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In this episode, Michelle Greene, EVP, Chief Information Officer at Cardinal Health explores the the captivating intersection of healthcare and technology with Pari Natarajan, CEO, Zinnov. The conversation delves into how leadership should start with empathy, and the pivotal role of data in revolutionizing healthcare distribution processes.
Discover the strategies and insights that drive innovation, resilience, and transparency in the healthcare technology sector. Known for her 20 years of global tech expertise, Michelle’s takes us through her inspirational journey from data analyst to CIO.
Michelle’s leadership philosophy places a strong emphasis on kindness, collaboration, and servant leadership. She underscores the symbiotic relationship between her success and that of her team, fostering a culture of mutual support.
Tune in now, to hear about how business and technology can co-exist in harmony, with the right leadership.
Pari: Welcome everyone to a special episode focused on Resilience and Innovation in Healthcare. I’m Pari Natarajan, your host and CEO of Zinnov, a technology focused management consulting firm. Today, I have the privilege of speaking with Michelle Greene, Chief Information Officer at Cardinal Health, a leading Healthcare services company improving patients life through medical products and data driven care.
Michelle, with over 20 years of global tech and leadership experience, is a true luminary in the realm of healthcare technology. With a stellar career marked by innovation and leadership, she has been at the forefront of revolutionizing the intersection of healthcare and technology. Welcome, Michelle. We are thrilled to have you in this episode.
Michelle Greene: Hi, thank you so much. And I appreciate the opportunity.
Pari: Great. Let’s get started, Michelle. You have worked in it for years across several industries. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to Chief Information Officer at Cardinal Health? What led you here?
Michelle Greene: Yes, I always tease that I feel like sometimes I didn’t choose technology, but technology chose me. But I actually started, if we go way back, I started as a data type analyst for Florida State University and that moved me then into a realm of understanding better data. But also understanding the importance of business and technology and the intersection that was required and making sure that we’re not talking past one another. So, for me, I discovered early that I had a unique ability to straddle the fence. Be technical, but also able to translate that for the business.
So I’ve had the opportunity to work for Mellon Bank. I’ve worked for Johnson Controls. I worked for Sony Ericsson. I worked for Masco and now had an opportunity to come to work for Cardinal Health. And it’s been quite a journey so far.
Pari: Amazing. You know, starting at a Data Analyst to growing into a CIO, and to be able to get to that place, very few people usually get there. It’s very inspirational. So what has been your leadership mantra you go by and what are some of the core values for you as a leader which got you here?
Michelle Greene: So I would tell you one of my first values is we have to be kind to one another. There are so many times that just within large organizations or organizations at all, we need the ability to be kind and be able to work well together. I have told my teams many times if people do not want to work with you, they will not want to work for you. So that’s been one of the things that I try to stay focused on.
Although hierarchical on a org chart, I am the leader of an organization, for me, it is important to make sure that my team understands we’re in this together and we’re working together as one unit. And not even just peers, but even when you think about my direct reporting team or even their direct reports, I like to believe that when we’re in the trenches, trying to work on projects, get things done. The importance is for me not to say I am the leader, but it is about us working together and bonding together because there are times that depending on the situation, there are different people that have to step up to lead.
So yes, again, on an org chart, I’m the leader of technology for Cardinal Health. But there are times that when I’m in the room, it’s my chance to sit back because I have another leader that is taken over and moving us forward.
Pari: Very interesting. And to be a leader like this, you’ve got to be very secure about yourself.
Michelle Greene: Absolutely. There’s really no pride of ownership here because if my teams are not successful, I will not be successful. You talk about servant leadership. I do believe that I am a servant leader. If my team is not being successful, and again, people don’t want to work with me and partner with me, then we will not be successful as a unit.
Pari: Great. And Michelle, you talked about, leadership and working with the teams, but just switching a little bit about, talent going forward, especially technology talent. Over the last few years, the way we work has completely changed. And now we have the advent of, you know, Generative AI, which is impacting positively and negatively on the kind of work technology talent could do. How do you see, you know, the talent ecosystem changing, you know, over the next few years?
Michelle Greene: What I would say is number one, we’re many times asked, do you see AI replacing humans? Number one, humans will always be important and always be valuable. I look at as being more of a complement versus a competitor. At the end of the day, I see this opening doors and providing opportunities for our technology talent that maybe they haven’t had before. I mean, our leadership teams, our board. Our business. This is a topic that is bringing all of us together.
So now when my team is sitting down to work on a business case or look to solve a problem, the engagement and the energy across our organization has been fantastic. So, for me, I’m looking at it saying, here’s an opportunity to use this as – how do we rally around this and take this, and do the same for the next problem or the next solution that we need to come up with as an organization? So I just think recognizing that the high level of engagement, taking the opportunity to understand how this is a change for us from a technology standpoint, but not looking at it as an either or, but it’s an and.
