This week’s episode is the first in a three-part series about getting projects back on track. The bigger a project, the more likely it is to get derailed along the way, and delays can come with major price tags. How do we exceed expectations and overcome some of these common obstacles? Part 1 focuses on project workflows.
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Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to “The Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-host Scott Zeitzer, and Jared Johnson. Today’s episode is the first in a three-part series about getting projects back on track the bigger project, the more likely it is to get derailed along the way and delays can come with big price tags. So, how do we exceed expectations and overcome some of these common obstacles? And that’s what we’re looking at throughout this series. But in part one specifically, we’re gonna be talking about project workflows. Guys, welcome to podcast afternoon. Thank you for joining me.
Scott: That’s right.
Michael: One of the reasons that we’re talking about workflow at all is because so much of what we do with our customers overlaps in this space. You know, we do a lot of application development, we do help out with marketing campaigns, we do help in a lot of, you know, sort of online development spaces. So much of it comes down to workflows that are actually working correctly. We spend a pretty decent amount of time talking through this kind of stuff with our clients, really helping them figure out like how to streamline these things. And these are things that we have to deal with all the time ourselves. Right? Like these are things that, in order for us to keep on improving, this is something that we really have to think about.
So, let’s jump into just some of these keys of building a workflow that works, that actually does what it’s supposed to do. So, what do you guys think of I guess like kind of off the top of your head when you just talk about workflow? Like what are the things that maybe are sometimes like the most problematic about it and the things that we kind of end up talking about quite a bit when it comes to this side of things?
Scott: Let me jump in on that. Yeah, while you were talking about this, I was thinking…we’re all remote. You know, I’m here in New Orleans, Jared out in Arizona. And I know, Michael, you’re in New Orleans as well but you’re working out of your home just like I am. And that environment may not be changing as quickly as we think. You know, as things come back to the new normal, we may be getting a lot more remote. And we’re used to that, you know, at our company. But a lot of companies aren’t. But, whether you’re all together or all remote, communication and understanding what everybody’s goals are, you know, on the team is critical to getting started. And whenever you don’t have everybody on the same page about what we’re trying to get done, man, it’s hard to put together a good workflow.
We’ve done huge applications that take months and months to complete where you’re very iterative in the process and you’ve got a lot of people getting involved. And, if you’ve never had that first set of meetings where everybody was just agreeing upon the goals, so to speak, well, you can get lost pretty quickly in the weeds. I would say to anybody with any type of workflow, it’s like, “Let’s get together and go over like the big-picture goals.” And don’t run past that so quickly because it will come to bite you, you know where in the end. Ooh, there you go.
Jared: Yeah, I think even that recognizing that from the beginning, like we might…especially the bigger projects, the longer ones, the ones that you’re measuring in terms of months, instead of days or weeks, it’s so easy to when all you’re thinking about or spending the majority of your time on, over that period of time, we all just get kind of weary of it after a while and there’s a lot less tendency to bring up the workflow the longer you get into it. Because you’re like, “We already know. We know what the goals are, we know what the destination is.” When the fact is it might have changed a little bit but, even like that fact of not communicating, the further you get down the road, it’s so easy to do. And, so, that’s what I’ve at least seen is that we have to bring it up more often or else it’s just not gonna happen naturally.
Scott: Yeah, I agree, Jared. And, you know, Michael, when he joined the company many years ago now, and, you know, I knew that he was the marketing guy coming in to lead the way for a bunch of programmers. And, in some ways, that’s been helpful and, in some ways, I’m sure, it’s driven you crazy, Michael. But that being said, when it came to big projects, whether they were marketing projects or application-development projects, going back to everybody and saying, “Hey, we gotta put together some workflows and some thoughts on these processes,” all the application guys were like, “Sure, that makes perfect sense to do.” Right, Michael?
