Light Speed Grant Recipient
Peter Walsh, Project Coordinator
June 24, 2008
As I came out of our Technology Committee meeting last week I was struck by the excitement and personal investment of the committee members in our discussion of our goals for the year and the progress we have made. Every year in late fall we undertake a strategic planning exercise in which we review our technology related strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The committee members talk to their colleagues about technology issues; seeking needs, frustrations, concerns and good ideas. We start by having a general open discussion about our technology use and move to developing an open ended, no holds barred “wish we could…..” list. Then we group the topics into clusters of similar or related headings and eliminate the obvious wild, impossible and impractical ideas. We break into groups; our total committee is about 20 folk so we will have four groups of five to discuss the topics and to rank the top three in each cluster – identifying the pros and cons of their top choices. The groups report back and we have a general open debate of speaking for or against topics on the list. And, finally we rank our personal choices using a nominal group process. The method of ranking varies from year to year but I personally like the one where we are each given ten stickers which we can place next to the topic of our choice – with no limit as to how many stickers you can put on any one topic. The top ten are then organized, some fit together, and others stand alone. Then we identify the resources needed, indicators of success, responsible parties, and approvals needed and so forth. The entire process generally takes about four hours.
As we were reviewing our progress on this year’s goals and we realized the gains we have made there was a general excitement in the room. Our discussion became more detailed when we reviewed our eFile program goals. This project is also part of our Blandin Light Speed grant and we have far exceeded our initial objectives. The eFile participants were excitedly reflecting on the tremendous gains they have made this year. We had hoped to have eFile implemented in three programs by the end of the year and we already have six programs using it. There was a general agreement that the support of the Blandin grant enabled us to work on several pieces of the puzzle at once creating a synergy in that solutions in one piece turned out to benefit other pieces. As we added a second and third test site and new staff began to grapple with some of the limitations of the beta program we began to discover solutions at a faster pace. We reached a state of having attained the “critical mass” of minds working on the same problems. All of a sudden the solutions were coming faster and faster. The methodology was standardized and everything began to fit together. New insights were gained as staff were trained, began using the program and saw additional ways that it could be used within their program. Another interesting outcome is that staff from the individual programs began to meet for what they called “Show and Tell” sessions. These were opportunities to show off new tools and techniques and to ask questions of each other. These sessions really stimulated the problem solving and facilitated program standardization. The eFile coordinator reported an impressive list of functionality that is now being handled electronically in a standardized uniform manner: Client Calendaring, Client Programming, Program Documentation, Medication Administration, Client Progress Notes, Staff Scheduling, Staff Notes, Cleaning Lists, and even Menus. The task list for starting eFile in a new program has even been delineated; this is a check list that notes the steps that the program needs to complete to demonstrate that it is ready and qualified to implement the eFile program. This check list came about as the first couple of implementation attempts did not work out because the program staff were not sufficiently trained and the program was dealing with other administrative issues at the time.
The entire eFile Program development and implementation is a tremendous example of problem solving from the bottom up. Those who have the need and use the system are the ones who created the solution, are vested in its success and excited to share it with others. Management does not have a problem trying to convince other programs to try eFile because staff sell the idea to each other. Now there is the problem of programs that don’t have eFile getting impatient because the have to wait their turn. It will be very interesting to see where we what we have accomplished at the end of the year.
The Blandin Foundation is supporting four standout broadband programs through the Light Speed program. The program’s purpose is to stimulate the deployment of bandwidth intensive applications that connect local institutions to area resident’s home. This post comes from a Light Speed community leader.