Many of the solutions that we have in place, you have large markets out there that are embedding AI into their solutions. We want to make sure that our business understands that. Then we avoid duplication of solutions across the enterprise. If you understand that a particular ERP or particular customer service tool, they’re already embedding AI, that helps make our business smarter. Maybe we make different decisions. Maybe we invest differently. So for me, the engagement is important because it’s also an educational opportunity.
Pari: Got it. So in terms of adopting it, you’re bringing your business along, your teams along, so the adoption challenges, it’s going to be lesser, and they also understand what it is. And to be able to do these right? And how do you invest in the next generation of technology talent? Because technology has changed so dramatically last six months. I’m pretty sure the next 20-30 years, there are going to be new innovations, which is coming to come out of Silicon Valley and other large companies. How do you invest in building this technology talent which will keep up with the strengths and also, on some level, innovate some of these trends going forward?
Michelle Greene: So first of all, again, when we talked about partnerships, we have business partners from within our talent division, within our HR division that we’re able to partner with, so they understand the type of talent that we need. We want to make sure that we’re having diverse perspectives so that we can create solutions that drive change. And that are fair and equitable for people that decide to join our organization. We have STEM initiatives. So when you think about creating strong STEM initiatives, that shows a commitment to our community. We believe in exposing kids and teens to the STEM solutions and STEM world, get them engaged early, and hopefully we can move them along.
We also do this through just having a mindset for me of lifting as I climb. There are many times we have crossed, you know, intersections here within the organization. There may be someone in Finance that decides to move into I.T. or someone in I.T. that decides to move into Sales. Knowing that we have that type of opportunity across our organization, that helps us with the next generation of talent. We try to give our teams exposures across the enterprise, not just within 1 particular silo.
Pari: So you’re hiring with a very open mind so that they can come in to technology, but they can go into finance, they can go into healthcare, or you find great talent in those who are interested in technology, you can get them, groom them. So you don’t have like a straight jacket of view of- Hey, here’s what a great technology person is, but you’re open minded in figuring out who would be the right fit.
Michelle Greene: Absolutely. And, you know, over the past several years, there’s been a lot more intentionality around building strong business partners. And if you are a strong business partner, what we’re finding is that if you were to walk in a room and there’s a conversation happening about an ERP, you might not be able to tell the business people from the technology people because the technology people have been intentional about understanding strategic objectives of the business, and we’ve now made it where the business can understand the technology.
We make better decisions. We invest differently. We’re smarter about the things that we’re doing. So to your point, we don’t put a straitjacket on folks and say, you just need to stay in this pillar. It just makes people better talent, better professional, and overall better for Cardinal.
Pari: I think you just have better empathy for each other. Yes. And doing this. Yes. And switching into Healthcare a little bit. And, data driven decision making is becoming, you know, increasingly essential in health care. How does Cardinal Health leverage data and analytics to streamline distribution processes or even enhance customer engagement? And ultimately, you’re in the business of improving patient outcomes.
Michelle Greene: Yes. So having data to make smart decisions is at the core of our business. Our CEO has mentioned several times that we want to focus on the core. We want to simplify, and we want to be innovative. We are very clear that innovation does not always mean the big shiny object. Many times innovation is about solving a real life problem using creative methods. So when we start thinking about having insights where we can be more predictive, where we can understand our place in the market, opportunity to make sure we’re keeping pace with our competitors, all of this comes from our data and our analytics.
Also, if you think about automation. There are many times that once we’ve gathered this type of data and we have the information, how can we get things to market quicker and move things faster? Because to your point, keeping the patient care as our end objective is what drives us. What we do matters. So the approach that we take should matter.
Pari: Data seems like it’s a backbone of how you operate the company. And a lot of that has to be done by the technology organization.
Michelle Greene: So if you think about it, real time logistics data is critical to healthcare providers, cost savings. Not just producing but distributing. How are we making sure that we get things to patients quicker, easier, faster?
How are people able to track where orders are? I mean, these are all things that seem like they just should run in the background, but it takes effort. It takes energy. We have to make sure that our teams are pulling the right type of information and making it available for our customers, for our providers, for our suppliers and for our business.
Pari: Very interesting. It’s not just data as the backbone for Cardinal Health, but it’s really a way in which it’s linking the entire supply chain, and linking to your customers. So all of them have, a same transparent view in terms of what is happening. I’m pretty sure that also enables you to build trust across the overall value chain.
