2 016
Number 8
PASS IT ON: If you'd like to use the cartoon in your publications, just Reply to this email  and we'll send you the link to a high-res download
A How-To Guide for Radical Improvement
Dale Dauten, Syndicated Columnist
Have you been hearing the term "disruption" lately? If not, I think you will. The businesspeople I know are starting to toss it around like a Frisbee. Everyone wants in on the next Uber or iPhone. But what about the rest of us, can we aspire to being "disruptors"?
Let's start with a working definition for a disruption: You create a new way of doing something and it works so well that the old way seems quaint and old-fashioned, even laughable.
And yes, we all have a shot at being disruptive.
This week we get to see how it's done. How's this for disruption:
                                    Reducing a task that used to take six months to two weeks.
Mike Popovich ends his emails with "Ideas Start Here." He even had buttons printed up for STC employees and they enjoy making the most of them.


But ideas are just ideas until someone figures out what to do with them.
(A quick aside... I recall seeing one apocryphal story of a CEO who a started an employee suggestion program and soon after made this announcement: "I have received your suggestions on how to improve the company and the answer is no, I will not be resigning.")
Our story starts with a good idea, a big one - getting State vaccination data aggregated into one place so it can be evaluated and used for better decisions on vaccination programs. Makes sense. However, the old logic of "what gets measured gets done" falls apart when everyone is using different measurement systems.
So shoving inconsistent data into a consistent system created endless frustrations. When STC held an Interoperability Summit in 2015, the most common complaint was with "onboarding" -- trying to get the data from vaccination providers into the State IIS. Each State had its own system and none of them liked what they had.
One State had taken six years to get 200 providers into its system. States with thousands of providers have a backlog with no end in sight.
Karen Chin drew the assignment to head the STC team that would seek solutions - in company parlance, she became the Product Owner of the system that would eventually be called STC iQ.
 Asked to describe the old system of inputting data, Karen said, "Our old system worked like a Border Patrol agent. Data came in and if it didn't have the proper passport it got sent back. Period. No explanation provided, just get it out of here."

As her team began to work on the problem, she explained the transformation in thinking: "We wanted to end up with something more like a data factory. We wanted to find new ways to help our 'suppliers' and improve our 'raw materials' by finding ways to automatically evaluate data. We created a system designed to make the providers better - they fix the data before the States get it."
As for the onboarding process, the folks at the State level are given a standard process that they monitor along with their providers, and problems/progress reported back. They know where each provider stands and just how each one is doing, good and bad. They not only know who needs help, but just what help they need. Karen says, "States can make better decision on how to work with providers. And they can easily report their State's progress to the CDC."
The upshot of these changes? Remember that onboarding a single provider often took six months or more, and States couldn't even picture a time when they'd be caught up with their onboarding.
"This is ambitious," Karen says, smiling, "but our new goal is to get onboarding down to two weeks. I think we can get there."
When that happens, it will certainly fit our definition of "disruptive," where the new process makes people wonder how they ever put up with the old one.

So Karen and her team defined what STC iQ would look like and how it would work and they'd made terrific progress toward creating a working system. Naturally, there were problems along the way. (One reason so few people attempt to be "disruptive" is that something truly new is going to encounter new problems.) 
Then came a familiar challenge: running out of time. I spoke with Kristi Siahaya, one of the people charged with delivery, who said, "Between February and April we put in place a development team, including two vendors -- one in Waterloo, Canada and one in Washington, D.C. --  to deliver a massive amount of code by the end of August. By mid-summer, that deadline was very much in doubt."
So Kristi sat down with Mike Popovich, CEO, to discuss options. Asked if it was possible to finish the project by redoubling efforts, Kristi explained that the team was in danger of burning out. Besides, many of the outside stakeholders didn't really expect the deadline to be met; she'd heard more than one person say, "You're not really going to make it by August, are you?" In other words, no one would be terribly surprised if the date got pushed back.
But Mike felt this was a chance to come through for the States and the CDC, and for the team itself to have a victory. After pondering what might reinvigorate members of the team, he concluded, "What excites one person might not stir another. So I decided that we would simply ask each employee what reward he or she would find motivating."
That sounded good, but it doesn't take long to come up with a list of potential pitfalls. Mike says, "We knew we needed to ask people for reasonable options, and we trusted them to do so. That left the most common objection I heard: 'Everyone is just going to ask for money, so you might as well just do the easy thing and give out bonuses.'"
But Mike wasn't persuaded about the "just money" part. He hoped that was wrong. "You get a bonus check" he argues, "and you put it in your account and it's gone. You may not even remember it a year later. But you get something with meaning to you, and you might just remember it forever."

And so the Grant A Wish experiment began. Employees were asked to not only come up with three things they might want the company to provide them, but as to decide whether or not they wanted to commit to the extra hours the project needed to make its deadline. Most wanted in, but not all.
Kristi and the others overseeing the delivery effort made their own acceleration adjustments, including the creation of a "War Room" where key employees moved into a conference room and became Answer Central for immediate responses to any fresh issues coming in from the field.
Kristi glowed when describing the outcome: "The commitment was something to see. It gave the project a new energy, a faster pulse. It became one of those situations where we simply refused to fail."
As for the wishes themselves, many employees did, in fact, simply choose bonus money - BUT, far from all. Another handful wanted money, but with a purpose: enough to pay for a family vacation, or for a son's sport's team travel expenses. Then there were those wanted paid time off -- for instance, some of the programmers are from India and the extra time would allow them to visit their families back home. Finally, there were those who asked for time at a resort or something tangible, like a new fishing rod.
The upshot? The project got finished on time and none of the work had to be outsourced. And the work itself accomplished more than the planners had originally hoped.
Mike says of the Wish program, "It made a difference. I could see that it captured the imagination in a way that mere bonuses did not, and I believe that the 'captured imagination' made it's way into STC iQ."
Let's conclude with the bigger picture: what we can learn from this case study about the nature of undertaking a disruptive project.
1. Seek out big problems.
Start with what's slow, annoying, labor-intensive or prone to errors.
2. Then, don't pursue improvements; pursue the ideal. It's REVO, not EVO.
If you merely seek to improve what you have, the changes will be incremental and evolutionary, instead of revolutionary.
3. Ideas within ideas.
Starting new means new problems, and the disruption may need sub-disruptions along the way. 
To see a short video on STC iQ, CLICK BELOW

Did a friend send you this? Get on the list and don't miss another issue!

Are you an Immunization Ambassador yet!?!

Click here to learn more!
In Other News

"Check out The Bartell Drug Company on TV spreading awareness about vaccines during flu season"

AIRA has announced that Confidentiality and Privacy Considerations for Immunization Information Systems is now on the AIRA website.

STC now offering CE courses! First set of live monthly webinars starts next week. Click here to register now!

Renowned international speakers from a range of disciplines including research and development, virology, clinical medicine, epidemiology, anthropology, social-behavioural science, urban development, health financing and emergency operations are gathering in Quebec this weekend to discuss outbreak intervention.

Have you seen the CDC flu map? Click on the map below and see if the flu has hit your home town yet

Are you a "proud parent"? 
Get a free sticker courtesy of STC by visiting  www.stchome.com/sticker
All American Flu Fighters

Need help getting employees to take their flu shot? Try All American Flu Fighters!

Jacob Groom|Marketing
 Mike Popovich, Publisher
Dale Dauten & Lara Popovich, Editors