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Zack Robertson, MSOD '13

Healthcare: See The System & Collaborate With Competitors.

About Josh Epperson

For the past decade, Josh has worked at Navalent helping leaders and organization overcome their business challenges. He works with a variety of organizations and leaders ranging from community-based NGOs to privately owned business to multi-billion dollar public corporations.

Zack, tell me a little about what you’re up to these days.

Zack: I work at Dignity Health (DH). DH has 40 hospitals across California, Nevada, and Arizona. We have 55,000 employees, 5,000 of them being managers. We have a number of regional and centralized offices. I am part of a 9 person OD team (3 directors, 6 consultants) that is part of a larger L&OD team (30-35 people total). Our OD team is segmented into 3 regional groups; however, we work cross functionally and across regions on many projects. I have been here 6 months in the role of an OD Consultant. We focus primarily on the larger system strategic initiatives with some occasional work with an individual hospital or group of departments in a hospital. Our role is new in the organization. We were formed about a year ago. We are beginning to gain traction within the organization and have recently started to set up ways of measuring our impact on the organization. 

Josh: Tell me a little bit about your MSOD experience?

I have used the material from our practicum over and over againIt has had a huge impact on the way I run my work with clients.

 Zack Robertson

 MSOD '13

Zack: The MSOD had a huge impact on my career. The program taught me about the talents and abilities that I have and can use. Prior to MSOD, I spent 7 years in Consumer Packaged Goods as a sales and strategy analyst. I learned some great skills and learned how to look at the numbers/business side of the organization, but for those 7 years I felt like I was swimming upstream. From the first intensive at Pajaro Dunes, I felt like I was swimming in the right current. When I look back on my previous career I was working hard and have some positive impact, but I had to work harder than everyone else around me and I wasn’t getting the same return on the time I was spending.

My impact was not as significant, I was not gaining as much trust as my coworkers, I was not being promoted at the same rate, and I did not have the same level of engagement in the work I was doing as my peers seemed to be having As soon as I switched to OD work I began having an impact on the organization. I gained trust with my peers, my boss, and my clients. I started receiving promotions quickly. The MSOD program gave me language, tools to use, and understanding of some of my innate abilities that I had taken for granted. Every time I went to a practicum or read something it all made sense to me and as I applied it to my work environment it all worked.


Josh: What learning really sticks out to you?

Zack: There were so many lessons and concepts that really stood out to me. The time we spent with contracting was really helpful. I have used the material from our practicum over and over again. I am always contracting and re-contracting. When I first started out I was surprised at how often I had to clarify the agreement with the client. My understanding of the work to be done was sometimes very different than what the client’s understanding was.  I went back to my notes on contracting and began to implement what I was taught in MSOD. It has had a huge impact on the way I run my work with clients. I have a goal to revisit Flawless Consulting on an annual basis so I can continue to get better at contracting. One of the other tools I picked up from the program was the Galbraith Star Model. I use the Star Model on a daily basis. Although, there are many effective models out there, I find that Galbraith’s model is a very simple and visual model that help leaders begin to change their thinking in terms of a system and how parts of that system interact with each other.

Josh: What does it look like for you to bring a system understanding to your work?

It’s making a huge difference with our patients and the communities we serve.

Zack Robertson

MSOD '13

Zack: I am currently working on a large centralization project of our Case Management group. In healthcare we have case managers who manage the collaborative process of the care a patient receives. This spans the whole continuum from assessment to transition back into the community and the resources available to patients. Traditionally each hospital has had their own case managers. For various reasons, the decision was made to standardize our case management process, combine it with Social Work, and centralize it so it could be managed the same way throughout the system. It is now called Care Coordination and represents a huge shift for us as an organization.

 When we (Alicia Stammer, Director and MSOD Alumni) were invited to participate in a meeting to discuss change leadership, the work was already 9 months underway. We decided to pullout the star model and we used that to help the core leadership team begin to think more strategically and understand the relationships between the parts of Galbraith’s model and how they could impact their current efforts. We walked them all the way through the model and designed some interactive work that helped them to determine what was out of balance.

As a result we have been pulled fully into this project to help the team decide how to strategically move forward in a very challenging environment. In the last few months we have worked with them to establish a clear strategic plan, build capacity within their leadership group, transition from leaders getting the work done to leaders leading and developing their local leaders, communication plan to all key stakeholders, and we’ve helped them identify their key stakeholders and move the change forward. I don’t know the specific financial return yet but I know it’s making a huge difference with our patients and the communities we serve.

Josh: What other connections are you making between your MSOD experience and work?

Zack: The Affordable Care Act is causing huge rifts in all of health care. One thing that medical organizations are trying to understand and get their arms around is Population Health. Population Health is really about the aggregation and analysis of patient data across many information resources that will allow health care providers to improve both clinical and financial outcomes. Traditionally, hospitals make their money by having people come through the hospital doors to be treated. Population health is much more about providing the right care, in the right location, at the right time. In many cases, it is more about managing the health of a given group to try and keep people out of hospitals.

As an OD group, we are moving to a great place of identifying and communicating our true value to the organization.

 Zack Robertson

 MSOD '13

This task is so large and complex that one single entity or organization cannot manage it alone. We have to reach into the community and partner with various organizations that are working to better the health of certain communities (the diabetic community, Alzheimer’s community, etc.) More and more, we are even sitting at the table with our top competitors to discuss matters of Population Health. I am able to pull upon my experience in China with trans org systems to help the leaders of DH navigate the complexity of multiple systems working on the same problem. There is an opportunity for us to do great work in the community and learn how to make enough money to stay in business, but it will take many hands to lift and roll the large rock (greater purpose) up the proverbial mountain. I recently helped design and facilitate a meeting with key players of Population Health within my organization to help define and envision what Population Health could look like within Dignity Health and the markets we serve.

We started to create a strategy and plan going forward to reach into our communities and begin to build the relationships with community leaders, organizations, and competitors that will hopefully make a huge difference in how health care is managed in our communities. It was very challenging and a lot of fun to help out in this meeting and I can say that every bit of success we had in bringing so many leaders of various divisions of DH into the same room and creating a shared purpose and direction came from my experience in the MSOD program and specifically the practicums where I worked with real clients in complex situations. 

One of the big challenges we have is that we are 40 hospitals across three states. Each of those individual hospitals has had their own way of doing business. They have their own culture, demographic, and leadership that does not fully align with where the leadership wants to take the entire system. We have been very fragmented and now we’re trying to become Dignity Health hospitals rather than 40 different hospitals that happen to have the same logo.   People all have their regular day jobs that keep them wrapped up with whatever fire they are fighting at the moment. Our leaders often get tunnel vision and are not thinking or seeing at a system level. I think a huge part of my role is to help our leaders step out of their tunnel vision and see at a systems level.

Josh: As we close, what are some of the ways you’re thinking about your impact in the future?

Zack: We have spent the last couple of months looking at our OD and Learning Organization to determine our impact. We feel that our work is extremely important, but if we cannot communicate our value in a language that our business leaders understand, then sooner or later we will be marginalized and pushed to the side. Our business leaders have to report on real numbers that impact the bottom line and make it possible for us to keep our doors open to serve our patients. As an OD group, we are moving to a great place of identifying and communicating our true value to the organization. If we get pulled into a project were we are not adding real value than we’re going to scrub or decline the project. I think more and more that is becoming a very important part of our work – measuring and tracking the value we say we bring. I am an investment for the organization and I want to make sure they are getting a measurable return on their investment.