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Hank Winter 2015

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The Education of a Newbie

Alan Kroll, North Area administrator, Primary Care, Colorado

A manager talks about his experience as a first-time member of the Common Issues Committee

When I was asked to serve on the national bargaining team in 2012, I was a newbie. I had never done bargaining before and didn’t know what interest-based bargaining was. I quickly learned it is a skill that would serve me well, both in the bargaining sessions and in my career beyond that event.

Bargaining began with a significant investment from the company providing both labor and management representatives with education sessions to understand interest-based bargaining. Part of this education was to understand the landscape of Kaiser Permanente and how we were doing in the industry. It also included a look at the future, as well as the history of KP and the value of the partnership. Bernard Tyson (KP’s chairman and CEO) made it clear that partnership is an asset to KP and it wasn’t going away.

I worked on the Growth team, which was to find ways to help grow KP and union membership. We practiced together with scenarios, using the interest-based problem solving tools—a great way for the team members to start to trust each other.

As we went through the process, there were times we disagreed, and we worked through that. Getting through those tough conversations really showed that although we might be coming from a different place, we had the same commitment and common interests.

One of the interesting aspects of working with a national team was meeting folks from across the KP program. Although I am from Colorado, it was interesting to see that the concerns we had from our region were similar to those of Mid-Atlantic States.

I was a little concerned going into the process that we’d get stuck on some of the local issues. When specific regional issues came forward, we were able to quickly work through them and refocus. I was impressed with my labor partners, who really helped us move from the local issues to the strategic.

Honestly, there were times when I wondered if we were going to be able to get through it. The process was a reaffirmation that we are all on the same page. Other companies haven’t been able to do what we do. We stumble and fall back on traditional methods at times, but there is power in the KP model of how we do things.

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