The Intralase Story, Part V: “Some of the best plays are called from the top.”

high performance management system

Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part I’ here.
Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part II’ here.
Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part III’ here.
Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part IV’ here.

“Some of the best plays are called from the top.”

Our High-Performance Management System (HPMS) relies on four primary inputs: Voice of Customer, Voice of Employee, Voice of Shareholder and Voice of the CEO/Management.

In a previous post, “The Relentless Pursuit of Customer Satisfaction”, I wrote about our data-driven Voice of Customer process. Voice of Employee and Voice of Shareholder are also data-driven. If HPMS stopped there, you might think of it as just a data exercise. Successful practitioners know that it’s a lot more than that and, in many cases, the judgement of the CEO and the Leadership team represent the most important input of all. 

In this blog, I will share another story from the HPMS journey at Intralase – one that highlights the importance of the fourth input to the system, the Voice of the CEO. Some of the best CEOs and leaders are simply clairvoyant – they see things that others do not. Think Steve Jobs, who believed that customers didn’t know what they wanted until you showed it to them. 

As mentioned in my last post, “The Power of Shared Values”, things were going well at Intralase in 2005. We were the first in the industry to successfully execute a large-capital, high-margin consumable business model outside the US and, as a result, International sales of capital and procedures grew to 50% of our total business. This new business model was a breakthrough for Intralase and later for the industry as a whole.

With our international expansion came rumors of consumable re-use. Our initial response was to discount these rumors and rely on the internal belief that it wasn’t possible given the way the system was set up. As we looked deeper into the current state, we learned that it wasn’t foolproof and that customers willing to skirt the system could, in fact, re-use the disposable device. Still, we had no verified proof of re-use, and the business was growing! The easy thing to do was to shrug it off as inconsequential, on the margins of our business, and therefore not worthy of the resources needed to solve it. 

As we rolled up on yet another HPMS strategy re-fresh session, our CEO, Bob Palmisano, had a different perspective. Like all good entrepreneurs, he was paranoid of threats to our business and unauthorized use was on the top of his list. Absent data or evidence confirming that re-use was happening, Bob called a play and dictated that we form a team to develop and execute a plan to connect all of our systems to Intralase via the internet so that we could “electronically activate” a system with the number of consumable devices purchased. This was an aggressive approach as it required amending our sales agreements globally to include this requirement. And the technical solution, especially with third-party distributors, was not trivial. 

Bob’s decision was not a popular one, particularly in the commercial area of the business. No stakeholder was more challenging on this score than our International distributors. If they had rotten fruits and vegetables on hand when we introduced this to them, they would have thrown them at us!

Given that Bob had indicated as one of our “Vital Few” priorities within the high-performance management system, we executed the plan. The program netted a small lift in procedures but more importantly, it protected the franchise for the long term.

In retrospect, it was one of the most impactful “Vital Few” initiatives launched at Intralase – right up there with Rapid Adoption and 60kHz. What was unique, in this case, was the absence of data to inform the decision proving that “some of the best plays are called from the top.”

If you would like to learn more about implementing the High-Performance Management System in your organization for world-class results, please reach out to Haffey&Co.