Michael: Yeah. It’s funny because like now I think of myself much more as a process person, but every time I start that conversation, I pale in comparison to so many of the people that we work with. Because they’re like, “Oh, well, we could put it in this type of chart and we could put…” I’m like, “yeah, you lost me at a certain point here because we got so technical.” And I think that’s like a critical component of it, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about more of it. But the team that you bring together, having those people that really do enjoy diving that deep into process and enjoy really being able to get into that level of detail with it…because, after a certain point, like I’ll be honest, I get a little stir-crazy getting that far into the details. But if you don’t, the room for things to go off the rails super hard, it happens very easily. So, there’s so many different things about workflow, right, that you could get into but I think like this kind of, as we’re starting off this series, really kind of sticking to that beginning stages of it.
Like when I start thinking about a new project, when I start thinking about like how to launch into something, there’s this whole like open canvas. Right? Like we’re starting from scratch and we’re just going to do whatever, and that’s never actually the case. Right? Like you’re always in some sort of like inherited set of parameters that you need to consider, when it comes to this. So, you know, we do have a lot of programmers, we do have a lot of, you know, these types of employees or these types of people that are helping out with this project. And I think that like making sure that you’re really taking a good stock of where you are before you start building. Because, just because you have a great idea doesn’t actually mean that now is the right time to do it, even you have the right set of circumstances to be able to pursue these things. So, I think that’s something that like we have to always be conscious of ourselves but it’s also something that we have to help advise clients about. You know, for a lot of different reasons, technical or whatever else.
Scott: We work with a lot of larger companies…oh gosh, over the last two decades or so. That brings with it some real benefits. Right? They’ve got budget to actually do some cool stuff, some heavy lifting. And that also brings with it some unintended stuff like, “Man, we got to sell this to a lot of different people.” So, there’s an internal process that takes place but the team itself, “What are the big goals?” right, “what are we trying to get done?” And there’s this conversation that’s occurring within the team. This is the big picture coming from the powers of B, this is what they’re trying to get done, now let’s get into the weeds and build it.
While that’s happening, if you’re working at a larger company, or working for any company, you know, if it’s a small business, you gotta go back to your boss, at some point, and go, “Here’s where we’re at,” and you’ve got to sell where you’re at. “This is what we’re looking to get done this month, this is what we’re looking to get done next month.” You know, Michael, you’ve worked for me for a while now and you’ve worked on some very large projects for us that take months to get done. And you report back to me on a regular basis with, “Hey, this is the project, gentle reminder about what we got done last month, gentle reminder about what we’re getting done now, what we’re looking to get done in the next month.” And that’s all for me. Right? And then there’s your team you work with and you have a certain workflow where you really do get into the weeds, but, to me, you’re just reporting on the bigger-picture stuff.
Michael: I think the concept of like reporting up, and even reporting, you know, down…you know, like using air quotes, of course, that nobody can see because we’re on a podcast, but…
Scott: Reporting to each other, reporting to people that work for you, I understand.
Michael: Yeah, up and down the management chain, as it would be. Like that ability for people, especially at large companies, you know, to be able to report up to their boss is like, “This is the progress that we’ve made,” you know, “see how far along we’re coming.” But you still have to keep everybody on the team informed of where you’re at. Because I think it’s so easy, especially when you do start talking about these like really really large projects, you get kinda toiling away at your little piece of it and you don’t necessarily see how that connects to everything else. And, so, it feels like, “Geez, is what I’m doing here even important? Does it matter?” You know, it’s easy for somebody that’s working on a very specific component of that to come back with something that’s incomplete, as far as the project is concerned.
Because you told me to paint it red, that’s the example, like you told me to write this, to build this. I did this one thing and I did nothing more because you told me to do that. But if you did tell them like, “Hey, that bigger story of like we are asking you to do this because that’s gonna fit into this piece of this project overall, which is going to help this division or it’s gonna help the patient find what they need more easily or it’s going to…” you know, suddenly, you’re talking about a much different type of assignment. “I’m actually contributing to a part of a whole, instead of just,” I don’t know, “I’ve got five of these pegs I have to put in holes today. And then, once I’m done, I’m done.”
Michael: Everybody, I always appreciate that you tune in, that you’re listening to the show here. I wanted to let you know that we have set up a new newsletter that you can get to at paradigmshift.health, that’s paradigmshift.health, you can go there. And the reason that we’ve got this newsletter is that we like to send out a few extra pieces of information with the show. We also have a full transcript for every single episode that we do. And we can let you know that, through email, we can let you know also if we have a good quote card to be able to show for every episode. So, check that out, if you’d like, paradigmshift.health. Thanks so much.
