Clinton Bonner: I think, you know… maybe there’s an East Coast Nexus that we can do in… I mean, Nexus, Nashville. Alliteration. I’m a fan. Robbie, what do you think? Can you make it happen?
Brant Beard: Oh yeah. There’s plenty of stuff to do. I think we can find some after-hours activities to keep everybody interested and coming back to Nashville as well.
Clinton: It’s not the stuff. Just find me some budget, buddy.
Clinton: Just find me just a little bit of budget.
Brant: (Laughs) Where’s the money? Show me the money.
[CATALYST INTRO MUSIC]
Clinton: Welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Catalyst is an ongoing discussion for digital leaders dissatisfied with the status quo, and yet optimistic about what’s possible through smart technology and great people. And I’m joined by some great people today. First and foremost, I’ve got Robert Elliott. Robbie, GM at Launch by NTT Data. Robbie, I know you’re traveling. How’s Smashville treatin’ ya?
Robert Elliott: It’s treating me well. It’s a little hot, but it’s a great city, I really love it.
Clinton: Yeah. I… I am ashamed, I’ll ring the shame bell and take the walk, I’ve never been to Nashville, yet. I’ve been to Knoxville. And I’ve never yet been to Nashville. And that’s gotta change. I’m 45 years old and I live on the East Coast. Like, I dunno what I’m doing. So I’ll get down there, Robbie. But it’s great to have you on. And… we said great people. You and I, probably good people. We’re good people. But we’ve got a great person on with us as well today. We have our guest. We have Brant Beard of Parallon, which is an HCA healthcare company. Brant is the Assistant VP of Application Services where he’s led award-winning work that serves providers and clinical scientists alike. Brant is also an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University, great baseball team, in Nashville, where he focuses on leadership and culture to support innovation, which is exactly what he’s done throughout his career. Welcome to Catalyst, Brant. We’re pumped to have you today, man. I think you’re also in Nashville, is that correct? You guys are like, a zipline away from each other?
Brant: I am. I’m in Nashville. This is the greatest city in the world, I’m a little disappointed you’ve never been here. So…
Clinton: I am too.
Brant: …next time we meet, you have to come to Nashville.
Clinton: Brant, it’s really, really great to have you, man. We love diving right in so we don’t waste people’s time, there. So… what I loved about researching you is that, most people’s LinkedIns are a little… uh, boring. Boring. Right? They’re a little bit boring, little bit… very, very buttoned up, and not exactly, sometimes not the most helpful, not the most useful. It’s kinda like, exactly what you expect from a LinkedIn profile.
Clinton: And yet, there’s you. And there was, there’s helpful things, thoughtful things, inspiring things. And most folks on LinkedIn are almost kind of like advertisements for the stuff that they or their company are putting out. So, yours struck me as different. Why?
Brant: So, you hit it. Right? So most people are fake. And that… they don’t wanna be fake because they’re trying to be bad people, but they try to be somebody they’re not. The thing about leaders is, you have to connect with people. And to connect with me you have to be human. So if you talk about normal things, and you do motivations with those normal things, you’ve caught ‘em. And that’s my goal, is to… I’m human, and here’s what I learned. And it could be like, I walked out on a field and here’s what I saw. I saw this car, and here’s what I saw. And that’s what connects people, and they want to know more about you.
Clinton: Yeah. Robbie, I’m effortlessly taking notes here. We’ve got Brant so far as human, which, we got it. We got that one captured. And Brant, I think there was one that caught my attention - you say “got me” - there was a post about your son.
Clinton: About his musical endeavors and just… a little bit of your Conan O’Brien-esque of, uh, self-deprecation about your musical talent.
Clinton: And yet shining a light on what your son does. And that one kind of was one of the ones that caught my attention. You know, what sparked that one for you?
Brant: I think in life, everybody’s trying to find their passion. Like, what are their… what’s their passion and your purpose? And when you find someone that’s found that, they shine bright. And for me, I don’t know how to play music, right? So I can try that, and I can pretend like I’m that person, but that’s not who I am. And the point of that is to find that passion, and it stands bright, and people want to connect with that person.
Clinton: So, we’ve got a Nashville guy who can’t play music. Robbie, you’re visiting Nashville. Can you play music or hold a tune? What’s… what’s your skills there?
Robert: Absolutely not.
Robert: I’m with Brant on that. I have no musical capabilities.
Brant: I mean… Robbie, tell him the truth.
Brant: We’ve heard you can sing, so tell ‘em about your band.
Robert: (Laughs) As they say in the South, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Right? So, um… yeah. Yeah.
Clinton: (Laughs) I love it. Right. So, Brant, you talk a lot about… really, a lot about leadership and culture.
Clinton: Again, it’s not vapid, surface-level things. You tie them directly to how they relate to innovation and environments that produce what are great innovation ecosystems.
