October 23, 2016


Four things leaders can do to support their teams' success

With UBTs in every region off to a good start, it's time to demand more of each other

Mark Enger

How to unleash a team's potential

  • Allocate resources and plan ahead of time;
  • Ensure that the focus of UBTs is consistent with the regional operating plan;
  • Check for mutual understanding and agreement on the UBT's purpose;
  • Focus on sustaining performance of UBTs, not just on the roll-out.

As the health plan sponsor of our 150-plus unit-based teams, my job is to ensure that UBTs have the tools and resources to fulfill our mission.

In such a difficult economy, customers' expectations of us will continue to grow—as will the need for greater affordability of care. We need to meet those expectations, and UBTs will help us do that.

In my experience, UBT sponsors and leaders can do four things to support their teams' success:

Allocate resources and plan ahead

These are key tasks for most managers. With UBTs, such planning includes helping managers and co-leads understand what's expected of them in their new role—and letting them know what kind of support they expect from me. My conversations with our management team are built around my belief that UBTs will become the foundation of our Labor Management Partnership and have a major role in meeting our goals.

Focus on the regional operating plan

UBTs are meant to drive performance, whereas traditional staff meetings have been used to drive communication. If UBTs become just a different name for a staff meeting, without a different, clearly defined purpose, then we will not achieve our potential.

There is a clear relationship among all of our strategic pillars—people, finance, service, quality and growth. We cannot be successful if we don't perform well within each, because quality and service drive growth and financial strength. And because we're a people-business, if we don't have an engaged, committed, workforce, we cannot be successful in the other pillars.

If UBTs become just a different name for a staff meeting, without a clearly defined purpose, we will not achieve our potential.

Check for mutual understanding

We rely on our frontline staff to meet our members' expectations, and working in UBTs we can identify gaps and improve processes that are not working. We're moving in the right direction, but to get where we need to be will take everyone's buy in. Labor and management cannot view performance improvement as a contractual commitment; it has to be a shared organizational commitment.

Focus on sustaining performance, not just the roll-out

The biggest change that needs to happen for continuous improvement to become a way of life is cultural. We have shown that where there is clarity around goals there are results. I also see new and better relationships emerging between the health plan, labor, and NW Permanente. KP is getting increased national attention for our model of health care, and now it's time to take it to the next level.