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Our guest today is Paul H. O'Neill, Jr. He is a co-founding principal of Value Capture, and serves as our non-executive chair. Today, we mark the one year anniversary of the passing of his father, Paul H. O'Neill, Sr.
To share your memories of Paul, read others' memories and view photos, please go to PaulONeillLegacy.com.
In today's episode, host Mark Graban talks with Paul about topics including:
What are your thoughts today, reflecting on your dad?
His “trilogy” of questions that he wanted everybody to be able to say “yes” to.
What did he observe as a patient during his medical care?
“The opportunity's still there.”
“What would you do with $1 trillion?” in freed up wasteful healthcare spending
Free Book Offer
You can get this Kindle book, a collection of speech transcripts from Paul O'Neill, Sr., for FREE through April 22, 2021 using the link below (or you can always get a free PDF here).
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In future episodes, you'll hear discussions with guests including:
- Roxanna Gapstur: President and CEO, WellSpan Health
- Dan Varnum: Executive Coach; VarnumGroupLLC.com
- More interviews and discussions, coming every other week here in 2021.
- This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators Network.
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Welcome to Habitual Excellence, presented by Value Capture. This podcast, and our firm, is all about helping you and your organization achieve habitual excellence, via one unifying focus, one value-based structure and one performance system. In other words, it's about helping you capture dramatically more value through achieving perfect care and perfect safety for patients and staff.
To learn more about Value Capture and our services visit www.valuecapturellc.com.
Hi, welcome to Habitual Excellence presented by Value Capture. I'm Mark Graban. We have a very special guest today.
He is Paul O'Neill, Jr. And we are going to hear some thoughts and reflections here as, as we're at the one-year anniversary of the passing of his father. So, Paul, thank you for being a guest here today. Thanks for joining us,
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Mark. Thanks so much for having me as a guest. I'm honored to be part of Value Capture and it's great to be one of your colleagues. I've kind of held off on doing a podcast because I feel like there's been so many really great ones to do. And why throw me in the mix until maybe the right time and the anniversary of Dad's passing, which will be Sunday the 18th is a great time to do this. So thanks for having me.
Sure. And thank you for doing that. And so I think first question like intentionally open-ended, what are some first thoughts or reflections that come to mind here on, on this anniversary?
Paul O'Neill, Jr. (1m 47s)
Okay, great. Great question. So for me, the journey, Dad's life journey is a fascinating one. The last, you know, starting about three years ago when he was diagnosed with his illness, which was a lung condition actually diagnosed in 2014 with a pulmonary fibrosis, which is kind of a debilitating condition, you know, being with him during that journey and watching somebody who's, you know, a vital person, anybody who knew him, you know, he wasn't like a giant in stature. He was maybe at best, he was 5’ 9” when I was a kid, when I was maybe 12 years old, I was taller than him.
And he'd be like, he’d pat me on the head and he'd be like, I'm still your father I can still wipe you out, you know, whatever [chuckling]. But watching him go through like the end of life journey was really, really something and getting to be there with him for those two years, which was, I'll give it the two-year mark was he, he got diagnosed with these sets of nodules in his lungs. And so being with someone who had had this strength for life and lots of energy, you know, always, kind of famously up at 5:30 every morning in the office by 6:30, you know, after going to Ritter's [Diner] for a coffee, a small cup of orange juice and a dry piece of toast, um, kind of famous for that.
You know, watching this person with all this gusto, then start to recognize like, Hey, I'm in a fight here, but we really made it, my sisters and I, and my mother, I think we made it a really, as I'm thinking about it, really positive way. Like I wouldn't trade it for anything and he did it with grace, like he said. We had a minister come, a friend of mine from our church come to his house. And he met Dad a couple of times, a younger guy, probably a little bit younger than me, 50, and he's a brilliant guy, Reverend Kevin Long.
And so he, Dad got to, had met him a couple of times, just briefly at church. A couple of times he'd been a guest at our church. And so we knew the Reverend a little bit, but, but Dad's thoughts, you know, Kevin's asking him like, how do you feel like about where you are? And this is maybe December of, of ‘19, so he's on his way out, right, and he’d kind of checked himself into that. Dad, you know, announced to us in mid-December, he told my mother, Nancy, like, I'm not getting up again. Like this is where I'm going to be. And obviously he didn’t die for three months. And I did get him out of bed. A couple of times he came downstairs to, I said, well, we'll all come over, but you know, we can't all fit in your [room] to watch the Super Bowl. So you're going to have to come downstairs. ‘I will, I'll come down for that.’
You know? So, I coaxed him out of bed a few times, but I tell this because it's kind of interesting watching somebody go through the end of their life and it's tough when it’s your father. But when he was with “Rev Kev,” it was great because he was going, it wasn't like I'm going to get better here. And he said, you know, ‘I just want to go out gracefully.’ I don't want to be, you know, I know I'm a burden to my family, but they've accepted that burden. And he was super appreciative of that. And he really, he did a pretty good job. It's hard when your body's breaking down and you're like, ‘Hey, I'm, you know, all of a sudden, I can't, I can't really walk and I'm having, someone's helping me eat.’
