This article was written by Chris Hopkins, MBA, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Montana Health Network, for the July 2016 edition of “Networking News.” The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.
Montana Health Network has received several grants throughout its existence, and with each new grant the required task of communicating results seems to grow in frequency, depth and complexity. In short, the reporting burden seems to grow with each opportunity. Providing information can add to the work load, but there are important reasons behind communicating results.
First, know your audience
When providing results, the target audience must be kept in mind. Are these results going to a project officer, community members, board members, other stakeholders or the press? Each entity may have different data requirements or wish to see different things. The communication of results should not be one-size-fits-all.
Other than grant requirements, which may have a pre-prescribed data set, the main reason to provide and share results is to show value to the intended audience. Results can come in many forms, including graphs, charts, financial statements, statistical reports and personal impact stories. How and what gets presented depends greatly upon the audience’s needs. When a network is providing value and can demonstrate its results, then sustainability is close around the corner.
Many of Montana Health Network’s successes came in the form of demonstrated cost savings. The initial strong, demonstrated cost-saving results of our service lines, communicated to the board members through financial charts, have led to increased trust and the opportunity to explore new products and to continue to grow the network. These are specific results communicated to a specific audience and have the desired result of continued support.
Another purpose in sharing results is to educate. Recently Montana Senator Jon Tester, together with CMS and other federal partners, held a rural health summit in western Montana. Members of Montana Health Network were in attendance and able to present information about rural health topics such as workforce, healthcare needs and hospitals.
This was not the time for charts and graphs. The presentations shared results through stories of the need for rural healthcare and the difference it has made in people’s lives. Horror stories were shared regarding labor shortages, but success stories were also shared about saving lives and grateful families and patients. The purpose was to paint a picture of what life was like in a rural/frontier healthcare environment. Both successes and failures were shared, through stories, in an effort to educate and paint an accurate picture. In this case, this method of presenting results was effective in meeting the goal of educating and soliciting change.
Posting and sharing results internally is a great way to motivate staff and to solidify the organizational message. Together with staff, the organization can celebrate successes and rally around struggles, as long as everyone understands what the organization is trying to accomplish (mission) and the results that indicate progress towards that goal. It is rare to walk into a rural healthcare facility and not see current trends and results posted in a public area or at least an area open to the view of the staff. Progress toward results can share the organization’s story to potential new recruits and explain why the organization matters and where it is making a difference.
Don’t leave out the bad results
Sharing results is crucial, especially with board members, grant administrators or stakeholders, at a time when you wish to solicit guidance or direction. Without really showing a true picture of a project’s current status, it is hard to get the direction needed to reverse a negative trend. Everyone would like to successfully implement a project or meet grant objectives. Unfortunately, that cannot always be accomplished.
There are two key factors in sharing bad results. First, did the effort not succeed due to a bad idea, or bad execution? Without consistently reporting results and measuring impact, there really is no way to tell an accurate story. Additional support and wisdom from stakeholders, board members and grant officers can often mean the difference between success and failure, but not if they don’t know the current results.
Secondly, the importance of frequency and timing is crucial. If the organization is consistently sharing results, either positive or negative, there should not be any surprises. For board members, surprises, especially negative, can be very frustrating. Establish early on in the organizational process what kind of data is needed by each of the stakeholders and how frequently they should receive it.
While it is never comfortable to communicate bad results, the frequency and honesty with which they are shared will dictate whether a supportive team environment, looking for solutions, will be created, or whether the interactions will be less pleasant. Many grants are designed to be exploratory, and therefore less-than-successful results only add to the learning process.
Communicating results, both good and bad, can be a useful tool to solicit support, tell your story, show value and motivate staff. The keys to communicating results are to be aware of your audience and determine the frequency and best method to display the results you share. The proper sharing of results will help strengthen support for your network and create an air of transparency and trust within the organization.
Montana Health Network’s (MHN) mission is to support and influence the evolution of healthcare organizations, and enhance the well-being of individual communities through:
This article was written by Leslie Flick, executive director of Health Future, LLC, for the June 2016 edition of “Networking News.” The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.
When serving an industry where change is a constant state of routine, keeping the workforce of an organization productive, efficient, flexible, and able to adjust to required changes in workflow or focus at all levels is imperative. This requires a clearly stated mission, transparency, collaboration in the setting of goals, and development of key performance indicators that define “success.”
It also requires discussing concerns about possible barriers to meeting those goals from varied perspectives and creating a plan to increase progress toward identified targets. Who knows a network’s obstacles better than those who are responsible for setting the foundation for reaching our goals: our frontline staff. It is in their daily interactions with members, consumers, strategic partners, and other stakeholders that success is rooted.
Alignment of workforce with network goals
There are several ways to ensure that staff members are connected with their role in reaching organizational goals.
Employ the right associates to join your team. While a bit obvious, the first step is to offer the right individuals an opportunity to be a part of your team. Tasks, in and of themselves, are relatively easy to teach. Attitude, dedication, energy, compassion, humility and “presence” are attributes that are important to keeping the workforce moving together toward common goals. During the interview process, consider asking nontraditional questions like:
Assign new-hire mentors/buddies. Place your new hire with one of your stars! Ask the mentor their opinion of the new hire and specific areas that might need some special attention to help them succeed. It won’t take long to determine if the new addition is a good fit who will assist in your movement forward.
Hold morning huddles. Spend five to ten minutes with work units each morning to ask for report-out of progress from the day before, what the day ahead looks like, any barriers encountered or anticipated today that need to be addressed, and/or any suggestions for improvements to consider.
Track key performance indicators and post them for review, showing progress or decline. Engage in management walk-throughs that note progress on a consistent basis.
Develop cross-functional teams to share information on work in other areas of discipline across the organization. It helps us learn how stakeholders in other areas are impacted by the work of each work group. We have found that development of project teams with assigned first and second chairs who have complementary skills and setting clear lines of accountability have helped all workforce members feel empowered and valuable to the overall success of the organization.
Accountable, empowered and valued teams
Encouraging accountability and empowerment throughout the workforce instill pride in the work being done, which also helps improve outcomes. Staff members build confidence as they learn new skills and as new knowledge (education with purpose) is shared across the organization. When staff plays an active role in removing barriers to others’ success, the network can foster a sense of camaraderie among its workforce.
Staff must feel valued as an essential piece of the larger puzzle for them to be satisfied in their roles. Communicating the network’s appreciation for key staff allows each individual to experience being counted as an important contributor to success. It also builds respect for the work that is being done on all levels of the organization. Employees take more ownership of their roles and maintain a direct line-of-sight with the mission when the network demonstrates the value of their contributions.
Overall, creating an agile workforce is really about developing an inclusive management style, building trust through transparency, and verbalizing appreciation for the work. Keeping people engaged and eager to improve facilitates change for the greater good, ensures focus on the mission, and creates ownership in the outcomes.
Health Future, LLC, headquartered in Southern Oregon, was founded in 1979 to develop and manage a variety of programs and services for its members and associates to address health care concerns. Today, Health Future, LLC is a unique healthcare consortium owned by Oregon hospitals and healthcare systems that operate as an integrated network for quality improvement, margin enhancement, and cost reduction. Health Future, LLC has been an active member of NCHN (National Cooperative of Health Networks) since 2005.
The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. Rural Health Innovations, LLC is a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.