I don’t see how paying off competitive manufacturers to NOT produce generics for their drugs after that period expires,however,  is legal.  It certainly inhibits the availability of cost effective alternatives and adds unnecessary costs to the healthcare system. 

    Also, if I can get a cheaper drug in Canada or Europe that is approved by the FDA or another nation’s regulatory agency, has a safe track record and that my doctor deems suitable for my treatment, why should the US government restrict me from doing so?  Give me the warnings and assign me the risk but leave me the choice.  This is an issue of protectionism not safety, and the United States actively sanctions other nations who exercise blatant protectionism that harms American consumers.  Free market competition is healthy, and is the engine that drives cost and quality to the point the market demands.

    The government can ensure thriving free markets by removing artificial barriers and help promote dramatic increases in the use of and access to lower cost drugs.

There is a role for the government in healthcare reform.   The current bills are not it!  I have listed just four initiatives hat that better fall the governments domain of responsibility than the current reform bills and actually save money and achieve the objectives of healthcare reform. 

A billion dollars is one thousand million dollars!  We are talking about hundreds of those in either spending or savings.  Let’s save them rather than spend them.

What are your thoughts on the fundamental approach to healthcare reform? Please leave a comment.

Leading At Christmas

Christmas blessings to all of you and your families.

Leading in our work place comes naturally.  We initiate, lead, communicate, are change agents and serve our constituents.  Here are some thoughts on how to carry those leadership skills and gifts home and into the Christmas season.

Christ is born

1.)  Initiate a call your local church and ask if they need any last minute volunteers

Churches need plenty of leaders and good leadership too.  If you have a church home you regularly attend, check to see if they could use some last minute help before, during or after one of their Christmas services.  Maybe one of the volunteers they counted on got sick or maybe the “usual suspects’ are out of town visiting family for the Holidays.  If you don’t regularly attend a church, what better way to get to know some people at a church that might interests you.  Either way, I bet they will be glad to hear from you.   

2.)  Lead your family to church

If you don’t regularly attend church, definitely catch a Christmas Eve service.  Most churches pull out the stops to make visitors feel welcome and usually bless you with songs, drama, candles and a great Christmas message.  You and your family will be touched in a special way.

3.)  Communicate to your Family what Christmas is all about

Festive family gatherings, great meals and lots of presents is a wonderful part of this holiday season.   But the reason for the season is the greatest gift of all, Jesus, Savior of the world.  In the hustle and bustle remind the family not to lose track of that.

4.)  Be a Change Agent– Introduce a new tradition

Growing up we did not go to church on a regular basis but we did have a bible in the house.  On Christmas eve my father would read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20 by candle light during the calm before the impending storm.  It helped us with item 3.) above, and it became a tradition I treasure even more today than I did as a little kid.  Maybe it’s time to change up your Christmas a little and introduce this new tradition at your house.

5.) Serve the Less Fortunate as a Family

Meals on wheels for shut-ins, soup kitchens, gift deliveries to inner-city schools, caroling, secret delivery of a box of gifts or food to that single mom of two barely making it, a pair of gloves or a blanket or jacket for the guy who is always on that park bench, …  You get the idea.  Giving is more fun than receiving and there is nothing like taking attention off yourself and turning it to those less fortunate.  Do something as a family that is age appropriate for the kids.

Have a wonderful Christmas and consider one or more of these suggestions this Christmas season and maybe make them a permanent part of your family tradition.  You will be blessed more by them than you bless others with them.

 

Please comment and share any special Christmas traditions you enjoy.  

More Than Enough to be Dangerous

This month I spent my spare time moving this blog from WordPress.com to a hosted site.  The flexibility I was looking for in the hosted site quickly brought me face-to-face with the oft cited need for bloggers to have at least some HTML and CSS skills. 

But have you ever looked at CSS?

While there are lots of great books out there, one book caught my eye and has turned out to be just absolutely fantastic.  It is so unique that, despite being a little off-topic for my blog, I am going to rave about it in this post. 

ManInFieldWithLaptop_466x300

Many years ago I did a bit of programming in procedural languages, but I am by no means a programmer.  Strange as it may sound, this book was actually a fun page turner, more reminiscent of a fiction thriller than a dreary technical book.  I also now know a lot more about HTML and CSS programming than I set out to learn and probably know some things even experienced web developers don’t. 