Clinton: So, can you lay out for me and Robbie, how are they related? And how are they also different? Leadership and culture.
Brant: Yeah. It’s funny. So at Vanderbilt, and Lipscomb university, I teach a leadership class. And the first part is all about, what is a leader? Which leads into, how do you make an effective organization? But it really starts with leaders. So… and I really like your podcast. Like, the catalyst, right? A… there’s some things that I do with my team, and we call it catalyst multiplier. So, a catalyst is a person or event that quickly causes change. And as a leader, how do you cause change, but it’s not you… you’re a catalyst that causes change for the whole organization, and then it takes it on its own. And that’s the point of leadership, is to connect with people, create a sense of urgency… like, we can’t stay where we’re at, even if we’re awesome, like, how do we go to the next level? But you’ve gotta create an environment where people want to change. But it starts with leadership, connecting with people, what’s the vision of the organization? When we get there, what will it feel like? And then how do I get them to stair-step towards that? And that’s been my whole career, is creating that leadership pipeline. People that create that, so it’s not just me, but the organization wants to improve and get better. And I think that’s where success happens, where you’re constantly getting better. If we remain the same, we’re actually going backwards.
Clinton: It reminds me of a conversation I had with, um… I’ve worked for Topcoder for many years, it’s a crowdsourcing platform and a community. great, great community of people. It’s actually a community first that has a technology platform. And they distribute work through, like, open talent mechanisms. Really cool place, and they have a lot of love for their people. And the founder was a gentleman named Jack Hughes, and it happened to be a Connecticut-founded company, and I was in Connecticut, reading books on it; right time, right place, and voila, I end up at Topcoder. And he brings me into his office one day, his name is Jack, and he’s like “Where would you rather work right now?” This is like 2008. He’s like “Apple, or Sony?” I was like “Apple, they’re awesome!” And he’s like, “I should fire you.” He’s like, ‘cause it’s… oh wait, he’s like, you should go… he’s like, “The answer should be Sony, ‘cause they can’t get their… poop in a group right now,” at that point, for Sony.
Clinton: He’s like, “Go into there and go apply yourself and fix things.” Now, he wasn’t telling me to leave that place. But he was just, I think, teaching a lesson of like, “Hey, where there’s some tumult, and where there’s… there looks like surface-level chaos, there’s also tons of opportunity.” And so, how do you see that… where do you go to find, and go to select, and kind of… where do you look to the teams inside HCA Parallon, and how do you gauge where you’re going to be most useful? What kind of people and what kind of work attracts you?
Brant: Yeah, I think you hit it, right? So, you can run towards a good environment. Or a good situation or good team, and you make it a little better. Right? But if you… if you see the opportunities where there is chaos, there is no leadership, there’s no drive, there’s no execution? That’s the place where leaders step up and grow. Is it painful? 100%. Like, when you do those things you’re always asking, like, “What did I just do?” But it’s there where leaders step up and create an environment that succeeds. And then other people want you in their organization. Like, you went to somewhere you didn’t know, you made it better. It’s not… when we say you, it’s not you, right?
Brant: You’re creating the culture of the organization that gets better, and it thrives when you leave. And that’s the whole point of… you have leaderships, leaders that go in there, and they do it all themselves. The problem with those situations is, when they step away from that environment it collapses. And so great leaders go in, build the culture… and you asked the question, is culture and leadership separate? There’s no separation. It has to be together. The leader… the leader creates the culture. It’s not a culture that’s driven from the top down, it’s the bottom up. You create the environment where everybody creates that culture, and they hold it up, and they wanna live towards that. And that’s what you want. And most of my career is spotting those opportunities where nobody else wants to be involved in it. And you get that call after you take over, like “Who did you make mad?” Like, “Why are you doing that?”
Brant: ‘Cause that’s where you have the biggest impact. And for me, in life is finding purpose. And if you’re… my purpose is to make teams… like, I could… if I could do any career, it would be U12 girls’ soccer. Like, I’d be a coach of that all day long. I can’t get paid for that, I’m not that great.
Brant: But the coaching is what I do in my day-to-day job.
Clinton: Love it. It’s really cool when you can apply things that you are passionate about, and then find vehicles and vestibules, if you will, inside the… inside the place that does pay you, you know, good money to…
Clinton: And then use those same skills or transport them or use near-field, near-field skills as well, right?
Clinton: And then, Robbie, I want to ask you too. You know, you’ve been working with Brant for a while, and there’s a long-standing relationship there. How does that dynamic work, when Brant’s talking about bottom-up, you know, bottom-up culture? So yes, there can be messaging, and of course leadership and the culture comes from the bottom and back… so everything in the middle is just really homogenous and together. With your experience, with Brant and say, HCA Parallon in general, how does that work? How does an… how does an outside team come in and still serve and challenge, right? It’s both things, serve and challenge, a team that, like, Brant is leading. What are… what are some of the… the ways in which you make that effective?
