Kara Trott and Quantum Health juggle high growth with a strategic approach

“We have ways to figure out very quickly whether or not somebody’s going to be able to fit and perform well in this environment.”

By finding the right employees before they deal with customers, there’s less disruption and more time to build relationships.

Delivering caring service

Quantum Health’s organizational structure of pods also supports strong connections.

Trott says they came up with the idea about five years ago, partly because of the executive team’s retail background.

“I think we had like 70 or 80 employees and we started to see where people were siloing a bit,” she says. “You get to a point where nobody feels special and anonymity sets in.

“I think that’s a specific killer to a business built on caring because if I don’t really feel cared for, I’m not really going to care that much, and you’re not going to get that extra effort or connection (to clients) that you want.”

Today, dedicated teams of customer service and clinical staff — between 27 and 30 people — deliver the services to members and providers. One pod services about 50,000 to 70,000 member lives, which generally means working for no more than eight clients.

In order to break down barriers and create strong teams, Trott’s executive team researched military strategy. She says the military has good insights on where certain size teams break down.

Although Quantum Health isn’t dealing with life and death situations, Trott says it could model after military structure to create right-sized teams that would have each other’s back and be able to work in a fluid fashion.

The pods also have a certain configuration and flow that’s been proven to work, which can be stamped out like a retail chain’s store locations.

“We grow in pod units,” she says. “It allows us to stay small at the delivery level where these multidisciplinary teams function on a highly individual accountability level. There’s no hiding and the team self polices.”

Quantum Health invests in and trains its pod managers, who are similar to store managers prior to when they are needed. Trott says there’s always a queue of employees ready to step in and lead a pod.

“It has allowed us to keep the best of both worlds,” she says. “We grow big while staying small with that kind of structure.”

The pods don’t become isolated because subject matter experts like clinical experts support all of the pods. Also, multiple pod managers report to one director — who operates like retail’s district managers — and these directors share best practices and provide support.

Juggling the decision-making

Quantum Health’s strategic and disciplined approach carriers over to management, as well. The company only has a short window each year to make strategic decisions, before the day-to-day management of its growth takes over.

Trott says it’s important to let your people know how you want to be involved. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting your employees know that they need to go away and work on it. If they want your opinion, they can ask, but they are in charge.

She uses five levels to differentiate the decision-making:

1. A pure execution issue that you don’t need to be involved with. The executive trusts the staff to execute it well and make changes, as long as they are aligned with strategy.

2. Things an executive would like to be informed about but doesn’t want staff to wait for him or her.

3. The executive wants to weigh in but his or her opinion is not the controlling factor.

4. Strategic, directional and impactful decisions that cannot be made without the executive.

5. Important strategy decisions where the execution makes the decision, while taking some limited input.

Trott says you can only delegate to this extent if you have other leaders you trust.