Why is this book different than most?

Utilizing cognitive science, neurobiology, educational psychology, and metacognition  (fancy for learning about learning), Head First Labs came up with an approach to create “Brain-Friendly Guides” for O’Reilly Media on traditionally brain numbing technical topics.   I bought “Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML”.

This book is not for complete computer novices, “kick-butt” web developers looking for a reference book nor for someone who can’t handle different.  For everyone else it’s perfect.

From the intro: If you can say “yes” to all of these:

1.)  Do you have access to a computer with a web browser and a text editor?

2.)  Do you want to learn, understand, and remember how to create web pages, using the best techniques and the most recent standards?

3.) Do you prefer stimulating dinner party conversation to dry, dull, academic lectures?

this book is for you, and it will give you more than enough to be dangerous with less than the expected effort or brain cramps.

How does it work?

The brain likes to focus on things that matter and shuts out the routine and ordinary.  When neurons are firing and emotions cranking the brain says “this is important” and retains it.  This book achieves this through various very deliberate devices. 

  • Highly visual (lots of picture, people rather than things)
  • Words within or near graphics
  • Conversational and personalized style (first person, casual, humor, stories)
  • Get the learner (reader) to think more deeply (challenges, exercise, questions, activities using both sides of the brain, using multiple senses, redundancy, multiple points of view)
  • Get – and keep – the readers attention (things out of the ordinary, interesting, strange, eye-catching, unexpected)
  • Touch emotions (surprise, curiosity, fun, “what the…?”, victories)
  • Cater to Multiple learning styles
  • Use of Challenges (questions don’t always have straight answers)
  • Doing (lots of exercises and activities)

The book delivers it’s material in a way that increases different types of brain activity simultaneously which causes the brain to work in your favor and speeds the learning process and increases retention and comprehension.

The science and theory work.  I have read many technical books, but nothing has been as stimulating and as easy as this.  This won’t  be my last “Head First” guide and if you are new to blogging or have been intimidated by (X)HTML and CSS this should be your first to consider.

I have accomplished the minor changes I needed after moving my blog.  Now I want to go beyond my original ambitions and have the tools and the knowledge to do these “more advanced maneuvers”.  One of the first things I need to tackle is fixing some design errors in the original theme dealing with unpredictable screen sizes.

Let’s get dangerous with our blogs!

 

Do you have the book?  Please add your comments on it.

Do you have other excellent CSS resources you can recommend?

Boyle-ing like Simon Cowell

If you have an internet connection, you have undoubtedly heard about and even seen the Susan Boyle episode of Britain’s Got Talent on YouTube.   But did you catch the real lesson behind Simon and the frumpy spinster from a small UK village, who walked on stage to snickers and doubt, and walked off a super star?

Susan Boyle
The audience and judges could not contain their awe merely 3 words into the song.  But as the audience sat down again and the cheers and beaming faces quieted down for judges commentary, conviction of something ugly in each of us set in.

“Biggest surprise” 

“Everyone was laughing at you”.

“We were very cynical.”

What these words really acknowledged was prejudice.  The audience and judges had pre-judged Susan Boyle based on her brief walk onto the stage and the few words she spoke before she started her song.

“Boyle-ing like Simon Cowell”.

I did it recently.  I reviewed a resume and wrote it off.  Not because of lack of relevant skills and experiences, but because of some common background with prior hires who did not turn out.  Urged by the phone screener to do a personal interview despite my reservations, I found I almost rejected a highly qualified and experienced candidate that was a great fit for our need. 

It might have happened again if I had seen another gentleman across the room rather than joining him in a group discussion.  Going below the surface that some may have considered socially awkward, revealed  a deeply thoughtful, passionate and generous man that some will never get to know.

Transitioning from obscurity to instant worldwide fame on YouTube, Susan Boyle now conquers the world stage with her record smashing debut album titled after her song on Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed A Dream”.

Susan Boyle edged out established chart topping mainstays such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones to dominate the number 1 spot on Billboard 200 with 701,000 albums sold in her first week.  A sales volume never achieved by any other female solo artist. Ever.

She demonstrates she can hold her own and even trump superstars of the genre with her renditions of some terrific classics. She is no one-hit wonder.

Susan Boyle did not become a superstar that day on YouTube, she always was a superstar.

It might have never happened.

How many Susan Boyle’s are not at our companies, on our teams, in our classrooms, galleries, and on our bookshelves, are not volunteering with us, preaching, or teaching because of the prejudice of the gatekeepers. 

We have to scratch below the surface and take off the filters.

 

What has Susan Boyle taught you?

 

6 Facets of the Servant Leadership Diamond

In his November 17, 2009 Mike Henry Sr. writes a wonderful succinct piece on the essence of “Servant Leadership”.  Many have heard the term, even strive to be one, but do we know what it really means?FacetsMike Henry Sr. drives it home so nicely by breaking down the phrase “Servant Leaders serve people in pursuit of a goal”, I will just refer you to his original post:

6 Facets of the Servant Leadership Diamond

Leave a Comment:  Which of the 6 Facets do you need to polish?

Book references

For those who want to dive deeper into the subject of Servant Leadership there are many terrific books on the subject.  These are my favorites:

Related Posts

Do We Deserve Our A-Players

Too Busy for Our Mission

Servant Leaders and the Tribe by Mike Henry Sr.

Leadership 2.0 by Michael Hyatt

Precious Time

Hands holding back arms of a clock

Precious time.

Time to go to bed.  What, already?

Time to get up.  What, already?

Snooze just a little longer.

“Quiet time” with God.

I need to exercise more.

Time to blog.

A bite on the fly.

Drop the kids.

Get to work.

The meeting ran long.

Late! 

Running behind.

Time.

The report needs a little more time.

Research takes time. 

The project is due!

Time to tweet.

The tweets don’t stop.

Time for lunch?

No time for lunch!

Calls take time.

Email never stops.

Time.

Staff needs time.

What time is it?

Do you have time?

Do I have time?

How much time will it take?

It will take some time!

Time to go home.

Just a little more time.

Do I have enough time?

I’ll be there shortly.

Time.

Gotta go!

Get to the game.

Hi, honey.  I’m home.

Her love language is “Quality Time”.

“The kids will remember the time you spent with them.”

Friendships take time.

Relationships take time.

Time.

Practice makes perfect. Invest the time.

Volunteer time.

Time.

Time to get the kids to bed.

Time

The bills are due!

Time.

I need to read.

Time.

Just a little more time.

Time to go to bed.  What, already?

Time.

Time.

Time.

“Be still….”

– Psalms 46:10 –

Related Posts

Too Busy for Our Mission

What Happened to Relationships

Priority Management – by Steve Scanlon on Reality & Hope Blog

Too Busy for Our Mission

Busyness has turned into an epidemic.   At home, at work, at church even in down time.  The most common response I get when inquiring with friends and business associates is “I’ve been so busy!”   The constant change, doing more with less, a deluge of projects, running kids around to activities and even our leisure time activities cause us to be too darned busy.   And yet, whether as an individual or as an organizations, we all have a unique, specific and important mission to accomplish. 

Blurred Busy People

Have become too busy for our mission?

People and organizations exist to accomplish a specific mission.  Whether it is our personal life or at work, it is so easy to get entangled in the urgent stuff that keeps us busy and neglect the important stuff that really matters.

At Church I lead a couple of different teams in our “Connections Ministry”, whose mission it is to ensure our attendees and guest feel warmly welcomed and well served during their time at church on Sundays.   On Communion Sundays we have a bit more on our minds than other Sundays.  Before the first service starts a team prepare over 600 cups of wine and communion crackers, place them around the sanctuary at different stations before the people arrive.  At the same time a team of Ushers prepare the worship center and man 4 sets of doors to hand out bulletins while greeters welcome people arriving in 2 wings of the building.  It takes more than 30 volunteers to serve in just this aspect of the service.  Then we do it all over again before the second service starts half an hour after the first ends.  This time just a little bigger.  We reset the worship center, clean up spills, refill more trays with more than 800 cups, placed at more stations and more than 20 of the 30 plus volunteers are different than the first service. 

On one of these Sundays I was checking on our greeters in the lobby between services after confirming the preparation of the communion elements was on track.  While scanning the lobby for arriving volunteers, a good friend approached me to introduce their brother to me, who had come to visit our church as a guest that day. 