Robert: Yeah, I think, you know, Brant touched on it. You know, you meet leaders sometimes who are effective delegators. That means they assign tasks, you know, they get out of the way, they hand off things to their leadership. I think Brant’s approach and the culture he’s created within his team at Parallon is a culture of empowerment. And that culture of empowerment allows partners like us to come in and feel empowered as well. We don’t have a relationship where Brant’s team comes in and tells us “Hey, go do this,” and we go do it. They come in and they ask us, “Hey, I’ve gotta figure out how to do this, can you help us figure out how to do this together?” And we leverage each other’s expertise. And we push back. You know, we disagree on things, and I think that culture of empowerment is key to a successful partnership. We talk about it all the time, how we function as an extension of Brant’s team and Brant’s team functions as an extension of our team. Because we know we co-exist, right? Without Brant’s team we don’t have any purpose within Parallon. Without our team, I think Brant would agree that, you know, there are some things that probably wouldn’t go as well…
Robert: …with some of the hard work that he’s doing there. So when you think about it from a leadership perspective, I think that delegation versus empowerment kind of balance is like, Brant is definitely much more on empowerment for his leadership. Like, and his leaders are some of the best in the business, too, under his guidance.
Brant: Robbie, I think you hit it, right? It’s partnership. A lot of vendor-client relationships is a vendor-HCA relationship, and that’s not what we’re about. Like, that’s a short-term thing, I’m not into short-terms. I’m into long-term. How do we partner at the table and nobody knows the difference. I make sure, with any relationship we have, I’m like “Challenge us.” Because the problem, when you work for a big company, you can dictate anything, and the vendor relationship they’re like “Okay, we’ll do that.” Even though it’s the wrong decision. And so, if you don’t challenge us, then I have an issue. Like, if Robbie doesn’t challenge me going down the wrong direction, we go down the wrong direction, I’ll be like “Robbie, you know our relationship, why did you not challenge me and let me do that?” And so, that’s the relationship that we have. And Robbie’s team is phenomenal. And you grow the leadership from both sides to get it. And we’ve done that. And so, over the years, I think probably we’re at the closest relationship that a vendor company that I’ve been with, because you’ve been in the trenches together and you got out together.
Clinton: That’s really cool. If I had to put a word on it, it sounds healthy.
Brant: It’s very healthy.
Clinton: That’s the embodiment of it is, that’s how good relationships work, period.
Clinton: That’s… and we… at Launch, we talk about being an honest challenger, it’s one of our five differentiators that we have. And we really try to infuse that, not just train, not just talk about it. And then when it’s time to work day in day out, and I love that you pointed out, Brant, it’s like “Hey, why didn’t you speak up?”
Clinton: “Why didn’t you say ‘Dude, that’s the wrong path, you don’t wanna go there?’” Whether it’s outdated technology, or just simply a bad experience, or you didn’t overturn other rocks you should have overturned, whatever it might be… again, I would just encapsulate that with healthy. So that’s what healthy sounds like, and that’s super cool.
Clinton: Now, and I think that everybody kinda knows it when they see it and they feel it, we have relationships that our lives… in our lives, that are those, and then we have others that are not those. So let’s talk about the signs of, when an environment isn’t that. When it’s not conducive, when it feels off. So Brant. What are must-haves for you that are like, non-negotiables, when you’re trying to build the right environment? Let’s start there, with like, building that base. What does healthy… what are the paramount, you know, atomic pieces of building a healthy relationship look like? And then let’s flip it and talk about, what are things that, when the environment is off, how do you know it’s off?
Brant: Yep. So, a lot of projects and things start, and we’re executors, right? Most of us, you want to go straight into execute… “Hey, we’ve got something to deliver, let’s go execute. Execute.” There are some key things you have to do up front. Like, what’s the vision? First, what’s the mission of an organization that’s… both organizations involved, or multiple organizations, understand that mission, and understand the vision of the project, and how do we all fit into that? If you can’t explain that and connect people, they don’t really know what they’re doing. And it’s hard to motivate that when you don’t have that. So for me, the… what’s the vision, what’s the impact revealed, how do you individually fit into this and where we’re going? Set that picture so people want to go on that journey. And when you’re on that journey you have to… I’m a big values person. And so you have to have values. And everybody has to understand what the values are. For us it’s ingenuity, competence, courage, accountability. That’s like, the IT values. But for my organization, it’s pa… sorry. Purpose, passion, and perseverance. Like, whatever’s gonna happen, we’re gonna get through it. But what’s our purpose with that? When you set those values, you have people rewarding those values. Not like the leaders rewarding, that’s great, we do that. But from within, people are like “Hey, you’re livin’ perseverance, here’s what you did.” Then no matter what comes out of the project, you’re gonna be successful. But the key to all this thing is, I want the best team, but it’s like any team. Like, if I put the best athletes on a team, and I don’t set the values and tone of where we’re going, we will be unsuccessful. Because it’s everybody over the team. I want the ball, I want to take the shots, I don’t care. For any great organization, you have to make sure you set the tone, what’s the value and what we’re trying to do, and it’s team over self. And you talk about an environment where you know it’s not going well? Is when everybody starts pointing the finger at somebody else. It’s not my fault, I couldn’t do this, I hit a roadblock, I don’t know what to do. And you start to see one quality step up, and it’s the self over team. And that’s the area you have to continue to bring everybody… it’s like [indecipherable] You always have to go back to trust and build back up a team, but you’re going up and down that pyramid. And that’s the first sign that something is not right.
