Why are so few executives willing to lead?
In 1775, America’s David Bushnell invented the first submarine. 1774—no sub. 1775—sub. Why? Because he decided we needed one.
In 1943 the U.S. Army needed a jet fighter to counter Germany’s jet threat. The Army approached Lockheed. Lockheed had never built a jet fighter.
The Army did not deliver the contract until four months after the work on the fighter had started. In just 143 days, 23 days after the contract was delivered, Lockheed delivered the first jet fighter to the Army.
The project group was eventually named the Skunk Works.
Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson managed the Skunk Works. Johnson wound up running several successful Skunk Works projects. At one point, Johnson documented a set of rules and practices he employed in each project that required innovating big ideas. Some of those rules included:
- The project manager reported to a division president or higher
- The project team consisted of less than 25% of the people that would be used on comparable projects
- A simple drawing defined the project
- Very few management reports were used
- Continuous testing was implemented
- Specifications had to be specified prior to building
- Funding must be timely
- Access by outsiders was controlled strictly
- Good performance was rewarded
The Skunk Works still exists. It just delivered the Air Force’s newest jet fighter, the F35-A.
I recently heard a story about a problem Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones had building Cowboys’ Stadium in Dallas. His wife wanted certain areas of the stadium to be installed with a particular type of granite from Europe, and she ordered it.
Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and her order was at the bottom of the quarry’s list. Her husband called the company and offered to pay a premium to ensure that his order would be ready in time for the completion date of the stadium. That did not work.
What did he do? What would you do? He bought the company, moved his order to the top of the list, installed the granite, sold the company, and made a profit.
Leadership. If you make me figure out how to solve the problem I will, but that makes you superfluous.
H&HN posted its 2016 list of Most Wired Hospitals in June. I read the list. And those hospitals do use a lot of wires. And then I researched several of those hospitals online to see what all of those wires were for. It turns out; the wires are used for and by the hospital and its employees. And that is probably a good thing.
When I was doing my research, I looked at whether all of those wires would help me if I were a patient or a caregiver or a family member. I looked at whether the wires would help me before I entered the hospital and whether they would help me after I left the hospital.
And here is what I concluded. Because I was not at the hospital, I did not have access to any of the hospital’s wires except for the wire connected to my landline phone. That wire was of no help.
People who are not in the hospital need do not need wires to help them. They need wireless. 4G & WiFi. And they need to be able to do things wirelessly. Day and night. And on weekends. But they can’t.
Just look at how real people interact with their world. When was the last time someone drilled a hole through their floor or a wall to install stereo speakers? They buy wireless speakers and wireless headphones.
When it comes to innovation, if you want to get my attention, print a list of the Most Wireless Hospitals. That is the fastest route to being patient-centric.
Great ideas like submarines and jet fighters and storing your emails on a server in your bathroom will never happen unless someone chooses to make them happen.
Healthcare companies do not have any Skunk Works groups. Is that because healthcare executives do not think that there are any big ideas that require innovation? (Note from the author: implementing an EMR does not qualify.)
My list of Most Unwired Companies includes firms like Amazon, Google, and eBay. People can do stuff. Patients want to do stuff outside of the hospital, but they can’t.
Executives: create a Skunk Works group to deliver unwired, patient-centered solutions.
If that doesn’t work, do what Jerry did. Buy a granite company.