In life and work it’s all about the people and all about relationships.  That’s typically why we do that we do.  On this Sunday, I blew it.  I was too busy for my mission. 

I gave this friend and their guest only half my attention and a half minded greeting I regretted the minute it spilled out of my mouth.  My mind was busy with the busy things, as I glossed over the important thing that really mattered.  I failed to “connect” and make this guest feel warmly welcomed and important.  Rather than coming to a “sanctuary” he saw the same crazy world he sees all week.

This happens every day in the work place too.  How many of us crave to work on strategic, game changing stuff as we grind it out each day with mundane tactics?  While sometimes we can’t choose our assignments, we can choose to make what we do count by focusing on that which will make an impact and connects to the strategically significant.  But yet we get sucked into running ragged in the “thick of thin things” as Stephen Covey calls is.

We need our “Covey Quadrant” front and center every day.  With all we do, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I doing the urgent and unimportant, or am I focused on what matters?  Am I working on my ‘Big Rocks’ or am I chasing grains of sand?”  Hint.  More often than not, when people and relationships are involved, the important is not far off. 

Time has become our most precious commodity.  It flows.  Its constantly on the move.   Deliberately directed activities, even in small increments, cause us to march with determination to accomplish the important and significant.  Left to itself, time seeps away while we feverishly chase after activities that keep us busy but won’t lead to the accomplishment of our mission.

Do you know your mission (business & personal)?

Are taking deliberate small steps daily to accomplish your mission?

Book References

Related Posts

What Happened To Relationships

Precious Time

Priority Management  by Steve Scanlon

The Not-To-Do List by Michael Hyatt

What Happened to Relationships?

My wife volunteers for our neighborhood associations.  Twice a year it issues a newsletter and the key activities it sponsors are a neighborhood garage sale, a Halloween parade and a holiday luminaries event.  The driving purpose behind the association is stimulation relationships between neighbors.

As we took an evening stroll we started to ponder whether the association is really serving its purpose any longer and whether it even can.
Elderly lady shaking hands at the door

We used to have “Street Reps” for each segment of the neighborhood who would hand deliver the newsletters so that they could make connections as they dropped them off.  I said “used to” because the “old guard” who remember the time when neighbors were neighbors have no one to pass the torch to.  People are just too busy.

Many of the newsletter were left on the doorstep last year, because nobody is home anymore.  Both parents are working, taxiing kids between activities and dinners are eaten on the run.  Even on weekends it’s rare to catch someone for a chat at the door.  Actually, some of the remaining “Street Reps” prefer it that way.  They too are busy, I mean,  there are projects to get done, errands to run and to-do lists to check off. 

Yet people crave relationships.  We were made relationships, for interdependence rather than independence.  Cancel a neighborhood or church event because there were no volunteers to organize it and brace yourself for the outcry.  People have the need to relate, but don’t want to invest the time to reap the reward.

What happened to relationships?

The book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything is more true today than when James Gleick wrote the book 8 years ago.  We are so busy we take they buy-out option on the box of fundraiser candy rather than have the kids sell the candy bars.  We go to activities but rarely arrive on time and leave early because we need to be somewhere else.  Mom shuttles one kid to one event while dad is at the other with the second one.  Parents are on cell phones on the sidelines and if a sibling does in fact make it, they are in another world on the game console or music player because we aren’t modeling relationships any more.

Quantity trumps quality, convenience trumps purpose, efficiency trumps authenticity, and busyness trumps relationships.  Yesterday John C. Maxwell profoundly tweeted “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”

A while back I was having lunch with my wife at a Panera Bread  store and a family of five arrived.  They picked 2 separate table so that each of them had room to open their laptops.  I kid you not, mom, dad, two daughters and a son, each had their own laptop open while the family had lunch “together”.

So how are you doing? 

Are you making time for relationships?

Do you know your neighbor 3 or 4 doors down and the other side of the street?

How many times each week do you sit down for dinner with every family?

Related Posts

Too Busy for Our Mission

Precious Time

Do We Deserve Our “A-Players”?