Clinton: I love it. And then what… so, how often do you intentionally repeat the things you talked about, to create the environment? There was perse… there were the three that you had in your particular organization…
Clinton: How often does your team hear that? How often does Robbie’s team hear that from you when y’all are working together?
Brant: Our thematical global organizations thrive with passion, perseverance, purpose. As a leader, you market it all the time. Anytime I’m in public talking, I’m going back to that. If you’re not talking about it, it doesn’t exist, right? And then they’re not talking about it. So you have to constantly communicate, communicate, communicate. There’s a principle, and I don’t know where I got it, it’s called ACT principle. Affinity, communication and trust. Right? As leaders, the only thing we can touch is communication. If I communicate more, you trust me more, you feel better, and I communicate more because now we have a relationship, we’re spinning in the right direction. If I’m not communicating, you’re probably not trusting me, you’re probably not feeling good, I’m nervous, I’m not commun… we’re going the wrong direction. So it really comes back to communication.
Clinton: Yeah. And it’s… again, one of those things you could start to feel, and you feel… you know when it’s off, right? You know when you don’t have it.
Clinton: Sometimes you can almost sometimes, sometimes if you’re not thinking about it and actively, intentionally setting it up for success and recognition, you can almost take it for granted sometimes.
Clinton: If you’re kind of not careful. But you certainly know when it’s not there. And very often, if you’re not there, it’s a little late. You’ve gotta…
Brant: Well, a lot of leaders do the upfront thing, and then they see something going wrong and they ignore it.
Clinton: Right, right.
Brant: “Oh, it’ll just get better.” And it won’t, and it makes the conversation harder, and then they really want to ignore it, because they don’t want to push the conversation.
Clinton: Right. Tough conversations, we talked about that. And then, Robbie, your relationship with Parallon and Brant, how often do you get the three Ps in the conversation? And then how do you… how do you take what is an outside team, you know, and make sure that they are also… I would say honoring their code in that way? How does that process work?
Robert: Yeah. I think, I mean, how Brant and my relationship started was actually, you know, we’re in the people business, we have challenges, things aren’t perfect. And what I started doing was, after meetings where I felt like things didn’t go well, I would call Brant. I would just call him.
Robert: And say “Hey, can we jump on the phone?” And I would have a conversation with him. And like he said, it wasn’t, like… a blame game, like “We should do this,” he wasn’t falling on the sword. He was like “Here’s the challenge we have before us.” Like, that perseverance. Like, you know, you’ve got to come to the conclusion about the path forward. We’re not gonna worry about the past, let’s fix this, what are we going to do to fix this? Very proactive. And so I think he embodied those values for us. Like… and that’s what just improved and grew our partnership over the years. And so I see that when we go into conversations about some challenge. Either a new project, a new engagement, or a challenge within an existing project. It’s like, what’s our purpose? Why are we here? What’s the outcome we’re trying to achieve, right? At Launch, we’re all about outcomes, and Brant with his team and their culture, are there to define their purpose in terms of outcome for the patients within HCA. And their partners.
Robert: So we really just rally around all those values, and Brant and I spend a lot of time on the phone or texting or something like that. But none of it is, like, “You go do this. I don’t have that time to chat, you just fix it.” You know, kind of… I’ve never had that conversation with Brant or any leader in his team. He’s like “Where are we at, what are we doing, who’s assigned to it, how do we help? Do you do this, do I do this?” Like, very collaborative, very rally around that purpose, and persevering. And so, I think… we all have a passion, I think it’s easy to rally around the passion, around what HCA’s doing. You know, caring for their patients, improving people’s lives. Like, that’s an easy, for me, easy purpose to rally around. I think the things that I see the most out of Brant’s team are the other two Ps.
