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Keeping score Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2010

Joanne Volovar saw a lot of hard work being done at Molina Healthcare of Missouri. Employees were giving great effort to make sure clients were helped and that peers had what they needed to effectively do their jobs.

“But they were so overwhelmed with helping out and performing operations that were not necessarily under their purview to keep the business running,” says Volovar, the company’s president.

When the $3.1 billion Molina Healthcare Inc. purchased the health care provider in 2007, it brought about some changes in the way things were done.

“You were taking a company that had been operating in one way and then converting it and transitioning it into the way Molina operates their plan,” Volovar says. “What was missing was a vision that was being worked on day to day. Whatever was on fire, whatever was screaming the loudest, that was what you worked on. That’s typically what you see in organizations if they don’t have the staffing that’s necessary to perform all the operational functions. All you have time to do is put out the fires.”

Despite the hard work and commitment to putting out those fires, Volovar says the situation could not be allowed to continue.

“You really need to have individuals focusing on specific areas to keep the operations of the health plan running smoothly so you can be proactive and not reactive,” Volovar says. “If you’re in the office doing operational processes, it’s because you’re lacking leadership in middle management. You really don’t get to focus on your core competencies to do those to the best of your abilities.”

Volovar needed to take all the jobs that needed to be done and get them assigned to specific individuals at the 89-employee company, which itself took in $225.3 million in 2008 revenue. She needed to stop the firefighting and give everyone a clear set of duties that he or she would be responsible for.

Provide a chance to win

It wasn’t just the company that was threatened by the lack of order and structure to get things done. It was hard for employees to feel a sense of accomplishment when there was constantly another crisis to deal with.

So Volovar, who had seen scorecards work in other parts of the Molina organization, decided it was time for the Missouri unit to give them a shot.

“The whole purpose of that is every day, people can walk away from here understanding if they won today,” Volovar says. “We identify three of their top priorities or goals. We have them tally, track and trend those on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We post those scorecards so that we can all see how each other is performing and how we are working together to meet our organizational goals.

“We also use that as a tool for mentoring as well as celebrating everybody’s successes. And it provides a very quick way to be able to tell if there is an area that we need to focus attention on to improve performance.”

The key to making a scorecard system work is to make it meaningful. It needs to be thought out and planned so that it accomplishes your goal of being able to better track when tasks are being completed.

“It has to be applicative to the individual that is developing it,” Volovar says. “In our network development area, we have staff that are responsible for obtaining contracts with new providers or renegotiating existing contracts. If there are 30 contracts that they need to either renew or develop during a particular month, every day, you can do a tick mark, or tally, for how many you were able to complete on a given day. So every day, that person is going to be able to see, did I win today? Did I meet my goal toward my overall goal of the 30 during that month?”

Determining what to track for each individual comes down to figuring out what the primary objective is for that individual’s position in the organization. This was another key point for Molina, being able to follow a job back to a specific individual, rather than trying to figure out who had a little extra time to chip in and get it done last week and who might be doing it this week.

“So if you manufacture widgets, how many widgets do you want to be able to manufacture in a month?” Volovar says. “In the manufacturing of the widgets, you would look at each component of the widget. Break it down into components and individual responsibilities. Here you have a widget and that widget is made up of five different components. There are 10 individuals responsible for the manufacturing of each one of those five components. You could have a scorecard for each individual that shows on a daily basis how many components of that widget did I manufacture on a given day?”

The idea behind the scorecarding method is to develop a coach-player rapport between the employee and the manager. In the case of Molina, it also created regular dialogue about each employee’s duties and how they could be best accomplished.

“During that coaching, you would review the three performance levels, which would be the performance standard, the end and the goal,” Volovar says. “You develop what is called an expectations and deliverable agreement for each player. You write up what your expectation is of their responsibility and accountability. You know and they know. You work with them to develop the scorecard, and we ask that our staff have 3 scorecards each. Then on a very regular basis, you review the scorecards. It’s important that you provide feedback and you share successes and celebrate with the team.”

When you see someone falling behind, you can work with the individual to develop a plan to get back on track and figure out what steps would help accomplish that.

