Her organization, a subsidiary of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, reported nearly $500 million in 2005 revenue. Based in Cleveland, it’s a nonprofit, public-benefit corporation that contracts with individuals and groups to arrange comprehensive medical and hospital services. Revenue is expected to reach $600 million this year.
Kennedy-Scott uses various communication tools to help her 2,000 employees understand their role in her organization’s strategic plan. She visits each Kaiser facility once a year to do brown bag talks during the lunch hour, holds three forum talks for employees each quarter and sends out an organizationwide e-mail called “Reflections” several times a year.
Kaiser Foundation revenue is expected to reach $600 million in 2006.
Smart Business spoke with Kennedy-Scott about how she helps Kaiser employees play to their strengths.
Establish a management philosophy.
I try to manage people in so many different ways that they’re bound to respond to one. I try to understand what motivates people to perform and to support folks to be the very best they can be.
I’m willing to change the way that I do things in order to bring out the very best in someone else. If one of my team members were to say, ‘You manage me differently than you manage X,’ I would say, ‘That’s true, what’s your point? You have to trust me that I’m going to give you what you need and that individual what he or she needs.’
It is very clear how I manage the individuals who work for me. It’s all about performance and delivering on commitment. That’s the bottom line. Some folks do that with very little management, others need a lot more help.
Cast employees in the right roles.
Most people, particularly at the executive level, are clearly capable of doing their jobs. When they fail, it’s usually because they’re in the wrong job, not because they’re bad people. I try to really understand what people are good at and play to their strength.
One of the things that can be disconcerting to a team is when you take tasks that are part of one executive’s job and tell another executive to do it. I do it all the time. What I’m trying to do is play to the strength of the team as a whole. Just because I assign something that is your work to someone else doesn’t mean that I’m disappointed with you. It simply means that there’s somebody else on the team who is better able to get that done.
Although I will help you develop that skill, at this point in time, I need somebody who can just get it done. So I shift work around all the time.
Provide checks and balances.
As part of our strategic planning process, (there are) initiatives that we have in play from year to year. I try to assign an executive to coordinate that initiative who is not the sole owner of getting it done.
That allows two pairs of eyes with two different perspectives to work through an issue, and I believe our collective knowledge and experiences will lead us to better outcomes and decisions than the knowledge of one individual.
Discover employee talent.
I’m not looking for little Pat Kennedy-Scotts who think and do everything the way that I do. I’m looking for people who will challenge me, who will challenge the team and who have complementary competencies.
I am a person who loves metrics. (Performance) becomes really important to people if you can measure it. People also have to have a benchmark to assess how well they’re doing.
We have surveys that we do on our doctors on a regular basis called The Art of Medicine scores. Those come out each time a member has an interaction with a doctor.
We also have tools that give employees feedback on a real-time basis because getting feedback once a year is really not actionable. Most people learn better and are able to assimilate feedback into work if you give them real-time feedback with examples.
The most powerful tool that I can employ is effective delegation. I don’t have a view that I can get this all done myself. In fact, it’s foolhardy (to think) that you can get it all done yourself.
When I came on board, I brought in a lot of talent and kept only the talent here that could support that delegation. I have a very strong leadership team to whom I’m comfortable delegating as a team and as individuals. I get my work done through talented, committed, devoted, focused human beings who are out there carrying their component part.
People like to be empowered. The way that I accomplish that is through delegation. If I can’t trust the people, then that’s a huge problem not for them, but for me, and I need to make the changes to get those individuals in the right job so that the organizational work can be done.
The strategic plan is not my work. I see it as the organization’s work by providing the resources, leadership and strategic discipline to get it done.
Expect a cascade of data.
When I sit down with my executive team every other Friday ... I tell them what’s going on at the corporate office and in the presidents’ group meetings that I have with my colleagues from other regions. I tell them what I’m thinking about our strategic initiatives and our performance.
The goal is for them to cascade that information to their direct reports at the next level and so on. Everybody has to have the same information that I have.
I don’t spoonfeed my employees. They’re professional and mature. I give data to them, help them assimilate it and expect them to act on it.
Prepare future leaders.
My most important job is to assure that in the event of my leaving Kaiser Permanente, I would have left the organization with a strong stable of executives who could step into this job. It requires mentoring.
I spend time with my folks talking about more than just their strategic initiatives but about their leadership skills. It’s part of my job to develop them. For those who are not comfortable with taking their development directly from me, I’m willing to pay for an outside resource to come in, mentor and help folks develop.
I owe it to my executives to develop them to the highest level because that serves me better in the long-term. They get development from a professional and personal standpoint, and it helps me do succession planning.
HOW TO REACH: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Ohio, (877) 284-7483 or www.kp.org