Brant: And Robbie hit it. Like, so, if you’re going to improve human lives, you have to innovate, you have to challenge yourself. And so, every project we do, we’re pushing the bar. Which is a little uncomfortable in the first project, ‘cause you’re like “I don’t know if we can do that.” So it’s constantly pushing the bar, ‘cause we want to deliver the product to make an impact on human lives. Patients, physicians, communities, whatever we’re trying to do, we need to do it fast.
Clinton: Yeah. It’s a really nice back-and-forth there. I had a… a leader in a previous role, and he would use the term “Hey, that was crunchy.” Another foundational thing is absolutely, I believe, the people. The team, the makeup.
Clinton: Who’s in the room? Who’s collaborate… whether that’s a physical room, and of course, today, well beyond physical boundaries. Brant, what kind of composition do you typically want in a room when you’re looking to create this environment? So I’m looking for, are there different types of skills, different types of personalities…
Clinton: …that, regardless of the project type, you want… you want a kind of a certain slice of life in there with you. Or is it really project-dependent?
Brant: So, I like a diversified group. It is project-dependent, depending on the project is and what kind of resources I need. Obviously, people have been in the trenches with me in the past, right? ‘Cause they know what the team is, they can get through… any team that comes together, you’re going to feel the stormy normic forming. That’s gonna happen, right? And so, the faster we go through that and trust each other, the better the organization is. And so, I want the best players I can get. It doesn’t mean they’re the best on a resumé. Right? That’s… that’s great. To me, it’s how do they fit in a team, and do they know what they’re doing in their role in that team. And, you know, a lot of teams have a hard time putting a name to a task. Like, there’s three people doing it, we’ll just put all three names down. Right?
Clinton: Right. Man. Yeah.
Brant: They have to quickly get to one name. I always call it one bellybutton. It’s like, so, we know who to talk to. It’s not about a blame thing. It’s just like, we know who’s gonna get it through. And they have all the resources they can to get it through. And so I think that’s more important than specific people on a project. But you have the people in the trenches that you’ve gone through before, and you want them. With Launch, there’s some key people on the Launch team that’s been with me for three-plus years. And having them is a comfort zone for me.
Clinton: Yeah, that’s, that’s… interesting, and one of the things that we certainly preach, and another differentiator, which you were saying earlier, like, “Hey, if you’re not talking about it then it don’t exist.” For us, it’s the idea of continuous teams. The idea that from jump street with a relationship with a new client, or an existing client, a new project, having the right mix at the onset so that you can get the different perspectives… it’s not just for the sake of, the sake of different perspectives.
Clinton: It’s for the sake of expertise, and specialty, and understanding of what are we trying to do, and are there actual guardrails we have got to put in place, because we need to foundationally understand what is actually possible here, versus what is just pure unicorns? And are we doing a pure unicorn green field, who cares if it ever sticks, we just want to get some sizzle? Probably not. I mean, most likely not. Sometimes you do. But often, you need that friction, that good friction, to curb each other. And that comes with a diverse team, with skill sets and points of view on how you get… like, it’s great. Like you said, we need vision. We need to know, that’s the mountain and that’s where we’re going. Cool. We know where we’re going. Cool. We’re going to the moon by the end of… by the end of the decade. Cool, right? Probably the biggest, best vision statement ever painted. Didn’t tell us how.
Clinton: It wasn’t like, JFK didn’t sit there and be like “Okay, this is exactly the mission…” No, no. It was just, “We’re gonna get there, we’re gonna land, we’re gonna make it happen.” So the path wasn’t figured out yet, and of course they put the right people together to make it happen.
Brant: But you’ve gotta get buy-in. So, like, “We’re gonna get to the moon by the end of the decade.” Well, I don’t think we are. “Well, let’s sit in a room. Do you think we can do that?” Yes. Yes. Everybody says yes. We don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it.
Clinton: Yeah. So, speaking of space and science, I love astrophysics, it’s one of my hobbies. There’s a great podcast called “Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe,” if anybody out there just… it’s really cool. ‘Cause you have a CERN astrophysicist who operates and works on the large hadron collider, and then there’s a cartoonist. Who’s an engineer, so he’s a, you know, a smart dude in his own right, and his whole purpose is to simplify what the scientist is saying. And it’s really, really interesting. And, uh… so yeah, just a little aside there, that if folks who wanna… just learn a bit more about that area. But they talk a lot about the two worlds of theoretical physicists and physics, and then experimental physicists. And they have debates on which one’s more important, et cetera et cetera. And my takeaway is, you kinda need both.
Clinton: You need to have the people that can theorize and say, “I think this is possible.” And you need the people to get in the lab and get under the hood, and say “I’m going to try to prove it.” Or, very often in science, disprove it. (Laughs) Maybe they wanna say, “No no no, I don’t think we can get to the moon,” right? In the… of course, in that case we did. In your role, how about the experimental side of what we’re talking about today, Brant? And applying the lessons at a project or program level? Can you walk us through examples where you’re taking the vision-setting, you’re taking the theory, and then you’re applying it experimentally with success?