“You agree on what the next steps are going to be to achieve,” Volovar says. “It’s important that you have very positive reviews. The scorecards really are a tool for management to change behavior and to provide regular feedback and goal setting. The most important thing is to coach and provide feedback. If you develop these scorecards based on what you hope to get from your staff, it really provides a great meaningful tool to review their business objectives and how they are moving toward achieving the business objectives on a regular basis. You could do it for anything. It takes a little time to think through it, but once you get into the habit of doing it, it just comes across easily.”

Lead by example

You need to show your employees that they are not the only ones who are being measured on their performance. When you maintain a scorecard, it shows that you’re holding yourself to the same standards.

“We have scorecards for president on down through the organization,” Volovar says. “One of mine would have to do with the administrative expenses. I have a goal for out of our dollars, how much we can spend on administrative expenses. On a monthly basis, that is tracked so that I and everyone else can see, how did we do as far as meeting our goal for the administrative expenses for the month?”

Volovar says she’s the first one to point out if she didn’t meet her goal or one of the other goals on her scorecard.

“I talk about what action steps we are taking to improve that,” Volovar says. “I get input from the team so that they can see nobody is perfect. You’re not always going to be 100 percent successful and that’s really OK. We learn by making mistakes. You have to lead by example. You have to be willing to stand up in front of the entire team and say, ‘This is my goal. I didn’t make my go al. These are the things I’m doing to try to improve to meet my goal.’ Even as a leader, you need to be able to do what you expect from your staff.”

When you strike a collaborative tone about making improvements when the scorecards are discussed, you’ll have a lot more success getting employees to support the scorecards.

“This is meant to benefit everybody and to help everybody see how we’re improving our performance,” Volovar says. “It’s not meant to intimidate or be punitive. That would take away the whole value of doing this. You have to keep it fun.”

When you talk about your scorecard in meetings, encourage your direct reports and others on down the line to openly talk about their scorecards and follow your example.

You want to create a friendly sense of rivalry and competition to help spur employees to do better. When you keep it friendly, you keep the goal on making the organization better through individual effort, not seeing who can vanquish each of their peers.

“By reviewing them and making a commitment to review the scorecards at our operations committee, that too keeps it alive,” Volovar says. “That’s where the fun comes in when we review them in a group setting. If we see one of our team members struggling, everybody attending that meeting is there to offer suggestions on how we could collaborate to improve our performance. It’s up to the leaders to keep this moving.”

Promote the scorecards as an objective way of helping everyone to perform better, not as a punitive system to figure out who’s the weak link.

“You need to communicate your expectations and how you believe that by using these scorecards, it’s going to provide a fair method for evaluation,” Volovar says. “If it’s documented there in the scorecard and it’s what that staff person documented, it’s fair and objective. Then you provide constant and consistent feedback.”

If someone does not feel comfortable being open about his or her performance on the scorecard, don’t put that person in a position where he or she will feel embarrassed.

“If there was a staff person that was intimidated by scorecards, we would expect the leader to work with that individual,” Volovar says. “If it was intimidating and hurtful, we would certainly not require that person to post their scorecard. You have to be sensitive. You can’t take a cookie-cutter approach with individuals. If some are not being successful and they don’t want their scorecard posted, that’s something you have to be sensitive to.”

By giving employees a supportive means of tracking their individual performance, Molina has actually opened the door to healthier collaboration, maintaining the spirit of selflessness that existed before the scorecards. The only difference is now, employees can help out without worrying about what they have or haven’t done with regard to their own responsibilities.

“It’s provided a tool for leadership to coach and mentor their teams,” Volovar says. “They are meant to help the staff be able to say, ‘How do I win and did I win today? Was I successful in what I am trying to do for the organization that I work for?’”

The scorecards have given Molina a foundation to build upon. Instead of living one emergency at a time and just working to keep up, tasks are now clearly delegated and long-term plans and projects can be implemented.

“By developing these scorecards, we’re saying, ‘This is what I want the company to achieve in a given year,’” Volovar says. “It’s broken down into individual components that will bring the company to achieving those goals. … This is meant to benefit everybody and to help everybody see how we’re improving our performance.”

How to reach: Molina Healthcare of Missouri, (562) 951-1523 or www.molinahealthcare.com