Michelle Greene: Absolutely. Because if you think about it, if you order something, you have an expectation that you will receive it. When you start thinking about patient care, that’s an important thing. You really could change or alter life for a patient. You could change or alter healing for a patient. Getting them medication, making sure that our partners get what they need. So to your point, it is a chain. It is a partnership where we need to stay linked and having the type of real time data. Being able to respond rapidly and being able to make changes to patient medication, patient care, all becomes the backbone for the data that we’re using.
Pari: Great. So we talked about data, but, what are other, major changes you expect as you’re driving your organization forward, around people, processes and technology, maybe three changes you expect, or the next, next few years?
Michelle Greene: Okay, and we talk about the next two years, but sometimes it’s three changes just in the next few minutes. But for the next three years, if we think about three things over the next year, number one, we’ve talked about it a lot, bridging the connection between tech, business and I would add in there even our board and our executive. Because I am very pleased. The Board that we have is a very engaged board.
They understand what we do and how they can support us. And the more that we bring to them specifically around technology, I can see the education growing. I can see the opportunity growing to keep them informed.
So the more that we understand and take the responsibility to understand our business, then we can be more predictive. So when you talk about data and analytics, just day to day, I encourage my teams to be predictive for the business. This should not always be a one way street that the business asks for something and we deliver it.
We need to learn how to continue to take things to them that can help improve and help impact the objective that they set forward. The next thing is experimentation and innovation. I’ve talked about that earlier. We’re trying to make sure that we’re intentional about making space for our teams to experiment based on outcomes.
How can we innovate and move our business faster and move it forward? We have to focus on the core, but in focusing on the core, we can improve and efficiencies, become more effective. And this all leads us to the conversation around talent and overall development. If we’re doing all of those things. And we’re clear about the people that we are hiring, recruiting, and for those that are already with Cardinal, how do we recruit every day? That will set us on a successful path for overall talent development.
So, those would be the 3 things for me bridging the connection between tech, business and our board, experimentation and innovation. And then overall talent development.
Pari: Great. I like the point that you brought in the board, because every meeting we have with a customer, the Board is asking them – Hey, what is what does this mean? And a CIO is increasingly brought into the board meetings. To be able to do exactly what you said, educate them on what it means to our business and how soon they can move forward. Because everyone is reading something, they get informed by different things. And I like the point that one of the role of the CIO organization is to inform the organization on ensure that they have the right information right insights. So they’re able to business able to make the right decisions on not just being an executioner of executing this technology. I think that’s a great insight.
Michelle Greene: Absolutely. This all has to work together. And it’s important because, as you know, increasingly, the role of the CIO is definitely growing and it has changed and it will continue to morph.
But there is an expectation that we are business partners first. I recently was having a conversation with a colleague and I say many times I let people know I’m a business leader that has a high focus on technology. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t understand the business, regardless of the function that you’re leading, you will not be able to be successful.
So I think it’s just very important to make sure we’re putting the business first and then everything we do after that will be successful support.
Pari: And one other point around innovation, and you mentioned about experimentation, innovation, and companies do that in very different ways. And because you’re so busy with your, regular work, a company like Google has tried a 10 percent of the time that you could innovate or other companies look at bringing in startups and then bringing in the DNA of the startups. Others run idea, idea days, hackathons, and have a structured process of innovation. So how do you think about innovation? The combination of these or one or two, what does work for you?
Michelle Greene: I believe there’s absolutely a combination of, and I say this because many times in doing a hackathon, maybe the way we do our security training, the way that we approach a business case, many times that produces other opportunities. So I think having a combination of all of them. And you may not do things the same, you know, we partner some with Google as well, and there may be things that we do today for one thing, and we do it a different way for another, because just as you, if we just keep Google as the example, Google does more than just, you know, they do lots of things across the spectrum, and just depending on your industry and depending on what you need, they have to approach things differently. Innovation and experimentation, then you probably would not have much movement.
Pari: Great. There’s a combination of both and I’m pretty sure it’s also that the business has to play a role in driving the innovation. Like you said before, it’s not just a tech, it’s sitting in a silo and driving this innovation.
Thanks. Thanks a lot, Michelle. I really enjoyed this conversation, especially your focus around servant leadership, a way to start that drives, as well as bringing the business together and be open minded of having talent movement, which drives empathy and, informing not just your leadership, but Board in terms of what this technology mean, how can the company leverage and also using technology, as a way to drive transparency across your partners, both in the supply chain as your customers.
It builds trust in, in the overall ecosystem and, and doing all of this, but keeping a goal around the patient outcome, which is the most important thing for Cardinal Health. It’s very useful insights. We covered a lot of points in a very short period and thank you so much for sharing these perspectives, Michelle.
Michelle Greene: All right. Thank you so much for having me. And I’ve enjoyed the conversation.
Pari: Thank you for tuning into this episode. We’ll be back soon with another leader, another exciting topic till then take care and stay curious.