Brant: I think a lot of the projects that we do at Parallon HCA are ones that nobody else has done, right? We always go out to the market like “Is there anybody that’s done this thing?” And a lot of the big things that we do, we… our size and our amount of hospitals and what we’re trying to accomplish is unique. And everybody thinks they’re unique, but we are unique in this space. And so we’ve had lots of projects, and the one Robbie is on right now, clinical data registry and abstraction, which we call ROSI, is one that we have where there’s nothing in the market. We dream big, you have to dream big… which, you know, you’ve got the dreamers and you’ve got the ones that are doers. Your doers are like, “There’s no way.” Right? And the dreamer is, “Yeah we can, and here’s what we can do.” At some point, they come together and that makes the perfect project. Where we’re still pushing ourselves, dreaming big, but like… it’s like, so you’re saying there’s an opportunity. Yes. There’s an opportunity, we can do this, right?
Brant: And then, as you get wins… and there’s gonna be challenges, there’s gonna be… you’re gonna miss dates because it’s harder than you thought. But you’re constantly renegotiation, you’re kinda changing scope a little bit. But you’re still going bigger than what the doers originally said we could do. And that’s key for us. And that’s what Parallon has been successful for the many years that we’ve been here, is pushing the limits to get the ROI and impact that we’re trying to get.
Clinton: Yeah. And on the ROSI project specifically, I know that one fairly well myself, that was the one that was nominated and then won one our Launch Innovation Awards at our Nexus event. We mentioned Nexus earlier, so that was a little foreshadowing, we were mentally teasing you there, folks, roping you in with the term “Nexus,” like… you’re curious, what’s Nexus? What’s Nexus? And we bring you back here, right? And that was a really cool project, and we were so happy to honor you and have you out in Napa, and have the team out there to celebrate that as well. And the… Robbie, I think Brant is really doing a great job for us, in terms of… what I mean by that is, serving up the terms to… like, we talk about pragmatic visionaries. That’s, again, another one of our core differentiators is, we want to help you be a visionary and, like you said, I think, Brant, really nicely, you gotta have the doers in the room. You gotta understand what is actually possible. And… but you still, even within that dynamic, you gotta challenge each other. You’ve got to push each other. So Robbie, how do you get the team to go in with that mentality of like, “Hey, Brant’s gonna wanna do… he’s gonna want to land this thing on the moon. And we have… we gotta… and yes, we’re gonna get there, and we gotta show him the best way.” And how to, given all… I’m sure, tons of business constraints, things that just technologically exist that you have to get around. How do you strike that balance? What’s the conversations like?
Robert: Yeah. I think, you know, we’ve talked about it along the way. And along with the NASA analogies, and how cool everything is that NASA does, you know, I think back to the space shuttle Columbia disaster…
Robert: …and sort of the management, you know, theories that came out of that groupthink, right? Where people were just listening to the smartest person or the most experienced person in the room. And when I think about how we engage on some of this, you know, courageous work that we’re doing alongside Brant’s team is that, you know, he touched on… two things are empowerment, and diverse opinions. We have team members in Ohio, in Nevada, in California, in various states in the Southeast as well as Ann Arbor, Michigan, working on the engagements that Brant and his team are undertaking. And we try to, on our side, come to the table with that same empowerment, in saying “Hey, this might not be the right approach. We’ve gotta challenge it. We’ve gotta revisit this. How do we, courageously, with Brant’s support and his team’s support, go to our partners and say ‘Look, we’ve gotta rethink this’?” We didn’t have it right out of the gate. I think everybody agrees, when you innovate, you have to be able to ball some stuff up, throw it in the trash can and start over. And I think we’ve done that multiple times. So I always, you know, empower our teams to be fearless when it comes to these engagements, to bring their opinions, bring their whole self to it, and say “Hey, if you don’t feel 100% comfortable, if you have some sort of feeling internally, express it.” And we have a culture of collaboration, a culture of openness, that allows us to do that. I mean, there’s a lot of times where our team and Brant’s team are like, locked in a meeting or on Zoom calls for hours on end, trying to figure things out and brainstorming things, and spitballing ideas. And, you know, again, that culture of empowerment and diverse opinions, diverse perspectives, really comes into play there.
Clinton: Absolutely. Hundred percent. Let’s take it a step further. When you’ve got a vision set on a project or a product you want to go at, and you’ve got the right team, you believe you have the right team. Tactically, what are some of the things you start to do with that team? Or, what’s… in fact, what’s the first thing you do with a team like that, to get them to take it and then really get that experiment off… off the docks, if you will? Are there certain go-to things that you could share?