Scott: It’s been critical to our success, the ability to communicate, both internally and externally, on the individual steps and why you’re taking those steps. And I think the other part of it, and this is just genial advice from the old guy, I always tell everybody, when they come on board, when we hire someone, I always say, like, “Guys, it’s in no particular order,” I tell every new employee, and, Michael, you’ve heard it a million times, “protect the company, protect the client. No surprises.” And you can alter that in any order because they’re all equal. Right?
And, if you get everybody on the same page with where you need to be and why you’re getting there, and you also have a real culture of transparency and openness, when someone does make that mistake, which will happen on larger projects, getting them to fess up and own up to it quickly so that you can, you know, not yell, not point fingers, but fix the problem, figure out how to stop it from happening again, and then move forward makes for a better and quicker project as well. And that has happened and will continue to happen. But all those things come into play of, “Here’s this big picture. Communicate it well, internally, externally, up and down,” right, “and that will allow you to start building out the individual steps that make sense.” That to me is really like the 101 of a good workflow.
Jared: Yeah, I like the thought of that because the communication does come down to understanding what we mean by certain terms. I’ve been in situations, you know, in conference rooms, you know, with a large team, large project, and we had somebody who was very keen to start talking about critical path. And not everyone in the room, myself included, at the time actually understood, you know, exactly what that meant. We were like, “Okay, I think those are the important parts.” But, you know, like some in the room had been…
Michael: “Not the non-critical parts, yeah, we don’t want those.”
Jared: Right, right. Yeah, of course, nobody wants those. We had to kind of like back out. I just remember being like halfway through a meeting and we had to back it out and say like, “Hey, you know, quick time out. It’ll help us understand how important certain parts are but we also need to recognize like how far we need to get into it in a discussion versus just going to start doing the tasks.” And, so, the conversation changed. And I think that’s not uncommon to realize that, you know, some in a room might be fully trained on like lean processes and, you know, all the way there. And then you just have to realize like, I guess, listen to the room, play to those who in the meeting, and recognize we’re probably all actually talking about the same things but let’s just make sure.”
Scott: Yeah. And, Jared, that’s a valid valid point and very important. And you said a couple of times in that conversation “in the room.” Right? And I go back to when we first got started, “Hey, man, a lot of these conversations are not in a room,” right, “they’re online.” And the importance, in my opinion, when everybody’s remote, of overcommunicating is critical. You know, because, when you are in the room, it’s easier to bond, it’s easier to smile at each other, you know, that type of thing. And when you’re separate and you’re having, you know, these complex conversations, it’s a lot harder for your mind to wander when you’re in a room with four other people staring at you than it would be at home or in your home office or whatever and something’s happening, whatever that may be. So, overcommunicate to guys, especially on these larger jobs where there’s people everywhere.
Michael: To use like a point of comparison and, again, kind of further dig into like why we’re talking about this today, I mean we’ve covered a lot of things on this podcast, right, everything from interviewing doctors and interviewing different health companies and interviewing like people that are out there forging a new path, and even talking about how we can help, you know, with marketing practices, with that sort of stuff, I mean so much of what healthcare companies need to be thinking about right now is how they can pivot. Right? So, many companies are faced with this moment where what they were doing isn’t the same thing that they need to be doing going forward.
And when you do have clearly defined workflows, you see this need for change. Right? It’s coming down the pike. Man, COVID happened and now all of our business is different. Even if you weren’t directly involved with treating COVID, everything changed anyway. So, when you have to look at that sort of like monumental kind of change and all the different paradigm shifts that we’ve talked about on the show, right, being able to come back to your company and go, “Okay, how are we going to face these changes?” and being able to look at something…you know, so, for me, I’m a very visual person and being able to see what that workflow looks like, see where these changes need to impact things, and it makes it easier for me, in particular, I’ll just speak to my own experience of being able to see like what the downstream consequences are of making a change. You know, “We’re not building this kind of site anymore, we’re building this kind of site.” We do this all the time with application development, you know, “We’re no longer in front of this type of end user, now we’re in front of this type of end user.” Or, “The needs of this end user has changed dramatically.”
