by Peter High, published on Forbes
In early 2015, when Dick Daniels took on the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Kaiser Permanente, he did so on an interim basis. He had been a senior vice president with the company since 2008, and as such, was a known commodity. As he notes in the interview herein, he did not feel pressure as such to focus on quick-wins, or to make dramatic changes to the IT strategy or priorities. Things were not broken, but there were strengths to continue to leverage. One of those is innovation. Kaiser Permanente has a center for innovation, and IT plays a significant role in all aspects of the Center, referred to as the Garfield Center. Daniels highlights the role IT plays, along with the other disciplines that come together to make the Garfield Center effective.
(To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please visit this link. This is the 27th article in the CIO’s First 100 Days series. To read the prior 26 articles with executives from Etihad Aviation Group, Intel, J. Crew, Johnson & Johnson, Deutsche Bank, and General Electric among others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above and to the left of this article.)
Peter High: Dick, you are the Chief Information Officer of Kaiser Permanente, a health care organization that, no doubt, most are familiar with. Your own rise to that role was an interesting one: You had been with Kaiser Permanente, were offered the role on an interim basis, and ultimately, at the conclusion of the period, were given the permanent job. I wonder, especially in light of that interim period, how you set yourself up – how you organized the work in the first one hundred days of your time in role and whether or not that was impacted by the fact that you were there on an interim basis.
Dick Daniels: Well, certainly I came into the interim role from being the leader of shared services for Kaiser Permanente. Since I had been in IT before, I certainly had an understanding of the organization, and I also understood how IT related to other parts at Kaiser Permanente. When I came into the role, the first thing I wanted to do was just keep a steady hand because the IT organization was already on a good trajectory. I knew all my direct reports already and my intent from the start was just to keep the organization moving forward, look at the strategy that was being implemented, and determine what else needed to get done. The way that I went about doing that was I engaged with my direct reports in getting their perspective, and also doing some “voice of the client” interviews—talking with different business partners and getting their perspective. And once I took all that information in, I sat with my direct reports and we came up with some priorities for the IT organization. I made sure I communicated those priorities to both our business partners as well as the IT staff. Frankly, I think the way I went about that would be consistent with the way I would have approached any new job. It worked out well.
High: Dick, it is interesting that, as you point out, this was not a major transformation. You were not entering into a situation that was a disaster that needed to be fixed. In fact, you had been part of the leadership team that made sure that the IT department was on a solid footing. But, as with any change of leadership, it was an opportunity to fine tune some things, and it is interesting that you went about this “listening tour”, if I can paraphrase what you just described. What were some of the changes, some of the fine tunings that you elected to undertake as a result of what you were hearing?
Daniels: It was not a big change agenda that I needed to instill. As I went about talking with our business partners, it was clear that they wanted us to build on top of some of the successful accomplishments that we already had. The fact is that the world is changing around us and they wanted to see us get even better, and certainly they wanted to see us deliver solutions even faster. I think it was a recognition that IT is core to the delivery of the mission at Kaiser Permanente. I had a fairly simple strategy at an overall level and that was to strip in production system performance which, by the way, should never be taken for granted. We have seen this week where there were problems with production systems and the impact they can have. I wanted to make sure that we continued to look and see if there were any opportunities to continue to strengthen that.
And then I wanted to focus on delivering new projects because those new projects provide more functionality to our employees internally, as well as our members externally. We look for opportunities to strengthen that and increase our velocity so that we can deliver solutions faster.