Brant: Yeah, I think it’s… again, it’s execution and making sure you have the right hands, scrum-masters involved that are driving things forward, and that you understand the work that’s happened, who’s doing it, and where are we at? Successful? Did you hit a roadblock? Looking to get through that? And so you have the right amount of meetings at the right moment, at the right length with the right people. Which is a lot of right things. And we’ve all been in meetings like… “We just spent an hour, I have no idea what we accomplished.” When you have a culture like that, everything just goes off the rails. And so you have to make sure it’s running… it’s like a dance, right? Like, when you watch dancers in a play or something, and how they move. Projects are the same way. And you’ll know when the dance is off, and you’ll know when the dance is going good. But it… out of the gate, making sure that’s set and you’re doing it.
Clinton: Yeah. And to me, that screams very strong, just, PMs with great communication skill. Who understand how to prep and then execute.
Clinton: It might seem run-of-the-mill, it might seem day-to-day. However… and it is, in many ways, day-to-day. However, like you said, if it’s off it has such a negative impact on every single person on that call. And then also, it bleeds out, because then someone goes to Slack and says “Oh my gosh, it’s been 45 minutes of nothing.” It’s just, it permeates in a really negative way, and we talk about that cycle you were hinting at earlier, and it really can reverse things in a way that you just don’t want, right? And then what about things like design-led versus technical MVPs? Is that more, hey, it’s project-dependent? Or is there a philosophy that you’d rather lead out with a design-led piece, or “Hey, no no no, let’s get a functioning piece of software first, before most.” Or is there a hybrid?
Brant: So, I don’t know about all the MVPs, but I think if you have the right designs up front to get to an MVP, again, if you don’t design it properly, the MVP won’t be successful.
Brant: And that’s the problem with a lot of technology projects, is you’ve got the technical people leading, where they’re great at this but not at that, and they’re going to design something that doesn’t work well, and is not thinking about the end user. So you can’t skip that process of the design and have the right UI/UX people involved.
Clinton: Yeah. That makes… I mean, to me, that’s… certainly makes sense to me as well. And I guess from your perspective, Robbie, do you have to convince certain people, not just at Parallon, but when you’re dealing, when you’re talking with clients, do you sometimes have to convince them, like, “No, no, no, we should spend time on the UI/UX, the user research, the early-stage prototyping and testing, with like high-fidelity, even low-fidelity design…” Do you still feel like you have to do convincing of that, and that some folks don’t see the value quite yet? Or, has kind of the world of technology caught up with that philosophy?
Robert: I mean, I think in general there… I mean, in the market, a lot of folks have not caught up to it. I think, you know, at Launch, you know, our propensity to get working software in people’s hands as fast as possible, and having design-led engagements ,like Brant said, that’s served us well in Brant’s team, I think. For the CDRA project, the ROSI project, like Brant said, we went from like a 75-slide PowerPoint presentation to a POC within two months. And that was the big momentum shift. It was like, eyes started opening, people started engaging and rolling up their sleeves. And that’s where, you know, the business leadership at HCA really started digging in, and providing feedback. So when we talk about, you know… (Laughs) Not to oversell… the catalyst for the real innovation around the ROSI project was working software, and having design leadership involved in the beginning, that POC, that MVP of that solution drove the right conversations. Because it’s easy to speculate over something that doesn’t exist.
Robert: It’s easy to get into a circular conversation about what this thing should be, until it exists. Once it exists, then the people who really have the vision for what the solution would be roll up their sleeves, and start “Well, it’d be better if this happened. It’d be better… what about this, can we do this?”
Robert: Like, then you get meaningful feedback. All of the banter and the circular conversations kind of fade away. And that’s what we really try to do. And with Brant’s leadership and the culture that he’s created, our team can fearlessly go into that. We can say, attend all of these meetings, talk about all of these details and the strategy behind this and all the… and glean from that the right insights, and the right way, go work on something, and put working software in people’s hands, to then drive it even more forward and capitalize on that momentum. And that’s the relationship we have. But yeah, I think, broader market perspective is, not a lot of people really trust that working software can do that.
Robert: But we’ve done that with every engagement with Brant and his team.
Clinton: Which is, which is a testament to… again, back to leadership and culture. And then, Brant, what I’m… when Robbie was detailing that, what came up for me is like, my shoulders start going up in a positive way, of like, “Ooh.” ‘Cause I know that feeling. I know when you get to an MVP and you have that… that holy you-know-what moment of, like, “Oh. This is possible.” And it’s not just “Okay, we’re gonna go to the moon,” and we have this vision, and then you have your discussions and go “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we think we can do it, we think we can do it, aggressive timeline! We think we can do it.” And then you get that first piece of… and especially if it is designed, right? If it does have a… I’m not saying it’s a finished polish, of course, but if it has… if it has the right feel, if it has the right look, if it has the right care, is the way I’d put it in there, that they’ve already pre-thought about the user and it’s applied through the technology, how do you use that, back to culture, how do you use that as a mechanism for further acceleration? Like… and I mean literally. How do you take it around and parade it, and who do you bring that to?
