Monthly Archive: July 2014

Using MBTI for Project Success

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can be a useful tool for identifying ideal team behavior for project management.Project managers deal with numerous factors impacting success, including budget constraints, stringent timelines and technical issues. Yet one of the most common issues is communication breakdowns among different personality types on the team. By identifying and codifying different personality types, project managers can enhance the effectiveness of their teams, balancing team member strengths and weaknesses, and improving the overall project outcome.

Based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely used personality assessment tool. It enables people to identify their natural preferences that guide decision-making, determine how they gather information, structure their lives and understand how they derive their personal energy.

To determine their MBTI type, individuals complete a multiple choice questionnaire that asks them to choose their preferences in a wide variety of situations. The results translate into a four-letter type, based on four dimensions, each with two preferences: Source of Energy (Extraversion or Introversion); Information (Sensing or Intuitive); Decisions (Thinking or Feeling); and Structure (Judging or Perceiving). For instance, in terms of how one makes decisions, some people use a more logical, objective thought process (called “Thinking”) while others focus on the impact the decision will have on the people involved (called “Feeling”).

Psychologists use MBTI to determine an individual’s personality characteristics and how they affect his or her approach to anything from socialization to problem-solving. Similarly, managers can utilize MBTI when choosing team members, to improve communications, efficiency and, ultimately, the success of the project.

Navigating personalities

The brain dictates how an employee engages with projects and approaches his or her responsibilities. Psychological type preferences can either complement each other, actively supporting success, or interfere with progress by clashing with one another. We’ve all been on teams where one or two personality types dominated; it can be very unpleasant and undermine the success of team’s effort.

But it’s not just about individuals getting along. Preferences don’t only clash or mesh with one another—they can have degrees of harmony or dissonance with the project itself. For different types of projects, different personality types can be a real asset to the team. In her article “Optimizing Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Training: Practical Applications,” Jennifer Tucker, Ph.D., outlined the ranging personalities that can impact success.

For instance, some projects are more externally-focused, and can draw on the strengths of extraverts. Other projects may focus more on possibilities, not just the facts. Intuitive types are a real boon in those situations. Likewise, having Feeling types on a project that focuses on the consumer can help the team really understand the end-user in a way that a Thinking type—who relies on logic and objectivity—might miss. A project in the beginning phases can benefit from the Perceiving type, who is open to new information, and resists quick decisions. But, then again, when you need structure and closure, the Judging type is your go-to person.

Planning projects around personalities

For leaders, the trick is to discover the balance that benefits the project and mitigates risk. Managers have to decide how to utilize each personality to their project’s advantage. For example, teams that lean toward introversion may lack the continual communication needed to maintain support from senior leadership. On the other hand, projects heavily influenced by Perceiving types might struggle with expectation management, such as meeting proposed deadlines. To find the right balance, managers should pick team members that bring both preferences to the table, engaging stakeholders while making swift project decisions.

While leaders can benefit by applying personality types to project management, the MBTI isn’t the only tool for determining team selection. With the right balance of personalities and effective communication skills, managers can identify individuals who bring the necessary experience for a successful project.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/using-mbti-for-project-success/

Sloppy Records Disposal Triggers $800K Fine and Corrective Action Plan

Sloppy Records DisposalWith all the talk about HIPAA over the past decade, most people in the U.S. now expect their confidential health care information and records (collectively “PHI”) to be just that…confidential. We expect our providers to assure its privacy and security. But this is not always the case. Read about this incident.

In September 2008, Parkview Hospital in Ohio took custody of approximately 5,000 to 8,000 patient records pertaining to a retiring physician’s medical practice. Parkview was considering purchasing some of the physician’s practice and was assisting the retiring physician to transition her patients to new providers. By taking custody of the PHI, Parkview assumed the responsibility for the private and secure management of the retiring physician’s PHI. However, on June 4, 2009, despite having custody of the records and with knowledge that the retiring physician was not at home at the time of the incident, Parkview employees left 71 cardboard boxes of medical records on the driveway of the physician’s home, within 20 feet of the public road and a short distance away from a heavily trafficked public shopping venue. This action exposed the PHI to unauthorized access and constituted a HIPAA breach.[i]

The retiring physician reported the breach to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), resulting in an investigation by its Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Parkview cooperated with the OCR investigation. The outcome was an $800,000 civil money sanction and a corrective action plan requiring the revision of Parkview’s policies and procedures, staff training and regular reports to OCR on compliance with the corrective action plan. The extended regulatory oversight and related costs for auditors can be a greater sanction and intrusion into daily operations than any sanction check that has to be written.