To build a great team, we are told, we need to hire the best, or as Mark Suster put it in his terrific post last week: “In my experience B players hire C people.  A begets A,  B begets C. Don’t go there.”  We have also learned through surveys like this one http://bit.ly/ROiZS to “hire good people, not skills”, and we have learned that “behavioral interview questions” about the past will help us better predict future performance as we recruit.  We have become pretty good at acquiring top talent.

Three Business People on Mountain Peak

But do we deserve the “A-Players” we have acquired? 

Are we fulfilling our responsibilities to them?

As leaders we have many responsibilities to the people we lead.  While these are common to all our staff, I believe there are 4 Essential Responsibilities to A-Players that we must keep front and center for these high performers.

1.)  Understand Their Expectations – What makes this a “Win” for them?

While our expectations for staff are generally clearly defined in vision & mission statements, job descriptions, employee manuals, bonus plans etc…, their expectations of us aren’t always so clear.

Top talent is typically highly ambitious, mobile, and have a plan for a specific journey.  How does working for your team or organization fit into that plan and journey?  Can you really meet their expectations and will you get what you need from the relationship during your leg of their journey?  Is this going to be a “Win – Win” for them and you?

2.) Don’t Hire Over-Qualified Candidates – Help them find their “Win”

We need to acquire people who want “the job” and not just “a job”.  While I want top talent for my teams, I will actively help sell over-qualified candidates that I find too good to pass up, to other parts of the organization.  If no opportunities exist internally, I will help them get connected with the right opportunities outside the organization. 

Over-qualified people are settling for less for some temporal reason, and you are doing neither them nor yourself a favor by hiring them.  Their heart will be yearning for “the thing I really want”, they won’t be focused on your side of the value equation, and they will disappear on you at the most inopportune time.

3.)  Watch Both Sides of the Value Equation – Manage the “Win – Win”  

Our job is to develop team members towards their full potential and give them a platform to prepare for bigger and better things, while doing the things our team needs to get done.  Our investment in them is not completely selfless, because it prepares them to return a superior value to us for an acceptable period of time.  Both you and your team members must be committed to balancing both sides of the value equation.

While this post touches on many of the questions that crave a positive response according to “First Break All the Rules”, the emphasis here is on positively answering the question: “Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?”

Many a corporate culture has run afoul because employees feel the company owes them.  You will experience no greater loyalty, dedication and quality of work, than from someone who feels a greater indebtedness to you as a result of your authentic care.

4.)  Set Them Free – Let them pursue a new “Win”

If you do the first three right, you will maximize the time the high performers will commit to you.  They become your most valuable and productive team members.  They make you look good and get things done, and you come to rely on them to pull your toughest challenges out of the fire and they help share your load. 

The time will come when you have given them all the assignments that stretch them and allow them to shine brightly. You will have given them all the professional and personal development opportunities you can, and cheered them on as they grew from tactical executers to strategic thinkers and progressed from individual contributors to leaders. 

Even when we do everything right in a healthy culture and growing organization, at some point some of our A-Players will outgrow us and the opportunities we can make available to them.  We can no longer fulfill our responsibility for keeping their side of the value equation a “Win”. 

Before it turns into a “Win – Lose” relationship, we need to do the difficult and unnatural thing, and willingly release them and maybe even give them a nudge. 

It’s time to Look with satisfaction and pride at the journey behind us, and bless them and look forward with joy and anticipation to the journey that lies ahead for them. 

With the relationship in tact, our paths will cross and again and maybe even intertwine.

Am I missing something? 

Please reply with your thoughts and experiences.

Book References

There are three books that I have discovered invaluable in honing my own staff management style, and that  I regularly recommend to others.  While the post is based on my experiences, it is also influenced by the relational core principles in these books.

The best book I know on the topic of negotiating is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.The book shifts the paradigm from the traditional self centered “Win-Lose” or “Win-I Don’t Care” approach to a creative and relational approach focused on meeting the essential interests of all the parties, (way beyond a dollar for widget exchange).  The famous and critical “Win – Win”.  Also central to this post are the relational aspects discussed in the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently  and The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People (the book on staff management.  Deserves a dedicated post). 