Brant: Yeah. It’s… so, it’s a… when we say partnership, it’s a partnership with everybody. So, for us it’s a business partnership. We’re the ones financing it, they’re the ones selling it. We’re there with them…
Brant: When you get to, like, MVP, and you can touch it, feel it, you can start seeing it, then it’s real, the thing is, when you start now communicating that and bringing it to the higher executives, they love it. “How do you do it faster? I want it now. More, more, more.”
Brant: So you have to balance that out, because that’s where it’s gonna go, right? So you gotta balance getting to more, and what’s the ROI. But that is the success. If you can’t get the MVP, then it’s like… the trust with you is kinda going away, and if we’re gonna invest this kind of money, is there somewhere else we can invest in the company that’s a better ROI for the company? So you have to hit some of these things. If you try to go beyond MVP before MVP, it probably won’t last the next year’s budgeting process.
Clinton: Which is, I think, fascinating too, because back to the idea of pragmatic visionary. And it’s not… and it’s not to put it in a box. It is to say, though, that there is an effective way to do it. There is an effective way to stage these things, and they’re not without intent, they’re not without aim. They are very, very much purposeful, because they give you the right momentum that we believe… HCA Parallon, just our clients in general. Not our clients. People who might listen to this that aren’t clients yet, never will be. Doesn’t really matter. It’s just about the right thing at the right time. You said earlier, right meeting, right duration, right time, right outcome. You know, right MVP at the right time, to really give you that accelerations, and then yet have the smarts to make sure you’re curving up the level, going up to say “Okay, yes. We’re glad you love it, and we’re glad you’re going to fund it…”
Brant: “It’s not ready to go to the moon yet.”
Clinton: Yes. “Here’s the real timeline, and no you can’t demo it next week at our big thing,” right?
Clinton: Because that’s always, “Oh, why can’t I demo it? Why can’t I demo it?” Like, “Um… not quite yet.” But that’s always a fun… but that’s a good, that’s a great place to be. That’s like…
Brant: A great problem to have.
Clinton: Yeah. You’re Vanderbilt, right? That’s a pitching warehouse, too much pitching in baseball, right? Really good problem to have. Brant, we mentioned LinkedIn earlier. I’d love for folks to make sure they are connecting with you, I find you to be an open collaborator, and I bet you’d welcome folks who are listeners to hit you up and ask questions and just connect. Connect as a human, as you said. So, it’s Brant, b-r-a-n-t, beard, b-e-a-r-d. Best way to find, just go, search on LinkedIn, is that it? Or is there a Twitter, is there some other place where you have…
Brant: Yeah. Search on LinkedIn, I talk to everybody. So reach out, ask to talk to me, I’d love to talk to you. My job is to make people better in this world, and so if I can help in any way, I’m always available.
Clinton: Yeah. And Brant, you mentioned your job, and we just got on before, we talked a few minutes before we recorded, that now you’re taking on a dual role. So I think it’d be kind of nice to, uh…
Clinton: You know, we went through all this culture, innovation things, and you know, yeah, VP of Application Services, I think I, think from the top of the sheet it’s something like that, it’s close enough to the pin. But now you’ve got this dual role that really is about the things we just spent, you know, 45, 50 minutes chatting about. What’s the title of that role, and when did you start?
Brant: Yeah. So, I’m AVP of Workforce Talent Development now. And so I’m transitioning to that role. And it’s kind of… everything we’ve talked about, but not just doing it for my department. I’m doing it for all of ITG. HCA just got 6,000 employees. So you think, from connecting universities, to onboarding, technical training, to leadership training, to retirement, and how can we utilize you after you leave the company. So, it’s everything there. I think about, you look at your day and what you’re really good at, and what you’re excellent at, and I think what I’m excellent at is now my full-time job.
Clinton: Love it. Hey, what a great place to land, on that. We talked about finding the passion, right? And then finding ways to magnify that in your professional… in your professional role, right? So that, so that you can do more U12 coaching, so that Robbie, you can get out with your son and coach more U7. So I want to give a huge thanks. Robbie, A, foremost, for coming on and co-hosting with me today. Enjoy Nashville, I know it’s hot, stay cool down there brother, have fun. Hopefully you get to see Brant later today. And of course, a huge thanks to Brant Beard for joining us on Catalyst. I can say with full sincerity, go find him on LinkedIn, you’ll be glad you did. Brant, we appreciate you sharing your head and your heart with us today. Because in this studio, we believe in shipping software over slideware, that fast will follow smooth, and aiming to create digital experiences that move millions is a very worthy pursuit. Join us next time as that pursuit continues on Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Thank you.
[CATALYST OUTRO MUSIC]