Sites like mine, publications such as Information Week, and countless other business-to-business magazines are built upon the premise that professionals have much to learn from each other. Specifically, we talk to those who have made significant progress down a path -- such as selecting a vendor or completing an implementation -- to elicit lessons learned so others may take away best practices and avoid pitfalls.
I recently interviewed Mike Hibbard, CIO at Mercy Health Partners, about his College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) member-to-member survey focused on learning what his peers are doing around ambulatory electronic medical record (EMR) adoption for independent community physicians. These surveys are certainly a great way to get some ideas, or even just validate the path you've already chosen to go down.
In this case, Hibbard received confirmation that very few CIOs are proceeding in exactly the same way, which made him more comfortable with the fact that Mercy is also feeling its way down the independent physician path. In aggregate, the responses did not cause Hibbard to trash his plans -- which could have been the result if general consensus strongly opposed his premise.
By availing himself of this CHIME member benefit, Hibbard demonstrated the wisdom of the humble. In charting a strategic course which locks an organization into a path measured in years and millions, using every possible means to gather intelligence about what others are doing is critical. To move forward with blind hubris that one has it right without testing that theory is foolish.
Leveraging CHIME's member-to-member survey, speaking to colleagues, reading websites and magazines, and listing to podcasts from peers are all required to weatherproof a complex plan. Only then can one promote it to the rest of the C-suite and board with the confidence necessary to win approval.
But when the homework phase is finished, the true leader must absorb the findings, then put them aside, because one cannot be bound by the paths others have forged -- to allow that is an abdication of duty. Your organization has not hired the individuals whose decisions you have studied; they hired you, and deserve your best thinking.
Perhaps the most irritating thing to hear from a manager when presenting a plan is, "Well, none of our competitors are doing it that way," as if your competitors' actions formed the universe of your options. If your vision of the path forward veers from those tread by others, good. Trust your gut and follow that path.
Gathering all the facts is absolutely necessary, but just as necessary is the need to ignore them when your vision remains vial and alive. Bring your whole being to bear to the tasks at hand, cast all that is under your purview according to your ways, and carry the necessary decision-makers along for the ride on a wave of passion and determination. Be bound only to a sense of excellence and energy and succeed or fail according to those principles. There is nothing sadder than failing after following a course you never believed in.