So, it helps with understanding how all these pieces fit together. When we did share an office, you know, there were times when I’d be using a very large white board. And if there’s anything that I miss about the office, like there’s lots of like, “People interaction was great. Coffee was great,” all those kinds of things, I had a beautiful whiteboard.
Scott: Jared, it was like a kaleidoscope of colors and arrows going everywhere. Getting used to the new normal, you know, Michael, that brings up a very important point about, again, there is a new paradigm. People are working from home, people are changing what they’re doing, and people are changing what your customers are changing what they’re doing. So, just like internally, right, the company’s different because we no longer do X, whatever that is. Right? We’re no longer meeting in an office anymore. Or only half the office comes in on a regular basis. Or whatever that is. Well, you know what? Telemedicine is I think here to stay. I think ambulatory surgical centers are definitely gonna be a bigger play just because people started seeing it, the patients started using and said, “Wait a minute, you mean I don’t need to wait in the waiting room for a half hour for him to take a look at my arm that looks fine? I can just show him my arm and then he’s done and I’m done and the doc got paid and I’m happy? All the power to it.” Right?
So, I don’t think telemedicine is going anywhere. And I think a lot of people saw the ambulatory surgical centers are definitely viable alternatives to hospitals. And I know some hospital systems are building ambulatory surgical centers. So, it’s not like they’re being left out, they’re just building separate buildings, you know, for particular types of specialties. Things are changing.
And, so, when you go back to that moment, when you’re setting up your big picture, your major goals…we talked about this in previous podcasts, go back to it every now and then and make sure those are still your goals. Because, if they’re not, you’re gonna have to reset and that does bring back that whole, as an application-development company, agile versus waterfall development. I don’t wanna get too geeky here, but anybody who’s a programmer is shaking their head going, “Uh-huh.” We are agile developers, which means we constantly take a look at what’s needed at the moment and try to be adaptive to those needs on a regular basis. So, for an application-development team, this is very normal stuff. And I think that helps us, Michael, on the marketing side as well in that we are adaptive and we think about those things from a process perspective.
Michael: Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, there’s so many like different ways that we could talk about this, like and there’s so many different components of this that we could talk about. But now is the time to be adaptive, right now is the time to be looking at, “Things have changed, what are the things that we can do?”
You know, one of the things that we were thinking about for this in particular in terms of developing workflow is knowing how to kind of separate out all these pieces. Whether you go crazy on a whiteboard and draw out a bunch of things or whether you have people in your organization that can specifically identify things for you. I was writing something on LinkedIn this week and I was kind of talking about how a workflow generally forms in my mind is like I come away and I’m like, “Oh, great, it’s a three-step process.” And then I start working with the team on it and it’s like, “No, well,” you know, “it’s a 3-step process but you missed,” you know,” steps 0.1 to 0.9, so, we need to add those in.”
And there are people just on our team that just see that stuff more quickly, that are just more naturally inclined to understand that, “Hey, these are the other things that you really have to make sure.” So, again, as you’re making all these changes, as you’re facing all these, you know, monumental shifts in the way that business is done today, making sure that you’re getting the right people in the room to be able to say like, “Okay, here is that big-picture plan. Now here are all the steps that we have to pull together in order for this thing to make any sort of sense.”
Scott: Amen, brother.
Michael: All right, going back to some of my non-profit days. Guys, there are so many other things that we can dig into here. And rather than trying to launch into more of it, I think like maybe let’s take a breather here and we’ll wrap up sort of part one of this exploration of workflow. Because there are so many different components, you know. But I think that, if we’re kind of recapping like the big things from today, it’s, one, just keeping an eye on that big picture, really focusing on your communication, and really making sure that you’re getting the right people on the right pieces of it, you know, really helping you break out that workflow into something specific.
So, again, we’ve got so much more to talk about. A couple more episodes we’ll be really digging into workflow as a topic. So, guys, thanks, and I’ll talk with you again soon.