HIPAA and HITECH mandate that healthcare providers and managing healthcare entities are responsible for the privacy and security of PHI from the time it is created until the time it is securely destroyed.  This includes implementing and monitoring PHI policies and procedures as well as training and monitoring staff compliance with them. Failure to do so can subject healthcare providers or entities to sanctions and regulatory oversight through corrective action plans. HIPAA regulations have been in effect since 2003. HITECH regulations, enacted in 2009, have heightened sanctions for failing to protect PHI, including added sanctions up to $1.5M per year for willful neglect levied against covered entities that can demonstrate no reasonable efforts towards HIPAA/HITECH compliance.

It’s hard to believe that breaches such as the above incident are still taking place. But the OCR confirms that it is quite busy with similar investigations. It is starting up its random audit program again in October 2014 to get the message across that HIPAA/HITECH compliance is mandatory. The message from HHS is that sanctions will increase when non-compliance is identified such as in the case cited above and those noted on its Wall of Shame at www.hhs.gov.


[i] See $800,000. HIPAA Fine- Blatant Violations Continue to Occur, www.Medlaw.com, posted June 25, 2014


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/sloppy-records-disposal-triggers-800k-fine-and-corrective-action-plan/

Cyber Criminals’ Target of Choice: Healthcare

Cyber Criminals’ Target of Choice: HealthcareData thieves are feasting at the healthcare information and data buffet. The healthcare industry needs to act quickly to manage this problem.

Last year, the healthcare industry experienced more data breaches than any other industry. There were 269 incidents reported with more than 8.8 million healthcare records compromised, equaling 43.8% of breaches reported across relevant industries, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). So far in 2014, ITRC found that healthcare organizations are trending even higher representing 45.8% of breaches industrywide. And these statistics are only for breaches that have been reported.

The vulnerability of healthcare information and data is increasing. The FBI warned healthcare providers that their data security systems lag behind other industry sectors. This warning asserts that the healthcare industry is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors. Therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely.

The results of risk analyses performed across the healthcare industry, including the results of the initial Office of Civil Rights (OCR) audit program, point to a lack of investment by healthcare in privacy and data security, a lack of attention to these issues at the executive level, and a tendency to spend only minimal resources to implement HIPAA/HITECH compliance plans. As the above statistics confirm, healthcare remains not only vulnerable but a preferred target for cyber criminals.

Why are cyber criminals focused on healthcare? Quite simply, that’s where the money is. The value of medical data is proving to be far more lucrative than other types of personal data. For example, a single person’s medical identity information can fetch hundreds of dollars compared to just a dollar or two or even less for a Social Security or credit card number, according to experts. Such medical identity information can provide access to prescriptions for drugs that can be re-sold, and can cover expensive medical treatment for the wrong party.

Healthcare data breaches are not only the work of shadowy hackers working out of foreign countries. In as many cases, the breaches are the work of healthcare providers’ own employees. Failure to invest in and implement verifiable privacy and security programs within the organization itself which include meaningful and appropriate workforce training programs is costing healthcare providers millions of dollars in sanctions and corrective action settlement agreements to combat carelessness such as loss of laptop computers and other devices with unencrypted data and unauthorized snooping into or copying patient records and data. Breach reports and complaints are patient and consumer driven and can be made directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by disgruntled individuals. Breaches can also result from criminality by an employee acting on his or her own to steal healthcare data outright for personal gain.

Also, as electronic health records systems (EHRs) become more prevalent and sophisticated, the risk of medical identity theft continues to grow. Providers are accountable for data security efforts to remain on top of current threats, identify emerging problem areas and stay ahead of the myriad of new threats. Further, HITECH has pulled Business Associates and Business Associate sub-contractors into the HIPAA/HITECH regulatory realm.

Healthcare, as an industry, has a long way to go to match their counterparts in the financial and banking sectors, which have invested heavily in data privacy and security. These industries experienced only 3.7% of data breaches and less than 1% of compromised records. Excuses are no longer being tolerated by HHS, willful neglect (failure to demonstrate any effort at HIPAA/HITECH compliance) is being sanctioned at a rate of $1.5 M per year on top of corrective action settlements, and random audits by OCR are beginning again in October of 2014. Now is the time to act.

For assistance with your HIPAA/HITECH compliance efforts, contact Patricia Wynne, Esq., CIPP at pwynne@meritcd.com or by phone at 610-225-0193.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/cyber-criminals-target-of-choice-healthcare/

When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is Key

When the Test Stakes are High, Practice is KeyRemember the morning you took the SAT? Or GMAT? Or LSAT? Like many professionals, you probably have vivid memories of worrying about these tests, not to mention pouring over test prep books and attending expensive courses to maximize your scores. After all, the results would play a major role in your future direction and career.

Even now that you are in the professional world, the testing doesn’t necessarily end. Many professions, including project management, offer test-based professional certifications where success has profound and positive professional consequences in the form of career advancement, higher salary and the respect of your peers.

However, as enticing as those benefits can be, professional exams, preparing for and passing a test—like the one necessary to earn the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation awarded by the Project Management Institute—is difficult. Moreover, as a working professional, test preparation not only has to be effective, it also needs to be time efficient. Few professionals have time for weeks- or months-long preparation classes.

Practice, practice, practice

The good news is that research suggests that this kind of time commitment is not necessary to maximize results. A simpler approach to test preparation can be highly effective for many people. The research indicates that the key to maximizing test scores is becoming familiar with the test format and the types of questions being asked by taking practice tests. This practice testing helps you get used to the thinking and problem solving you will need to pass the formal test.

For example, a team of German researchers found that students taking both “high-stakes” and “low-stakes” tests (based on how much of a personal investment the students had in the outcome of the test) performed substantially better when they took practice tests. Similarly, another study of school-age children found that just three hours of practice testing had a statistically significant impact on final test results.

If you are pursuing the PMP designation, for example, Merit Career Development’s Project Management Assessment offers such a practice test. The assessment consists of 50 multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty that takes about an hour to complete and tests your knowledge of the PMBOK Guide’s (Project Management Book of Knowledge®) practices and terms.

Merit’s PMI examination simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®,helps prepare certification candidates in an easy and efficient way. Candidates become accustomed to the kinds of questions asked during the examination while practicing with the X-AM PMP®/CAPM®, which includes over a thousand questions with feedback on each one.

To coach or not?

Less clear is the impact of coaching on test performance. Some research suggests that coaching, while not essential, can also help prepare you and help improve your scores when coupled with practice test taking. However, one study of 500 SAT test takers who had participated in formal coaching programs found little difference in the scores of those who received this coaching and those who did not.

The core argument for practice testing is that these assessments help you understand what to expect before you take the actual exam. When you know what to expect, taking the exam becomes much less daunting. That, in turn, helps you build confidence in your ability to do well on the test. Research has shown that practice tests alone can help improve both test-taking capability and test-taking confidence.

Moreover, in a sort of virtuous cycle in which positive action leads to more positive action, as your greater familiarity with the test breeds confidence, it also makes you more motivated to take the test. And let’s face it, when a professional certification test costs several hundred dollars, building this confidence is an essential part of the test preparation. You will be more committed to taking the test and feel much more comfortable paying for it, if you are confident that you will pass.

Interested in learning more? Click here to view Merit’s Project Management Assessment and the PMI prep simulator, X-AM PMP®/CAPM®.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/when-the-test-stakes-are-high-practice-is-key/

Independent & Hardworking, Gen X Wants Balance

Gen Xer

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace: Part One

The eclectic mix of employee personalities and working styles can be challenging in itself. However, with roughly three different generations working together at one time, multiple perspectives, and varying levels of experience, compound the complexity of training.

Generation X—birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s—has worked for more than two decades. With Generations Y and Z entering the fold, what’s the most effective method of communication with this cohort? As the first of a four-part series, let’s break down Generation X.

The concept of authority

According to annual surveys administered by the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, Gen Xers are defined as people who are highly educated, active, balanced and family-oriented. The study gathers data using various questions and responses from roughly 4,000 participants who were surveyed each year from 1987 through 2010.

The LSAY is a project funded by the National Science Foundation that began in 1985 and is designed to measure the development of student attitudes toward achievements and career paths in a range of subject areas. The participants are surveyed during middle school, high school and the first four years of post-high school.

Forbes magazine explained that Gen Xers view their superiors as experts whose work experience and skill levels demand a high level of consideration and respect. They believe that being an authoritative figure in the workplace is a substantial achievement and earned through hard work and dedication. They also like structure and direction from senior leadership, but are self-reliant when completing a task.

The perception of balance

According to Training magazine, Gen Xers strive to find a balance between the office and home. Because baby boomers are usually loyal to their workplace, Gen Xers might view their older colleagues as workaholics who are afraid of change and lack adaptability. Being brought up during a shift in technological advancements, Generation X learns from a range of modalities – from traditional, instructor-led training to online classroom environments.

Leaders should understand how Gen Xers operate and incorporate various methods to effectively engage them in the training environment. These include a mixture of visual activities, like PowerPoint presentations combined with virtual quizzes and polls. The best communication balance for managers is to provide adequate feedback to Gen Xers: It can serve as a viable motivator for continuing—or improving—their strong work ethic.

The power of engagement

Caught in-between two very different generations—baby boomers and millennials—Gen Xers are a blend of the old and new guards. They can endure the nitty-gritty grind of completing projects, but they also appreciate working autonomously on various assignments.

Knowing this, managers should leverage the Generation X motivators and accommodate their unique perspectives on the workplace. Direct and immediate feedback keeps them engaged and happy, contributing to the company’s success and maintaining high employee morale as well. For example, exploring monetary bonus plans for completing assignments can provide Gen Xers with the encouragement they need for optimal performance.

To work efficiently on bolstering productivity and engagement, managers need to understand the characteristics of Generation X. But with Generations Y and Z in the workplace as well, they have to accommodate for varying personalities. Stay tuned for our next feature on the Millennials and their own specific intricacies.

Review a course list or contact Merit today for more information.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/different-generations-in-the-workplace-engaging-gen-x/

Learning Through Play Enhances Employee Engagement

Through gaming and play, employees can experience positive emotions that enhance learning retention rates.Through gaming and play, employees can experience positive emotions that enhance their learning retention rates.

Regardless of age or experiences, we all play games in some way or another. But games aren’t just about play; they educate. From smartphone puzzle-oriented hits like Candy Crush Saga to games of “peekaboo,” in which infants learn object permanence, games and learning have gone hand in hand for thousands of years. So what happens when you take learning through play and apply it to online training courses?

Beyond childhood games

According to The Institute of Play, after the Civil War, members of Rhode Island’s volunteer regiment played a “game” called American Kriegsspiel. Derived from the German word meaning “war play,” American Kriegsspiel was designed as a training system for Prussian military officers in 1812. War and simulation have a much older history though: Chess, one of the oldest games still in existence, was used throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to teach noblemen war strategies. Battle tactics were part of their jobs, and the most efficient training was often through play. The famous back-and-forth nature of a “Socratic” dialogue has parallels in tennis, fencing and other sparring games.

Today, thanks to the technological advancements in smartphones and other mobile devices, almost everyone has become a “gamer.” The term might carry a stigma with business professionals, but used as part of an effective training regimen, games can make a huge impact on employee retention and performance.

Empowering employees through play

Game designer and author Jane McGonigal has found that play can create a sense of hope and empowerment. According to her research, gaming produces and heightens positive emotions when individuals are participating and feel engaged. Emotions are one of the most effective tools training instructors can leverage. Jim Spaulding, technical instructor at Merit Career Development, believes that evoking emotions from students is essential to improving learning retention and employee engagement.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the 87 percent of workers who currently feel disengaged at their jobs could potentially cost companies trillions of dollars in lost productivity. Play might be the key to changing these attitudes and reengaging employees.

McGonigal feels that gaming can create behavioral changes that lead to better performances from employees. Her research found that two areas of the brain “light up” when a person is actively engaged in gaming: the caudate and thalamus, the goal-oriented rewards center of the brain, and the hippocampus, where learning and memory reside. These two parts of the brain are the lynch pins of retention, marrying motivation and memorization through emotional response and other stimuli.

Employees can only improve their skills if they’re engaged and attentive during training. By designing courses where learning happens through play—rather than drilling information through presentations—senior leaders can ensure that their associates are gleaning the most meaningful lessons possible from training.

Review a course list or contact Merit today for more information.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/learning-through-play-enhances-employee-engagement/

To Manage Your Stakeholders Effectively, Start with a Communications Plan

The difference in project plan outcomes with and without a good communication plan is a real eye-opener for managers. When well-executed, the workflow of a project can advance seamlessly among stakeholders and break down departmental communication silos. Managing project stakeholders is critical to the success of every project. The first step to developing an efficient and effective communications plan is to assess the individuals on the team to determine who are the most essential team members for the project.

Building the grid

Throughout their training and certification, project managers learn about the communication plan process and the role it plays in effective project management. Without a plan, communications can be disjointed and fractured, creating the potential for conflict and miscommunication. Because stakeholders often consist of contributors from different disciplines and functions, managers should conduct a thorough analysis of their team to determine the right talent for each aspect of the communication plan. Stakeholder gridOne technique is to build a plotted grid that conveys each stakeholder’s relationship to the project. Doing so facilitates the categorization of individual employees, determining where his or her efforts will be most effective for the project. In the grid, the X axis identifies the level of interest, or how much the stakeholder will be affected by the outcome, and the Y axis signifies influence, or how much he or she can impact the finished project. Each quadrant, measured from low to high, would help measure the specific value of each project team member and develop the framework for the communication plan. Using the grid, leaders measure how much members of a team will contribute to the success of the project. Employees with high levels of interest and power would be more effective than members with lower levels of these attributes, while those with mixed levels can still positively influence the assignment. From there, managers must decide who will be included in the project.

Managing stakeholder expectations

Stakeholders can vary in terms of influence and interests. While the team assignment itself could drive completion, many factors can impact the project’s success. Several warning signs can point to project management trouble, such as missed deadlines and conflicts among stakeholders. To combat these challenges and break down communication silos, project managers must actively follow their communication plans to the end. It is the only way to keep stakeholders in check and ensure that the project’s needs are met in an efficient manner. Regular meetings—both virtual and in-person—can keep everyone up to speed on progress and serve to better manage stakeholders’ expectations.

Learning from experienced professionals

At Merit Career Development, courses are customized to provide flexibility and meet an organization’s needs. In its experience running effective project management training, Merit has found that many managers were not creating a communication plan, endangering the success of their projects. To illustrate the impact ineffective communication plans can make, Merit had managers run a simulation of a stakeholders meeting without a communication strategy in place. The inefficiencies of this non-strategy were apparent from the start. Merit then had the managers run through the same scenario with a communication plan in place. The differences were dramatic. There was a marked improvement in performance as managers realized the indispensable benefits of effectual planning and were able to better coordinate efforts among the team. Teaching project managers the essentials of developing effective communications plans has become an important component of Merit’s project management training. Merit actively looks to turn on the light bulb for project managers so that the value of efficient communication is crystal clear for them. The solution lies in getting the participants to struggle in the first hour of training in order to understand the benefits of the second hour and the importance of a plan. This can help save time and reduce errors, repetition and confusion among stakeholders and lead to better financial gains for the business. To learn more, review Merit’s course list or contact Merit today.

Click here to find out more about Merit's Stakeholder Management Course


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/to-manage-your-stakeholders-effectively-start-with-a-communications-plan/