As the year ends, I’ve spoken to many CIOs. 2011 was a hard year filled with Meaningful Use (including many upgrades to certified systems or self-certification), 5010 (the deadline for upgrading billing systems is January 1, 2012), accelerating compliance demands, new security threats, rapidly evolving technologies, and unprecedented demand for new projects driven by the consumerization of IT.
At the same time that CIOs and IT professionals are running marathons, they are being held accountable for events that are not directly under their control. They are not being congratulated for the miracles they create every day, but are being criticized for not moving faster.
What do I mean?
One CIO received a negative audit report because new generations of viruses are no longer stopped by state of the art anti-virus software. Interesting. The CIO cannot control the virus authors, nor the effectiveness of anti-virus software. No one in the industry has solved the problem, but audit firms revel in creating fear, uncertainty and doubt at the Board level as it enhances the reputation of the auditor.
Another CIO was held accountable for infrastructure demands that were not forecasted, planned, or communicated. CIOs do their best to be proactive, but in the world of Big Data, past trends may not predict future needs.
Another CIO was was given 10 goals and 5 unplanned urgent projects. She completed 8 of the planned goals and all the urgent projects, yet was told she only met 80% of expectations.
In a world that expects leaders to continuously perform miracles with constrained resources in limited time, we all need to step back and take our own steps to stop the madness.
With your own staff, celebrate the joy of success and focus on what really matters.
Did you achieve Meaningful Use?
Did you support compliance requirements on time to meet regulatory deadlines?
Did you maintain employee satisfaction and minimize turnover?
If so, you’re an IT Leadership hero.
Did your Board or senior management note that a new application or website launched a few weeks late because you wanted additional testing time to minimize risk?
No one will ever remember.
Did you defer a “nice to have” project because an unplanned “must have” occurred mid year?
Good for you.
Did you have a brief infrastructure failure that led to a major improvement in security, reliability, and maintainability because the staff rallied around a tricky problem caused by a combination of rapid technology change and exponential increases in customer demand?
You’ll be stronger in the future because of it.
We have to break the cycle of negativity that makes IT leadership so challenging. Create a culture that thrives on the projects you did well and does not focus on what remains undone because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
Leaders at all levels – from Board members to team leaders need to realize that shouting louder does not make the rowing staff move the boat faster.
So celebrate the accomplishments achieved by your and your staff in 2011. It was one of the hardest years in the history of IT and we doubled EHR adoption in the US from 20% to 40%. We need to focus on that success, leveraging our energy and optimism to finish the 60% that remains.
John D. Halamka, MD, MS, is Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN), Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, a full Professor at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing Emergency Physician. He’s also the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog.