Thursday, March 31, 2011

Naked Party!

Kees had a play date with one of his buddies this week. It was Monday afternoon and it’s a standing gig….a play date with Lisa. This week it was our turn to host.

I picked up Kees and Lisa from school at noon. They both snacked on their lunches for a while and then I gave them a bit more. There were lots of laughs and jokes, 5 year old jokes. They were having a fine time. After eating they played in the office for a bit and eventually went upstairs to play.

They played for almost an hour. It was ruckus time. I decided it was time for me to have lunch. I made a bowl of soup and sat down in front of the TV. I needed a break. As I sat there I listened for the kids….not a peep. As any parent knows, if there is no noise they are into something they shouldn’t be. This is true about 99% of the time, the other 1% of the time they have fallen asleep. There is NO in between, none.

I waited about 3 minutes hoping that there would be some noise so I could finish my lunch….but there wasn’t any. Damn. I started up the stairs quietly. And then I remembered that they are 5 and wouldn’t be able to a) pull it together fast enough if they heard me and b) that they were probably so engrossed in whatever they were doing that they wouldn’t hear me.

I got to the top of the stairs and turned into the boys’ room. They had built a fort on Kees’ bed. Kees noticed me and ducked down. I heard, “Hey, smell my butt.” GROSS!! I reached up and yanked the top of their fort off. Lisa, pants down, stared at me WIDE EYED! Kees had on shorts. I guess it wasn’t his turn. I said, “Both of you put your clothes on and come down stairs NOW!” I needed to buy some time.

Kids do this. They’re curious. Neither Sophia nor Coulter ever did it as far as I know and I don’t think I am any smarter now than I was then.

Kees, he’s his own dude. He doesn’t care much about the rules because, duh, they don’t apply to him. When I say, “Eat your dinner.” he hears, “Sophia and Coulter, eat your dinner. Kees, you just sit there make stupid noises.” When he’s in trouble he doesn’t care. He gets a smirk on his face and has an expression that says, “Whatcha gunna do? I dare ya.” He has no concern and knows that the trouble is temporary. He can wait it out.

Sophia and Coulter both are very concerned when they get in trouble. They hear me and respond appropriately. Kees….not so much. And while the things that he does now aren’t so bad he needs to know that I mean business. What if he carries this attitude into high school? I’ll be screwed, that’s what.

I need to respond appropriately, I don’t want to scare them but I do want them to know that private parts are just that, private. They sit on the couch. Lisa sits right next to Kees. I tell her to move to the other end of the couch. She is wide eyed and is responding just as most kids would. She’s freaked out that I caught them. Kees, he’s doing the half smirk thing. “Kees, this is serious!” He doesn’t care. I launch into my lecture.
“No one but you or the doctor (when you’re 5) touches your PRIVATE parts.” I tell them that this is serious and that they can’t be trusted. I ask them what we’re going to do about this. They don’t know.

I decide I’ll call Lisa’s mom. “Hello, Sarah? This is Heather. I need to tell you what our kids were doing. They made a fort and were taking their clothes off and touching each other.” She bursts into total hysterics. I say, “Sarah, this is really serious.” OK honestly, I think it’s kinda funny too but I am sitting in front of them. I stand up and walk away quickly. I CAN’T LAUGH! I walk into the office and whisper, “You’re not supposed to laugh because you’ll make me laugh.” She’s still laughing and says, “I’m glad it was at your house and not mine.” Yeah, me too, NOT! She, jokingly says, “I’m sure it was all Kees’ idea. My daughter would never do that.” She’s still laughing. I tell her, “See you in a bit.” and hang up. All my friends know that, “My kid(s) would never do that.” is a total farce. Only ignorant parents think their kid is above doing wrong. Those of us living in reality know better.

Kees and Lisa sat on the couch for almost an hour. I didn’t make them but I didn’t release them either. After an hour Kees got up. Lisa was right behind. I told them they had to play in the office because I had to keep an eye on them. They both said, “We won’t do it again.” but again, I had to let them know that I thought this was serious.

When Sarah arrived, Lisa was right at the door and said, “Can we go now?” and lunged for the door. She didn’t have on shoes, didn’t have her lunch box nuthin’. Sarah, knowing the deal just told her that she had to get her stuff together. We chatted. All is well. Kids do that blah, blah, blah.

Later on I made Kees tell his daddy what happened. I told Bob that he HAD to act like this was serious. They talked.

I have since talked to Kees and told him that I was disappointed and that if he was going to do that kind of stuff I couldn’t trust him. He finally, after a couple hours of me repeating that it was serious in various ways, seems to be understanding that it is serious. He needs to respect his private parts and other’s. They are not for sharing…..yet. I did leave the “yet” part out.

It’s fine line. I don’t want him to be ashamed but I also don’t want him sharing his private parts. I especially want him to know that it’s really not OK for anyone else to touch his private parts. He doesn’t understand all that and it’s my job to protect him.

This whole job would be a lot easier if our kids could respond the same way, follow instructions and stay out of trouble, but they don’t. I am hoping that the naked parties are over for now. I don’t need any kid naked parties in my house for at least 15 more years. Lord help me….

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh What a Night!

Tonight has been a tough one. At about 10 after midnight Kees woke up barking. Unfortunately this is a sound that I have come to recognize all too well. He starts with a cough and in no time at all it turns into a full blown croup. He can’t breathe, the coughing gets worse so it’s even harder to breathe, then he gets scared so he starts crying which makes his vocal chords swell even worse. It’s scary for both of us and I always have to make the call, do we go to the hospital or not?

To make matters even worse we are in Spokane. I don’t have his medicine. I have been really good about bringing it in the past but this time….no meds….of course. It didn’t even cross my mind because everyone has been really healthy.

When he first started “barking” I tried to calm him down. Coughing just makes it so much worse. I had to wake up my friend to get some cough medicine. She also got a cool air humidifier for us. She knows how this works. I took him outside first but I don’t think it was cold enough and he was coughing a ton. Next I whisked him into the bathroom, shut the door and cranked the shower on full hot. IT HELPED A LOT AND FAST! Thank God! I was about to run him to the hospital. He still didn’t sound great but he could breathe a bit and the coughing stopped. I took him to the living room and turned on Blue’s Clues. I find that if he is distracted he doesn’t work as hard breathing. Good….it’s all good.

As we’re sitting quietly watching Blue’s Clues, Sophia comes running down the stairs. She says, “My stomach hurts.” and I can tell she’s about to throw up. I tell her to run into the bathroom and I follow. She is shaking and sitting on the floor. She says it’s because she’s sick but it looks like she’s freezing. She swears she’s not. Indeed, she does throw up. Ah, this is why I didn’t go to the emergency room. I am grateful that I was there. She would have been afraid if she needed me in the middle of the night and I wasn’t available. Of course I would have told her I was leaving before I went but she’s 10. She needs her mommy when she’s sick.

This, by the way, is the second time in 3 days that she has thrown up in the middle of the night. There has been a lot going on. Her fiddle teacher died 2 days ago and she has been really upset about that. During the day she seems fine but I think she stews at night and gets worked up. I’m not sure how to help her other than listen and try and walk her through her grief. I’m still not sure if she’s sick from illness or grief.

I return to the couch where Kees’ show ended. He sounds MUCH better but still, I want to sit up with him and keep an eye on his situation. I turn on a Veggie Tales for him. He’s happy about that, or as happy as he can be in this situation. Sophia joins us. She sits on the side of the couch closest to the bathroom. After a few minutes I ask her how she feels and she says she feels better being “distracted”. Her words, not mine.

So there they sat, quiet and distracted but both feeling better. Sleep is way over rated anyway right? I finally had them go to sleep at 3. As I type it’s almost 4am. I am sitting up like the momma bear watching and listening to my cubs to make sure they’re alright. They’re both sleeping on the couch, toe to toe. Kees is propped up just like we’d do for him when he was a baby. Sophia is at the end closest to the bathroom though she seems fine. I’m going to get a sleeping bag and try to sleep in a chair so I am at the ready. The hours at the job are the pits but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what parents do.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chick Rose

This week the world lost an amazing man and talent. I don’t think he would have described himself this way but everyone one that has ever been touched by Chick Rose would surely agree. I was blessed to know Chick for a very brief time. I know him more from the many people around me who grew up with Chick, from their stories, and the way everyone looked up to Chick. Most recently we knew Chick because he was Sophia’s fiddle teacher. She was thrilled to be taking lessons from Chick Rose…THE CHICK ROSE!

Chick is known throughout the NW Bluegrass world because of his commitment to teach kids bluegrass. These kids are all known as Chick’s Kids. It didn’t matter if you had ever played music or heard bluegrass. If you were the least bit interested or had any desire Chick would hand you an instrument, teach you to strum to the beat and you, my friend, would be jammin’ with a bluegrass group. If you have had the privilege of jamming with a bluegrass group I am guessing that you are hooked and are currently playing, in some capacity. It’s hard not to love it. Why would you not love it?

Sophia was lucky enough to be adopted by Clara Baker, Rebecca Bauer and Greg Baker. Clara was Sophia’s first fiddle teacher, Greg wrote the book that Sophia was learning from and Rebecca, she’s the guitar playing mom. Without the mom the machine ceases to run.

Last summer they went to Stevenson to the Columbia Gorge Bluegrass Festival and invited Sophia along. She was there for the weekend and got to attend her first Chick Rose kid’s workshop. When I went to pick her up she was in the shade tent jamming with Gregg and Clara. It was awesome! The beautiful thing that I have seen with the bluegrass peeps is they include everyone and will play to a kid’s level to give them confidence and keep them engaged. As the parent of a budding musician, it’s a beautiful thing. I was taught classical music…not really fun when you’re a kid. A fiddle around a campfire with a bunch of your bluegrass buddies…now that is fun. That is worth practicing for.

This past January Sophia skipped school and played in the River City Music Festival in yet another Chick Workshop. She was nervous because she hadn’t been playing much. She called me at lunch time and wanted to come home. Chick caught wind of this and took her under his wing. He had her sit right next to him and he made sure she was learning, having fun and feeling comfortable. If you aren’t doing those three things why would you want to continue on? By the end of the day her confidence was up and she was jamming. As a matter of fact the kids had a concert that kind of kicked off the festival (mostly for the parents) and Sophia had the first solo! She is convinced, to this day, that she kicked off the whole hootenanny. She was beaming. And all of her excitement and success is directly due to Chick’s involvement and care.

I could tell you that her experience is unique but it isn’t. Chick has influenced COUNTLESS kids. Many, many of those kids are now adults with music careers or a strong passion for their music. I am sure that if you asked bluegrassers throughout the region at least half of them would say Chick influenced them in some way. It’s probably higher but that is my best guess.

Chick gave of himself without asking for anything. His reward, so often, was that the kids he influenced were playing music with a smile on their face. They were part of something bigger than themselves, part of a team, a group and carrying on the joy of music and sharing it with others. These kids in turn share what they know with other kids.

Chick’s body is gone but his spirit will live on in the music and souls of his kids. It’s like the loaves and fishes….no matter how much is taken from the whole there is always more to quench the hunger. The more music that is shared in his way the more music there is. It will never end. That is Chick’s legacy.

He was a huge blessing to so many and that is what makes his passing so hard. I pray he knew how much he was loved. Do any of us really know that for sure? I think he knew in his heart how much he was loved and appreciated. He will be missed but he will not be gone.

Play loud, play strong, share what you know, carry on….It’s what he would have wanted.

***** The pictures included in the post were high-jacked from Facebook. I hope that’s OK with the owners of those pictures. I just wanted anyone who read this to know what this great man looked like.

A Higher Class of Homeless

There has been so much going on. I’m not exactly sure what’s kept me from blogging but I have some suspicions. I’ve been climbing the stairs a LOT. I’ve been helping my brother with a fund raising effort. And I’ve been doing some volunteering. These few things have been taking the little time that I was blogging. I am going to continue to climb the stairs, it gives me energy, it’s good for me and I am committed to keeping my heart pumping. I owe it to myself and my family. I will still volunteer but I don’t think I can keep up with the fundraising. We’ll see. I enjoy it but it really takes a lot of energy.

I have been thinking about what is happening around me.

Last week I was at Starbucks getting my usual coffee. I talked to a very nice woman while I was waiting for my Americano. She was talking about getting warmed up since she had been outside for a while, that it has been a tough economy lately and that she was looking forward to spring. All this is regular conversation. The big difference between us was that she was homeless, wearing a plastic bag over her clothes and was talking about the camp where she was living under a bridge. She was grateful to have a dry place to sleep and 2 sleeping bags so that she could stay really warm at night.

If this woman was wearing a suit or jeans she would have looked and sounded like anyone else. She would blend in with most anyone in my neighborhood. It made me think, “I guess the up side of the crappy economy is higher class homeless people. Is that the sad silver lining?”

There are the regulars in Hollywood. There’s the guy who is “Too ugly to prostitute and is allergic to jail” on one corner, the woman with the cute dog that I have given dog food to and the artist who makes amazing drawings on card board. The last one has been offered help and a leg up with a graphic design firm….she never called or responded to the offer of help.

I don’t know, I haven’t been there but I believe there are some people that are comfortable in their situation. Actually, comfortable isn’t the right word but it’s what they know, where they know what to expect next and how to move through that world. It’s like someone in an abusive relationship. It’s scary to change from what you’re in even if it’s bad.

So that’s my take on the silver lining of our down economy. Look around and see what you think. I believe that there are highly educated people who can’t get a decent job and are therefore homeless. They don’t have the support that I have. In reality, how far are any of us from being homeless? It’s a lot closer than most of us would like to admit though most of my friends all have families and friends that would take care of them in a bad situation. That is most likely the difference between the woman at Starbucks and me. I am blessed.

I am blessed to have a successful husband both professionally and personally. I love him very much and he loves me. We have beautiful, healthy children. Our friends are like family and would take care of us if we needed them and we would do the same for them. That is what family does. And my family on all sides, they would help in a tough situation too. Yes, I am blessed.

I will be keeping my eye out for that woman at Starbucks. She seemed to have the smarts and wits to be successful though that summation was made in a couple of minutes. She did not seem to be “comfortable” as a homeless person but more of a homed person. Her grateful attitude was amazing and made me that much more aware of my blessings. I will continue to be grateful for my life as it is and keep the hope that the homeless population declines too. It’s time to get this country moving into the black and back into homes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mea Culpa

Bob read my previous blog entry and thought that I was being critical of him.  That is not what I meant at all.  I was just stating it from my side.  I was trying to say, and apparently not very clearly, that I am sure Bob feels the same way, that he thinks I will grab stuff and put it away or pick something up and I don't, that he can only count, for sure, on Bob.  

All I know is that if you want something done right now, do it, don't wait for the other guy to do it later.  And I am worried about the later weeks when I fall back into the expecting the other guy to do
stuff....again, I need to do it!  That's all.  I'm not worried that Bob won't do anything, I'm worried I will just let things go.  That was supposed to be my point. 

Bob does tons of stuff around here.  He is not only helpful, a wonderful daddy and really productive, he's the best husband I could ask for.  Have you seen what he / we have done around here?  It wasn't without lots of work and focused attention. 

Bob, I love you and you do TONS!  You are the best and I don't want anyone, especially you, to think differently.  So please forgive my inept post.  I publicly apologize and I will do my best not to slack off when you get home.

Day 4 - ELP - Boston, MA

I have to say that the stamina is impressive of our group! 4 nights in a row of heading to bed after midnight, getting up by 6:30am for breakfast, and spending all day in class and studies! This is hump day for our week - 3 days down, 3 days left before a break.

Today we had 4 case studies and a mid-week evaluation session. It was a packed day, including studies of Benihana, Toyota Motor Company, Sealed Air Corporation, and Aqualisa Quartz showers. One of the good things they do here is to vary the professors, so we had three different people leading the sessions today.

Benihana is the quintessential assembly line restaurant. Ever thought that way when you've been there? Here is the secret: cycle time. From the time you walk in, they are creating a way to have you matched with enough complete strangers to create a table of 8 people, ready to watch a show that has been highly orchestrated to enable you to enjoy yourself for exactly 60 minutes, and then get out. The design of their locations takes you from station to station, a total of 8 of them, on their schedule, with little cues that move you to the next station. Everything is purposeful, without being too obvious (I think). By the way, when the chef finishes the tower of flame after cleaning the grill, and turns the lights off, that's the cue to leave. So leave, and don't forget the big tip!

Impact on My View of Management:
I need to spend more time improving my knowledge of our "cycle times" and on finding and working the bottlenecks. And, we have to remember at all times what the step or actor in our process is the most valuable, and maximize its value and minimize its waste.

Actions I Can Take:
We need to work to improve our reception areas to be focused on the needs of our members and patients that they find will add value, not what we want them to do. They don't want to sign up for, or take surveys, or receive education and training. So, we need to discover that value-add and make it the key part of our member's visit time.

One could spend a whole two weeks studying Toyota. We did a fly through in 90 minutes of their plant in Georgetown. The key: empower the front line to do the work, manage the workflows, determine the optimum way to build a car, and have managers serve as teachers and helpers, not as bosses over the team's capability to do the work. The lessons learned from our study and discussion included that process is the foundation for execution, that we must understand root cause when problems occur (asking Why five times), that the front line has the best knowledge of the work we do, that managers should set the tone and support the team, and that growth quickly amplifies the complexity of a situation.

Actions I Can Take at Work:
- should we think about using Vocera as our "andon" cord? That's the cord that the Toyota worker can pull to bring attention to their part of the assembly line to analyze and improve the workflows.
- we need to analyze our work flows and follow the four rules from Toyota:
1. all work is highly specified in its content, sequence, timing, and outcomes
2. each worker knows who provides what to them, and when, at every station along the process
3. every product and service flows along a simple, specific path, with minimal waste and effort to improve or perform the intended action at each station
4. any improvement must be made through the scientific method (hypothesis, test, etc.), under the guidance of a leader, done at the lowest possible level of the organization

Sealed Air corporation owns more than 90% of the market for packaging materials that are put in boxes by companies when they are shipping their products. They make bubble wrap, foam sheets, packing peanuts, paper, the new air pockets, a foam based solution that fills the space that it is squirted into, and any number of customized containers (like the trays for fruit in grocery stores, etc.). But, the business case showed that they faced a moment a few years ago that defined their survival - they weren't sure what they were, either a coated bubble wrap company (which was the bulk of what they did), or a packing materials company. They chose correctly! And the lesson - we need to put every choice through the filter of "What business am I in?" and "How do I define the quality of the work that I do?". Invariably, when people and companies lose their way, they've forgotten those 2 simple questions.

Our last case of the day was a story about Aqualisa, a shower equipment supplier in England. Notoriously known for having the market leading shower head, they created a new product with an electronicly controlled pump that increased the water pressure by 6 to 7 times what was available coming through the pipes. They bet the company on the new product, and then it didn't sell. They were able to figure out their issues, and found the following keys that we can incorporate into our setting:

- Innovation requires not just a product, but it has to have a marketing plan
- Companies expect experimentation and false starts with Research and Development, but they should expect the same thing with Marketing - it isn't right the first time most times
- One has to constantly evaluate consumer, channel (selling), and corporate behaviors and recognize that products (or services) have to change with those behaviors change; miss the clues, and pay the price
- Discover who in an organization is blocking progress, and engage them in creating alternatives that meet their needs and expectations

Our last session of the day was a debrief about our impressions so far. We all commented on the need to further connect our lessons here with our day to day lives at Kaiser. Amy did a great job of reframing our expectations, and that we shouldn't be disappointed if those connections aren't clear now - they will be by the time we are done!

Becuase we also have 4 cases tomorrow, there was no going out tonight. More studying and more discussions about how we can improve our own areas of the organization. My apologies to everyone for the dryness of this post. It's 1:30am and time to go to bed!

Friday, March 4, 2011

O' Solo Mio

It’s been 6 days of solo mommy time as of today. I have spent enough time with my kids alone for long periods of time that I know how to do it pretty well. I’m not bragging. It’s not bragging if it’s true. Ha!

Our time together is different when daddy is not around. That is kind of a big DUH but it is different. It’s also different if we’re travelling or if we’re in town. This time, and I’ll give you another DUH here but we’re in town.

Our house had been pretty much in order all week. The kids have been really cooperative. I have felt sane. There is a fair amount of forethought that goes into it. About a week out I start prepping the kids for daddy’s departure. “Kids, daddy is going to be leaving and I am going to need LOTS of help. I can’t do this by myself.” They all nod and agree to help and not fight and such. Each day as the departure draws near I remind them what is going to happen and that I need help. There is a method to this….

Then on Sunday morning after Bob was gone I sat them all down and we laid down some base rules.
1. I need help.
2. The kids will be in charge of laundry.
3. The kids will be in charge of loading and unloading the dishwasher.
4. No fighting.
5. No TV during the week. NONE! If you ask, you lose TV on the weekend.
6. You need to assist with whatever I ask of you.
They all nod and agree to my terms. What are they going to do? Go on strike? My house, my rules.

There are some things that make it easier. There is no one else to ask for something. The buck stops here. If you don’t like my answer go ask….oh yeah, there is no one….too bad! So there is not much arguing about what is fair or right. I am the decider. He he he…. (That was my best written George W)

Additionally, I don’t count on anyone else to automatically do anything. You know that stuff you put on the stairs to go up and everyone walks past it for days? I always believe, and I should know better, that Bob or the kids will take it up. Once in a while Bob grabs and distributes everything. I am sure that he believes either the kids or I will do it too. It’s a basic thing to think the “other” guy will do it. I think I need to take this lesson into my everyday from here on out.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I made sure that the house was spotless before I went to bed. Before the kids went to bed they cleaned up all their stuff and took it up stairs. They cleaned their messes up from the basement, office and general space. That part was great. Again, I was the go to guy, the only one that was going to make sure it was happening and clean. It was.

I had my book club over on Wednesday. I made appetizers, a fancy coffee drink, and a delicious dessert. Before hand it was the usual solo mommy routine. Set the expectation, ask for them to repeat it, get buy in and then have them repeat the plan back to me. Great, we have a plan. The kids were awesome. They had their first ever TV dinner. I bought 6 of them and let them pick one. They “cooked” their own dinners, put drinks in spill proof cups and watched a bit of a movie. (This was the exception to the no TV rule!) Sophia put the boys and herself to bed too… They were AWESOME! My friends were quite impressed with my kids and their ability to take care of themselves. Book group was fun for me. It was nice to have some adult conversation in the evening.

t we’re at PlayDate PDX. It is a place with a giant play structure. Coulter had a birthday party to attend at 4 so I brought Sophia and Kees too. They have been playing for 4 hours and I am not sure if or when we’ll be leaving. Oh baby, are they going to sleep well. Sophia was supposed to go to basketball practice but really, who wants to practice at 7 pm on a Friday? It’s way more fun to play…play. All 3 kids are having a blast and I am able to blog. Ahh, the peace and quiet of static noise. It’s lovely.

We miss Bob a lot. Kees has even been a little weepy about it. He really misses his daddy and has asked 3 different days, “Does daddy come home today?” We’re almost half way through this. But as a solo mommy and 3 kids we’re doin’ fine. We’ve been getting’ stuff done, counting on each other and each pulling our own weight. There has been a lot less defiance to help. They’ve even been picking up after each other. Go figure. I love a cohesive unit at home. It’s been really nice.

So what should I take away from this? Count on me I guess. I heard a story this week about a Jewish woman who was a photographer in the US during World War II. She heard stories of Jews trying to escape the Nazi Regime and kept saying to herself, “Someone should do something about their situation.” And then it dawned on her, “I am the someone.” She went out to document and help. It was very inspirational. While my situation is not nearly as dire it is what I am facing day after day. I am the someone who needs to make things happen. Don’t wait for Bob or the kids to pick up or move things, make it happen. When I assert myself, and I know this may be hard to believe, I can make things happen…. it’s fairly easy. I know next week will be fine too. It’s the weeks after that, when Bob is home, that I am worried about.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 3 - Executive Leadership Program, Harvard, Boston MA

Did I mention we're at Harvard Business School?  I know that my education was great at Berry, and I'm where I am, but I'm still a little in awe of being here.  We walked by THE dorm building where Facebook was conceived.  We are such geeks!

Today was a full day!  4 case studies.  Breakfast, study group (which went GREAT under my facilitation skills, thank you very much), and then 2 morning sessions about finance / accounting and 2 afternoon sessions about 2 case studies we had reviewed.  The morning session - um, well, Julie probably would have appreciated it, and I tried, very hard, to stay engaged.  But constructing an analysis of whether Mark Butler, the fictional owner of Butler Lumber, should ask for a $465k loan to finance his 33% growth rate when his inventory days on hand had grown from 60 to 80 days, his receivables days on hand had grown from 40 to 60 days, his accounts payable days to pay had grown from 35 to 55 days, and he stopped taking his 2% in 10 days net 30 terms on his purchases took about 90 minutes longer to discuss than I thought it could have.  Remember the bias from yesterday?  I was ready to have the answer as I thought the professor looked smart, probably knew the answer, and was someone I wouldn't mind getting to know better!

After lunch, the afternoon session consisted of reviewing one case study about the Coke versus Pepsi Wars from the 1950's to today, and one case study about how Wal-mart has come to be a $400 billion company.  Our professor, Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, is from Spain.  Never ever had a more energetic professor.  We are in a lecture hall, about 70 seats arranged in a semi circle on 5 levels.  He went up and down the stairs, got on his knees in front of us, ran to the black board (ok, so there are 9 black boards, arranged in 3 groups, with 1 on top of 1 on top of 1 more that slide up and down) to draw / write, pulled a screen down and up and down and up to show his slides, used 3 different colors of chalk, and in general completed a work out video in front of us.  When he asked a question, he took a pose like he was going to literally pull the answer out of us, with his mouth forming alternately words and then smiles and then grimaces, without making a sound, with his eyes closing and opening, and all done right in front of our faces.  I'm sure he was making judgements as he stared at us, especially if it took longer than 2 1/2 minutes to answer!

It is fascinating to see and read and discuss the history of Coke and Pepsi.  Essentially, Pepsi has always been the little brother, watching and copying what Coke does, and then every so often getting it better and quicker and cheaper, but never really winning in the end.  Coke does Pepsi a bunch of favors - remember New Coke, and then Coke Classic?  You may not know that the reason Coke is so big internationally is that they guaranteed that all US soldiers stationed abroad could have access to a Coke within 5 minutes of wanting one, wherever they were, for 5 cents.  Who paid for that?  The US government financed the construction of all of the international bottling plants - dozens of them.  Coke only made the concentrate, and sold just that, for years.  Until 1997, all of the bottlers weren't owned by Coke - they are the ones that added water and did the packaging and so on, and made next to nothing on that part of the chain.  Coke made 80%+ margins on its product, which we determined is brown colored sugar water, for enough years and so long that an investment of $1000 when Coke issued its public offering in the early 1900's is worth like $3 billion today.  DAMN IT.  We had a great discussion about what Pepsi needs to do next - I'll be watching what they actually do, and I have a $1000 ready (right, Heather?) if I see signs of that. 

The whole time, I'm thinking of the relationship between Coulter and Kees - sometimes Kees will win (the game, the girlfriend, etc.), but I do worry that in the end, it's just destiny and economics that Coulter will win.  A new frame of reference for me to use, for sure!  Of course, to some extent, they are both winners!

The second session about Wal-mart was good too.  We discussed why Wal-mart is so successful.  It isn't one thing - we've all agreed it is a system built on about 40 factors that have led them to be who they are.  The best component is their heavy use of technology, from day 1, even though Sam Walton distrusted technology immensely.  Without it, they wouldn't be successful.  With that in mind, I am glad I'm at Kaiser because I believe our technology investment will be a difference maker, now and for about 5 more years.  We have to figure out how to leverage that investment for the benefit of our members and patients, and mankind.  I think we can get the government to finance some of that - oh wait, they are!  Do you have a $1000 available to invest?  I'll hold on to it for you!

We decided to stick around here tonight.  We did go over the Student Union where there is a pub right on the campus.  Pool table, foozball, GIANT screen tv.  We had a pint, an appie, and spent some time talking about how we are ready to change the world, one step at a time.  We took the tunnel under the campus back over to our dorm.  That is so cool - it is 17 degrees tonight, so that was a welcome alternative to having the snot freeze on my face.

I spent 3 hours in our "project room" studying the 5 case studies we are reviewing tomorrow.  It is now 1am, so I'm done for today.  The case studies today were tough to pull much out of, so no new Impact to My View on Leadership or Actions to Take At Work, but maybe my attention to the details from day 1 and 2 waned a little today. 

The project room is great - big screen tv, snacks, frig with soft drinks and water and juice, m&ms, and other things available to us was great.  All I have in my room is a bed, desk, dresser, computer, and bathroom.  A new friend, Glen Hentges, the Chief Financial Officer for The Permanente Federation (the national decision making body for all of the 8 regional physician groups) and I studied the cases together and interspersed a discussion about how to efficiently run a hospital.  Oh, and Alex and I discussed how we'd run this thing if we were in charge.

I am cooking up an idea that I'll talk more about later - I'm here looking to add a new member to my "Personal Board of Directors", someone who I can add to the team I turn to to help me work through options and alternatives professionally and personally.  The compensation package is small, but the rewards of helping me achieve my goals can't be measured (right Dad, or Bruce, or Nicki)?  There are also at least 3 Physician Chief-of-Staff from other Kaiser hospitals here, so I thought I'd beg for 30 to 45 minutes of their time (or maybe just 2 1/2 minutes) and have them interview me as if I was a candidate for a Hospital Administrator position.  Would appreciate any comments any of you might have about that idea!

Day 2 - Executive Leadership Program, Harvard, Boston MA

Day 1 was a good start.  Day 2 is promising to be an insightful day!

After a few hours of sleep, we were back up at 7:00am for breakfast.   Because today is more of a lecture day, we didn't have what will become a regular study group meeting at 8:00am.  Instead, we had free time until class started at 9:30.  That's good because the schedule is BRUTAL here!

At 9:30, we started a discussion with Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology professor who is focusing her studies on the fact that every one of us has implicit biases, and they shape every decision we make whether we believe it or not.  We had some prework - a test of our inherint biases that you can take too at and you should!  You'll be surprised by the results.  Go to the site, choose Research, and then follow the instructions.

I have 3 pages of notes.  I never realized how much my biases shape my decision making.  From the initial assessment of someone's competency measured by looking at someone's face in the first 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds, and 1 second.  We make 3 decisions that quickly about someone:  how trustworthy they are, how competent they are, and whether we will dominant them or be dominated.  We measure biases in terms of if a person is skinny or fat, that they are dumb or smart respectively.  That particular distinction was measured that we will assume a fat person is 9 IQ points smarter than they actually are.  We reviewed that our brain uses a completely different part of itself when one is asked to think about themselves (good things, bad things, etc.) versus thinking about what we think about someone else.  I knew my head hurt sometimes, now I know why!

We also had a lengthy discussion about interviewing candidates for jobs.  We discussed the fact that the use of a resume alone, instead of a resume and an interview, is the more objective way to review candidates.  Here is an interesting outcome:  almost all hiring decisions can be made in the first 2 1/2 minutes of an interview.  The rest of the time in the interview is spent creating supporting information for ourselves to justify our initial assessment!  Think about that the next time you are interviewing someone for some task or job you have - sure would cut down the wasted time if we just said "Tell me a little about yourself", let the candidate (or contractor, or maid, or potential spouse) talk for 2 1/2 minutes, said "you're the one" or "you're not the one" and moved on!  We did discuss that people lie on their resumes, so reference checking is a must.  But the interview is a poor method - some schools, including Harvard, have eliminated interviews. 

We also reviewed the case study that females in symphony orchestras in the US made up less than 25% of the orchestra membership just a few years ago, and that orchestras adopted "interviews" for new members by having the candidate play for the selection committee behind a screen without a word spoken by the candidate (or a name given) that led to the current situation where nearly 50% of orchestra membership is female.  For all of her interviews when she applies for first chair fiddle, Sophia will be known as SLeek.

All that said, the Impact on My Leadership Point of View:
I will change how I look at things that need to be evaluated by:
 - identifying the key criteria that need to be measured (price, cost, features, value, etc.)
 - next, list all of my immediate biases (i.e. too expensive, I don't buy Ford or avoid Chinese-manufactured if I can or buy from people with nose rings) and put that aside
 - then, collect the data to support the criteria we choose
 - then, create a full set of the predictors that will frame the Criteria for Success (what would success look like, and how would I know)
 - and then lead a discussion with others to distinguish the choices based on the criteria for success as opposed to the biases we held

Actions to Implement at Work:
 - create a template for all candidates to fill out instead of using their resume because how they organize their resume or the paper they use lead to an immediate bias
 - create a 15 minute questionnaire about communication skills for candidates (a key criteria for most of the people I hire) that someone else will give the candidate, and then score and return to me, so that I'm not influenced by their tone, accent (hear that Ingrid????), or ability to use the English language; we talked a little at lunch (see below) about how hard I've worked to rid myself of my southern accent (but not my charm)
 - create a list of qualities that are important to the team that is adding a new hire before we interview the candidates; we'll rank the qualities from most to least important, and then apply that criteria to the candidates resumes and questionnaire responses to get a ranked-order of candidates

We had a short day today, as we ended at 3:45pm.  However, we were so engrossed with Dr. Banaji that we ran over by 20 minutes.  Earlier, I was just sitting down to lunch with Molly Porter (the Director for the Kaiser Permanente International program group, a team that developes programs about Kaiser for international health care leaders, including presentations to Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands (go ORANGE!), the United Kingdom and Spain) when we spotted Dr. Banaji sitting down, with an empty chair on each side of her.  I looked at Molly and remarked that it would be criminal if we didn't take advantage of an opportunity to have lunch with her.  We got up and moved, and had a great half hour of complete access to discuss our views of bias, how much we enjoyed what we learned, and to offer to help her with the afternoon session, which she took us up on and called on both of us during the class.  Teacher's pet, brown-noser, or strategic use of time and access?  Are you biased, or just jealous?

Even though we will have access to a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus snacks, drinks, and other food all day, every day, every where we turn, Alex and I decided to go to Boston for the afternoon / evening.  We got a cab and got dropped off in the North End.  Go there!!!!

We walked around, looking in all of the shops and stores and restaurants.  We decided we'd eat dinner in the area, and walked into 3 meat shops (real butchers), 2 wine shops (I'm sure they are fronts for something else), and Modern Pastry (more on that later).  In one of the butcher shops, we asked where we should eat.  The butcher paused, looked us over, and said "look (everyone here says "look"), every chef in this part of town comes in here to buy meat from me; if I tell you where to go, and you tell him, and he tells one of them, I might have some trouble, so I'm not telling you where to eat, or where not to eat; just go eat somewhere, eh?".  That could have been the most honest customer service I've ever received!

So, we ended up at Giacomos.  How would you pronounce that?  Gee a co moes?  Nope.  Jack o moes is the right way, as we found out.   8 tables, 6 family member serving as waiter / waitress / bus boy, 4 cooks, and one old dude that we weren't sure what his role was.  Menu was on the chalk board.  We had the special - a half lobster, 8 mussels, 6 clams, and about 4 1/2 pounds of pasta with 1 pound or so of grated cheese.  $20.  Bam!  Washed it down with a Boston-based IPA.

Then, we decided to get a canolli.  Had one?  Not like these!!!  We went to Modern Pastry, and decided to buy 2 dozen mini ones to bring back as a bribe (gift) for our peers in the program.  You see, at 7:30pm we had an optional accounting tutorial, and what better to bring to an optional discussion about debits, credits, ratios, balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow than a 650 calorie pastry???  We were thanked profusely for our generosity, and all was good.

Before we came back, we took a quick 2 mile walk through downtown.  Boston Common, 11 Dunkin Donuts in a 5 block area (which I understand are called Drunkin Donuts, per Julie), and only 1 Starbucks that I saw, and then Beacon Hill.  We were walking along and suddenly, there it was:  the Cheers bar.  Quick picture, and decision to come back later this week or next.  Cab back to the campus, class, and then studying.  I have been awake for 45 of the 60 hours we've been here, and it has been totally worth it!

Day 1 - Executive Leadership Program, Harvard, Boston MA

So, this isn't Heather.  It's me, the husband.  I have the extreme fortune to be one of the 66 successful candidates from Kaiser to attend the Harvard University Executive Leadership Program (ELP) for a total of 4 weeks, on site in Boston (two weeks now, two weeks in May), plus some additional study work in Portland.  I'm here to continue my ongoing education (on the job and formal and informal) in my health care career.  I'm here with my good friend Alex Lowenthal, plus about a dozen people I already knew from my work at Kaiser in the last 7 years.  I'm posting to create a record for myself, to share with Heather what goes on here, and to avoid having to talk to my father or my mother-in-law too frequently.  Dad and Nicki - this is for you to read, and then develop some questions to ask me beyond "how's it going, and what do you think"!  Get going on your homework!

Sunday, February 27th

Alex and I flew on the plane together from Portland to Boston. After arriving and greeting some folks, we decided to walk to Harvard Square, across the river. There's a foot of snow on the ground, and it was 27 (feels like minus 27). We walked around for an hour or so, got Alex a knit cap to cover his head, and then came back. We had a reception from 6 to 7, and then we and several of our new friends decided to explore the tunnels under the campus that allow people to move from building to building without being outside. We went to the gym / workout facilities and signed up so we can use the facilities, and then found our way to a dorm with a pool table and big screens to watch the Oscars on one screen and the Miami / New York NBA game on another. When we got back, I hooked up Skype and called Heather and kids and checked in on their day. We went back out to our dorm's common area and stayed for a couple of hours, watched the rest of the Oscars, and studied a little. I finally called it a night at 12:00am.

Monday, February 28th
And then we begin!

Great first day! Opening remarks from Dr. Jack Cochran, the leader of the Kaiser Permanente Federation (the physicians group), focused on the situation that Kaiser is facing in the United States health care debate. He characterized the leadership challenge as requiring the best from everyone, every day. As a physician-led, professionally managed organization, everyone in a leadership position has an accountability to perform to the very best of our abilities.

My notes:
 - our competitive advantages at Kaiser that will make us successful:  integration, advanced technology systems, and the ability to receive prospective payments (think HMO model)
 - why are we better than everyone else:  we keep score on everything, we are transparent with what we score and measure, and we are a learning organization
 - the "new questions" we should be asking:  how many of our patient's problems can we solve today, how can we create complete systems that support the patient, and what is the best way to optimally monitor a condition our patient may have or need or support with

Amy Edmondson, Chair of the ELP and one of the featured lecturers, provided an overview of the entire program and helped to frame the expectations we should be building for ourselves and our participation. The support from the faculty, facilities, and support team is tremendous! Very excited to be here!

Our first task after the opening orientation was to pull our study group together. I was randomly selected to be a study leader for week 1. Our group has 8 members, diverse backgrounds, including physician, health plan, and medical operations leaders. We discussed the case studies supporting the leadership displayed by John F. Kennedy and his teams for the Bay of Pigs situation and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everyone agreed that we have a good group, and we had a good discussion.

We went back to the lecture hall and had a dynamic discussion, led by Amy, about the case studies and the impressions and outcomes we formed. All of the notes and materials are organized in 3 sections: Key Issues and Ideas, Impact on My Leadership Point of View, and Actions to Implement at Work.

I'll spare all the Key Issues and Ideas (they are lost without the case study to read), and share the other two notes I collect.  For this initial discussion, my conclusions:

Impact on My Leadership
- we need to set up team to provide input, rather than rely on the leader for being the "decider"
- we need to insist on more options to review before making a choice based on one or two options; as leaders, we have to pull that out of our groups
- we need to get better at taking more time to analyze alternatives that have been provided by people other than ourselves
- we need to watch for and eliminate situations where advocay is being used instead of inquiry / problem solving

Actions to Implement at Work
- take an opportunity to read "The First 90 Days", a book recommended by Chris Otham, to help leaders make an appropriate impact in their first 90 days, or the first 90 days for an existing leader if they want to make an impact even if they are already on board (the leader of our insurance company operations for all of the areas outside of California).  Update - we received a copy, courtesy of Chris, on Wednesday.
- must clearly set expectations of my direct reports and the vision of success for their teams
- complete the following steps in a cycle: Assess, Discuss, Plan, Act

After lunch, we went back to the lecture hall and spent the afternoon discussion on Perspectives on Leadership with Scott Snook, an instructor and graduate of West Point. We used a case study about Scandanavian Airlines (SAS), and then discussed the differences in leadership success between Jan Carlson, the 36 year-old head of SAS hired in the early 80's to turn the company around in the midst of the numerous pressures on the airline industry in the early 80's and Frank Borman, the CEO of Eastern Airlines. We watched some videos and discussed the numerous learnings and differences between the two men and the companies they ran.

We then discussed Leadership Styles and what that is made up of as far as components of leadership are concerned. The intersection of Self Awareness (who we are), Situational Awareness (what happens around us), and Self Regulation (our ability to apply the right skills to the right situation) define our leadership style. A good excercise in discussing these attributes led to the following:

Impact on My Leadership
- with a huge capital investment, we must maximize its use, leading to me wonder why we aren't using all of the Sunnyside Medical Center (our hospital in Portland) space we built but haven't opened
- to question if we have any messages concerning cost cutting that mirror the very poor way Frank Borman spoke to employees at Eastern about their challenges when they were facing bankruptcy.  He blamed the employees.

Actions to Implement at Work
- we need to get better at creating the conditions to increase the likelihood for success, reduce the opportunities to fail, and do it in an authentic way to get the outcomes that we seek
- we should discuss how to build our "Little Red Book" - simple messages that outline our service and operational excellence program, and focus on fighting the competition, not fighting each other
- we should ask ourselves if we have a single minded focus like they did at SAS (to focus on the business traveler) so that most decisions can be made in the context of whether the outcome supports our focus, and if not, should be avoided or existing things eliminated to free up resources for our focus area

We had dinner and reception from 6pm to 8pm and then have time to study for the 3 case studies tomorrow.  However, Alex and I also squeezed in a walk to Harvard Square, had a pint and an appetizer at one of the college bars, and met up with a couple of other folks - Mike Brady, the Kaiser Chief Technology Officer based in Oakland and someone becoming a good friend to both of us, and Thomas Risse, the Chief Financial Officer for the Hawaii Region.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Well that sucked....not the month but the fact that I blogged once and that was on the first. I love writing on this blog and I am going to do my darnedest to keep up with it. A few things that happened in February.....

Of course the most important thing was MY BIRTHDAY! The day itself was fairly uneventful but Bob did make a plan. We celebrated on the following Friday. He made arrangements for the kids to spend the night at a friends house so we could go out, have fun and then come home to a quiet house. I assumed he would be home early on Friday. When he said he wouldn't be, I immediately made a massage appointment. 

My date with me started at 3:00 with said massage.  We had dinner at Toro Bravo. It was fantastic. For entertainment we went to Comedy Sportz. It was a total blast. It's an improv group that takes suggestions from the audience and then goes with it. Later we even watched a movie at home.  The next day we slept one needed anything, climbed into bed with me, asked to play Wii...nothing. I love nothing...... We had a nice breakfast together and then went to the Home Depot. Romantic? I say yes.

What's even more romantic? Valentine's Day. Bob had a card and flowers for me and had all the kids give me cards too. Then he said, "You sleep in. I'll get the kids ready and get them off to school." Those are some of the most romantic words ever said to me. I love sleeping in and an unexpected sleep in? Unheard of. The last time I got to do that it was because I woke up almost dead with sickness. I was able to sleep until 9 and then hung out with Bob until 10:30 when he finally had to go to his pesky job. I suppose it was necessary.

Later that night we had a family Valentine Dinner. I set a fancy table with a box of chocolates for each of my valentines. We had a really nice steak, mushrooms, caramelized onions, sauteed green beans, scalloped potatoes and sparkling cider all around in stemware. The kids thought that was really cool. Everyone had to dress for dinner too. One needs to respect a fancy dinner. The boys originally showed up shirtless and in dirty pants. No way Jose'. It was a fine affair!
Sophia had a choir concert on the 15th and that was really fun. They did all kinds of songs from "Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda" to "Blah, blah, blah" by Gershwin. So cute. My dad made the trek down for Sophia's concert and then subsequently, my birthday. It was short but dad, Kees and I had a nice lunch together on my birthday and then dad needed to get home. Short but sweet.

Oh, another fun thing.... I pulled the kids out of school and took them up to Seattle to see the at the Pacific Science Center. We went with our friends the Wangs. We all left on Thursday and went to my mom's house to stay. The kids all went in the hot tub, Mary Ann brought dinner and a good time was had by all. We also watched the first Harry Potter Movie Friday morning we went up to Seattle after the traffic was over. Mom even came along.

The exhibit was fun but too hands off. As you can see below, the boys were ready with their TinkerToy Wands.  It was fun to see all the movie stuff but the kids wanted to touch everything. Sophia did get sorted and we have our selves a Gryffindor ladies and gentlemen.

After the exhibit we walked the full Pike's Place Market and then toured Seattle. We visited the troll under the bridge (As you can see, Sophia almost got sniffed up!) and drove through the University of Washington. The kids were amazed at the size of the university. Ahh, memories. 

We had a fine dinner in Chinatown and then went back to mom's. It was a really nice day.
Saturday we spent the morning chatting and then exploring the property. The kids threw rocks into the water, played in the tree house and generally had a fine time. I spent a fair amount of time carving wands out of Madrona. They came out quite nicely and were far less expensive than the $50 ones at the exhibit. 

Those were the highlights. I'll try very hard not to let a MONTH go by again. I missed not writing. More soon....very soon.