My biggest mistake: 8 CIOs share missteps & how they recovered

No leadership path is without its obstacles, but parallel to a misstep is an opportunity for growth.

Here, eight CIOs share some mistakes they've made along the way. And, more importantly, they discuss what they learned from those mistakes and how they keep moving forward.

Note: Answers were collected via phone interviews over the past year. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Mitzi Cardenas, CIO, Truman Medical Centers (Kansas City, Mo.)
October 2014
"Over my career there have been some instances where we've gone through initiatives, but lost connectivity with the end users. When that happens, and you don't have the alignment of IT and the user community, the project is destined to fail. As the CIO you have to be able to say, 'stop,' and reset before you continue."

Rod Dykehouse, CIO, Penn State Milton S. Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center
April 2014
"I think there's too many to name, not just here but in my career. There are always lots of mistakes, but the challenge is we have to learn from them and make them into teachable moments for the IT team and the enterprise.

"Some of my mistakes were trying to do too much too fast. There's a time and a place for every idea. The organization is not always ready, but I've not always been patient. The same is probably true of my peers."

Eric Carey, CIO, Valley Health System (Ridgewood, N.J.)
February 2015
"The meaningful use roadmap has been extremely frustrating for everybody, and the government's schedule of being very late to the game with their expectations has put tremendous pressure on vendors and organizations to meet the expectations and play to unrealistic timeframes. My regret is that there wasn't some way for us as a country to partner better between the vendors and the health systems to come up with a better cohesive timeline so that everyone really could participate appropriately. It has caused significant hardship, even in our organization which has successfully attained the levels of meaningful use. It has been at the cost of user satisfaction, user productivity, efficiency, and in some cases, it's created some unsafe patient conditions because vendors are pushing features to market in such short timelines that they're not sufficiently stabilized. It's a regret in the sense of I wish we could have done something about it, but I'm just one guy in New Jersey. It doesn't feel like teamwork on a very large scale."

Frank DiSanzo, CIO, St. Peter's Healthcare System (New Brunswick, N.J.)
March 2015
"Our first EHR implementation took place without major participation from the clinical staff. Senior management assembled a team that we believed could adequately represent nurses, community physicians and employed physicians, and we let them make all the decisions relative to vendor selection, implementation, and so forth. We thought we could shortcut a complex process, one which would have a major impact on the institution, and that was a mistake. What we learned from our mistake is that transformational projects require transparency plus the inclusion of as many stakeholders as possible. Form committees, hold public meetings, 'day in the life' exhibitions, you name it. Build a strong and varied support base and you will be laying the groundwork for the successful achievement of your goals, as well as building a group of powerful allies that will support the project through the challenges you inevitably face along the way."

Matthew Chambers, CIO, Baylor, Scott & White Health (Dallas)
April 2015
"Our approach to organizational change management. Post-merger, I don't know if I spent enough time understanding the merged environment and dealing with the major stakeholders to help them understand my vision and, more importantly, their vision. The first thing we need before we're ready to change is to see a need for change. Once that is in place, you can build an effective path for that change. I don't know that I spent enough time developing a shared need for change — one founded upon our newly integrated organization's vision. I ended up getting some pushback that I was moving too aggressively and had to reprioritize some of our efforts, so I adjusted our approach based on the needs of our leaders. Now what we're seeing as we continue to work and build relationships with our stakeholders is them coming back saying, 'Now I see a shared vision we can build on together.' You don't have to be the smartest guy in the room. You want to be the person who can help the organization reach consensus and reach the goal."

Doris Peek, PhD, Senior Vice President and CIO, Broward Health (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
October 2014
"We are constantly striving to improve service delivery to our caregivers. In a recent physician satisfaction survey, 30 percent of the physicians gave IT an excellent ranking, 40 percent rated us as a good service organization, 20 percent scored us as average and 10 percent of the physicians rated IT as providing poor service. My remediation plan was centered on moving the good and average scores to excellent, ignoring the 10 percent who believed IT provided poor service. My approach was not founded in arrogance; rather, I was looking for a quick and easy win. Looking in my rearview mirror, I missed a great opportunity to nurture the physicians who ranked us as excellent and good and to learn why 10 percent of physicians believe we provide poor service. I should have had three different strategies: a strategy to nurture and retain the loyalty of the 70 percent who appreciate IT; a second strategy to address the physicians who see as average performers and another to better understand why 10 percent of the physician population sees IT as delivering poor service. This is a mistake I will not repeat."

Deanna Wise, Executive Vice President and CIO, Dignity Health (San Francisco)
May 2014
"I come from the Midwest, and I always had the belief that if my team and I do great things, people would recognize it, they'd just see it. The truth is, people tend to focus on the negative and don't always highlight the positive. You have to market your team — or, as I tell my team, yourself — and talk about the good things you're doing and bring awareness to them. If you don't tell your story, someone else will.

"That's the reason I enjoy these types of conversations. It lets me give kudos where they're due: my team. Early in my career, I did not participate in these types of interviews, always thinking I should be focused on internal projects. I realized that was a disservice to my team."

John Kenagy, PhD, Senior Vice President and CIO, Legacy Health (Portland, Ore.)
June 2014
"The biggest mistake, or the thing that I had hoped would be more successful, is the journey we're taking on business intelligence. It's proven harder than I thought. In my enthusiasm about the relationships and the vendors I may have oversold our ability to accomplish more in a short period of time. It's like a bike chain that's fallen off; you're pedaling and the chain's moving but not the wheels. It's not the people's fault, but it's been difficult. I definitely underestimated how massive an effort analytics and [business intelligence] would be."

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