Effective leaders and managers lead by fact, not opinion.
Still, it’s all too common for executives, senior administrators and middle managers to use their gut instinct to make decisions, rather than examining key data to inform their decisions about processes, goals or strategies, according to organizational excellence expert Kathy Letendre.
“A data-driven manager can understand—using the right kind of data—how well things are working in their organization or department,” says Letendre, an instructor in UVM’s Health Care Management and Leadership Professional Certificate Program. “A good leader knows how to extract meaning from that data. It’s a skill set that every leader and manager needs.”
The UVM health care certificate program includes five, one-day seminars focused on data-driven decision making, project management, strategy and management, change management, and how to lead and develop employees. Letendre, a former health care executive who now owns a consulting firm in southern Vermont, leads the seminar on “Data-Driven Decision Making: Management by Fact.”
What Types of Data Should Health Care Leaders Review?
When it comes to health care, Letendre says clinical data and organizational data such as quality outcome data, financial data, operational data, volume data, patient experience data, market share, and process data, should be examined. An effective leader or manager will review data on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on what’s being measured.
“The type of data a health care leader will use is multifaceted,” she says. “There’s data about the patient experience and how your organization is impacting health outcomes. You also want to know if your organization/department is growing and the status of your operational processes.”
For health care leaders and managers, Letendre says there are three general types of data to review.
• Goal-related data. What are the organization’s goals, and what data is needed to set, monitor progress on, and achieve those goals?
• Data about your progress in implementing strategies and plans. Are you on track, seeing intended results, or needing to make adjustments?
• Data about processes or operations to see how things are working in the organization, department or unit. How well are our processes performing? Do they need improvement?
“Most organizations use goal-related data and some high performing organizations measure data about strategy execution. But only excellent organizations have systematic measures for processes at all levels in the organization,” Letendre says. “I tell people to think about it like mission control for a space shuttle launch. Picture all of the people at mission control sitting at monitors; each is looking at different things, and each of them is monitoring a critical set of numbers for their part of the launch. It’s just like that in a health care organization. Every manager needs to be looking at the right set of numbers to see if they are carrying out their part in the organization’s complicated mission.”
For example, Letendre says if a manager oversees a clinic, he or she needs to review a variety of processes, such as the scheduling process for patients, check-in process, clinical process, and referral management process. One piece of data that a clinic manager should examine is the no-show rate in the scheduling process. Once data is reviewed over time, and plotted on a chart, it may become apparent that the no-show rate is higher than it should be. Only through plotting the data over time can the manager can determine the best approach to improve the scheduling process; and to assess whether the improvements made a sustainable impact.
“A no-show has a dramatic effect on clinical processes and productivity,” Letendre says. “Being a fact-based manager means understanding the best metrics to use and plotting the data over time to extract meaning from the data. The frequency is going to depend on what the measure is about.”
Organizational Excellence Means Working Together as a Unified System
Letendre, who earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University and her master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Michigan, served as the senior leader of planning and organizational excellence for Rutland Regional Medical Center for 14 years.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that organizational excellence is about how the whole organization works as a system, which ironically, is what engineering is about. It’s one of those things that came full circle for me,” she says. “Having consistent, excellent results is about having all the parts of an organization working together as a unified system.”
Participants in her Data-Driven Decision Making seminar, which ranges from CEOs, administrators, managers, and individuals in clinical roles who aspire to be managers, learn what it takes to be a good health care manager—and that managing by fact is vital.
“Participants come to understand that high performing leaders are fact-based leaders. And that getting to that next level in management means shedding the management by opinion style that they may have grown very comfortable with,” she says. “To become a high performing leader, they need to embrace becoming a fact-based manager.”
Once participants make the connection between data and management, she says they are on their way to becoming a better leader.
“First, all managers in all businesses get data, but a good leader knows how to extract meaning from that data. Second, a good leader seeks to understand and not cast blame when the results aren’t what they want them to be,” she says. “And third, a good leader is someone who can mobilize their team to make lasting change and meaningful improvements with measurable results.”
Learn more about health care data driven management in the UVM Health Care Management and Leadership Professional Certificate