Mid-Term Update on ELM Program

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By David J Waldron, ELM Program Facilitator 

April 2012—AHRA’s 2011 Annual Meeting in sunny Grapevine, Texas seems much more than half a year ago! So much has happened since then, and so much continues to change in the world of diagnostic imaging.

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon in mid-August 2011 when eight brave and rather apprehensive radiology leaders came together for the opening session of the first ELM program. With participants coming from all over the country (California, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and locally from Dallas), the group certainly brought different perspectives and experiences to the inaugural class!

Classroom sessions were spread over several days during the AHRA Annual Meeting, with four hours being dedicated to each of these five topics:

  • Strategic planning, business planning, quality circles
  • Financial management, investment decision support, balanced scorecards and dashboards
  • Organization, operational management, process mapping, and lean six sigma
  • Leadership, situational management, emotional intelligence, and staff development
  • Marketing, branding, market communications, market research, and market capacity

In addition to these five topics, the group worked to develop presentation skills, craft persuasive messaging, and utilize PowerPoint to deliver compelling presentations.

Each topic was addressed using a combination of classroom learning and discussion coupled with breakouts to work on problems. Breakout groups of four gave each person the opportunity to chair at least one breakout and to be presenter for at least one. The format we followed for each of the five topics was an initial group discussion, leading into a 15 minute breakout, followed by a deeper dive into the topic, and concluding with a 30 minute breakout. These longer breakouts required the groups to address real radiology leadership challenges as well as prepare a PowerPoint presentation with their conclusions. In addition to the depth of understanding that was achieved in each topic, there were three very notable areas where each group showed strong growth during the program:

  1. As the program progressed, the person nominated to be chairman became much more focused on the problem being explored and much more adept at using the resources available – namely, the other group members. There deliberately was not enough time available to work the breakout problems, so just as in real life, decisions had to be made with as much information as could be developed quickly. The quality of the conclusions and the route to making those conclusions clearly improved.
  2. The quality of the PowerPoint presentations also improved dramatically. It was obvious that the teams were developing a more engaging and persuasive approach to describing the problem, explaining their analyses, and justifying their conclusions.
  3. The third aspect was ever increasing confidence and comfort exhibited by the chair in structuring the breakout and allocating tasks, and by presenters in delivering the presentation.

These are all key skills for a successful radiology leader, and the ELM program format was structured specifically to enable these skills to be developed and polished.

After the fun and camaraderie of working together for such an intense period inTexas, the ELM program has advanced over the last six months into the mentoring phase. This phase provides one hour per month of mentoring time for each participant to use pretty much as they choose: anything from coaching the ELM participant as she is working through a major project to providing support on multiple individual issues – eg,  helping as difficult staffing decisions get made.

There are several very challenging projects being undertaken by ELM participants where the ELM facilitator has been able to provide input. One involves achieving significant cost savings throughout multiple departments. Another is a lean six sigma implementation to improve throughput efficiency. Yet another has helped to develop a new management appraisal tool for middle managers. Ongoing activities include launching a new radiology service line and revisiting the “go-to-market” strategy for an imaging center.

With eight participants in the program, there are eight different stories to tell about experiences during the year-long program, and some of these stories will be recounted during the kick-off session for the 2012-13 ELM program at the Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, which will also serve as the wrap-up for the Class of 2011-12.

My own conclusion at the midpoint is that the biggest challenge by far facing our radiology leaders is organization. Oftentimes we are so busy and have so much to do that taking the time to step back and organize ourselves as well as organizing our teams and our patient workflows seems impossible. However, organization and time management are critical to any leader’s success. Helping middle managers, supervisors, and lead techs to be organized – actually requiring and demanding that they be organized – is a measure of a successful leader. The “ELMers” who are the most organized are achieving the most and in the current environment of doing more with less will continue to thrive.

Consequently, organization will be reinforced in the syllabus for the Class of 2012-13!

If you are interested in signing up for the 2012-2013 ELM Program, you can find more information here.

David Waldron is Chief Executive Officer at Traction Business Development and the facilitator of the ELM Program. He can be reached at djwaldron@tracbiz.com.

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