Related Posts

Common Traits of A-Players  by Auren Hoffman

Shouting Louder

Communication is a critical responsibility of every leader, one typically exercised on a daily basis.  T. Boone Pickens during his Keynote address at the the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Congress in Orlando this week confirmed what so many of us know to be true.  “There is no such thing as over communication”.  Yet, so often leaders, even very effective communicators who hone and exercise their skill, are caught by surprise when they discover that some of their messages are not received as intended. Make yourself heard

While frequent repetition can reinforce a critical communication, doing so with a message that wasn’t received as intended is analogous to repeating your directions for the subway station at twice the volume to the hand gesturing, guide book toting  tourist.

Are you “shouting louder” when your message isn’t getting through?

Maybe your message recipients aren’t deaf.  Maybe the hours spent determining content and choosing the appropriate form and medium for delivering the message was not all that was necessary to ensure you are communicating.

Frequent and Varied is Not Enough

I have the pleasure of working for a 7,000 person geographically dispersed organization that is more committed to communication than any other I have been a part of to date.  Here is a sampling of very recent communications:

  • Earlier this month Senior divisional leadership stopped by each of the sites to spend time with their staff in “Town Hall” meetings.  A small and intimate forum with a short agenda and the bulk of the time dedicated to face-time for staff directed straight-shooting Q&A on any topic.
  • Each month every staff member receives an update on our progress towards divisional Goals & Objectives.
  • Each Wednesday the divisional communication coordinator launches an email newsletter to our email inboxes, with 5 critical sub-reports on tactical accomplishments, issues and speaking points our top Executive will carry up his chain of command.
  • Earlier this week we received a detailed update on our largest most strategic corporate initiative  
  • Tuesday morning, as each week, I meet with the CIO and several peers for a comprehensive status discussions. 
  • This past Thursday evening I attended our regional Management Development Association event.  A significant part of the evening was dedicated to a Q&A panel of three Senior Vice Presidents.
  • Friday was our monthly extended IT leadership team off-site where 100+ key IT leaders got to hear another Senior Vice President share his divisional strategy. 
  • Before Friday was done everyone had a video message in their  inbox from our Chairman & CEO with a key message.   This is the same CEO who makes a point of meeting with 20 randomly selected employees every other month for candid conversations about whatever is on their minds. 

This and more is normal every day, every week fare that is rooted in a phenomenal commitment to communication.   Form and content is varied and tuned to the audience, our live communicators are passionate, dynamic, transparent, and highly relational.

While most of our communication serves us well most of the time, it apparently was not working for the communication of the very critical Corporate Strategy.

Transmission Does Not Ensure Communication

Communication is not just about preparing great content and delivering it via the best medium in a dynamic way.  We failed to verify that the transmitted message was received by our staff as intended, until we noticed expected behavior changes were not occurring.

We launched a survey to assess understanding of the key strategy concepts.  The survey confirmed that 40% of our staff were not communicated to, despite receiving the message.

Verification is the Missing Key

While this is built into electronic transmission protocols, too often we fail to verify the message we sent is actually received and understood as intended.  If the message is not received as intended, communication did not occur.

While live communication forums lend themselves better to instant verification than say an e-mail blast or webcast, communicators must be intentional to verify all forms and medium as close to the communication event, and then adapt to what they discover.  Even live forms of communication can become a one directional information push if intentional verification isn’t planned in.

When our verification highlighted our shortcoming in communicating the Corporate Strategy, we launched the “Making the Connection” campaign.   Staff supervisors will learn how to communicate the strategy by interactively guiding their staff to co-create the message and group understanding.  Rather than pushing content, the group will participate in putting the strategy into context of business drivers, and connect it to “How does what I do every day connect to the corporate strategy?” in a highly interactive small group forum.

Staff supervisors will focus on intentionally seeking verification of understanding and adapt to lead all members to understanding through active participation.

The Bottom Line

One directional information push is not communication.  Communication requires the interaction between the transmitter and the recipient of the message.

  • First do everything else right
    • Great Content
    • Dynamic Delivery
    • Appropriate Medium
  • During the communication delivery or shortly after, intentionally verify that the message is received as intended and understood
  • Adapt if necessary

The responsibility for ensuring the audience understood the message through intentional verification, rests solely with the communicator of the message.

Only upon verification can we say communication truly occurred.

How recent was your latest e-mail blast from a senior leader and what do you remember of it’s substance?

What communication techniques work best for you?

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