And you know, like, ‘Paul's here. Maybe he can help me change my t-shirt.’ I mean, it's kind of like, you know, the tough part of the exit, but anyway, he did do it with grace and he did, he was, his mind was really good until the end. And I got some videotapes that we did of, well, we videotaped that prayer session, which was awesome. So maybe that's a share with you, Mark. At some point, we can see how we might use that in another podcast. But I also had two shots of taping him, talking to friends at the end where I had the video going and he didn't know it. And, and it was, it was tasteful.
So it wasn't like I was violating any son-father privilege in taping a conversation. But this is like in maybe late-, mid-February anyway. And he is still money on principles talking about health care and why systems are broken still. And his quest for it to be better, you know, that was undying in him. So anyway, I'm rambling a little bit, but I think it's, you know, the, that end of life part was, as I think about it now, was really a special thing to share.
And, then to like, it was crazy. So he passes at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday, and I know to call Ron Suskind, he and I talked like about, you know, when he passes, let me know. I said, I'll let you know, Ron. And then he would kind of call the New York times. He'd be the tip for…
Mark Graban 7m 15s
He, Ron Suskind, the author, for people who maybe don't know him in a connection to your dad. Yeah.
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
And so he wrote the bio, about my father, after he left the Bush 43 administration, so, which is a great read. So, I really have a lot of respect for Ron. So anyway, Ron helped me out, my goodness. So I called Ron at eight o'clock and by two o'clock, I'd already talked to like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the AP, like all these people called and it was the surreal part of his passing was like, you've got all this energy to be with Dad for this time. And then he's gone. And then, you know, the folks come from the funeral home and they pick him up and it's all perfectly done.
He's out of the house probably by like 10 o'clock. And by 2 o'clock, I'd done all these interviews and I sit down and my mother's there and we're like, wow, he's gone. And it's like this real, anyway, it's an intense feeling. But then it's like, you're like, okay, next. And you're like, you start thinking about his legacy almost immediately. And actually the, Value Capture through our colleagues Helen Zak and the communications team, you're on that group obviously, and Melissa Moore and Ken Segel and Geoff [Webster], all of us kind of in the leadership group. And part of the communication team had a plan in place to like, what's next. And so it's kind of strange when your parent is a public enough figure where you're not just sitting there at that 2 o'clock hour with your mother, like, okay, let's have lunch, and let's think about our own grief.
You're like the, messaging coming in on the internet and all of the obits were, you know, it's, when you, when someone like Paul, that when Dad dies, you don't pay to put them in the New York Times, you know, the obit, like they've written it, you know, you've met with the Journal person at the office when he's still alive and they're doing their, you know, their bio update, their obit update, if you will. And, you know, it's kind of a, kind of a surreal experience being part of that. So, so a year out, I would say, you know, obviously there's a void, but it's, but it's done, but it's a good thing for me, it's a positive, I’ve tried to make it a really positive thing.
You know, my mother is still here obviously, and the memories are terrific. And the things that he did that were his work life, are obviously still there for everybody to share and, and continue to learn from, as we're doing with Habitual Excellence and with, you know, obviously Dad’s, a big element to all of this and what we do at Value Capture, you know, Ken and Geoff and myself, we wouldn't have started Value Capture without him. We, you know, he was our non-exec chair. You know, he said to me, ‘I'm glad you guys are going to do this, but I don't want to be, I'm never going to a sales meeting.’
You know, ‘I know I'm not doing that. I still want to do conferences. I still want to be, I still want to tell the story. And I still want to try to inspire people, but I don't want to run a business. And I don't want to meet with you and the lawyers to get it set up.’ And like, ‘I don't want any part of it. And it shouldn't be named a Paul O'Neill, you know, “capture group.”’ It's going to be, you know, you guys need to do this. And so it was really cool. He made it safe for me to be part of it, because people could say like, Oh, here's this nepotistic situation where Paul Jr. has no, you know, what standing does he have to do this? And Dad was like, ‘forget all that. Just, you know, be yourself. You know, you have a, a gift and you and Ken and Geoff need to pull your gifts together and, and start this firm.’
And it's the right thing. And it's kind of the legacy of the Regional Healthcare Initiative in Pittsburgh, which is a terrific organization that many of our original folks came from. And, you know, we did it with such respect for all of us. And, and he gave us the room to be like, Hey, the rope’s around your neck, if you will, on being successful. And, you know, he didn't try to bigfoot us with like, oh, here's a million dollars to start your business. We just did it. We didn't ask him for money. He did help us. He offered help a couple of times when we were in some thin years and he was helpful, but it was really that encouragement to keep going and to not stop.
And one thing he said to me, I taped was, I asked him, what have we missed? Like, I got a chance like that again, because his mind was still so good. Like, Hey, Pop, what did we miss? I know you would have probably told me already. I hope you would have told me already, but like, what do, what could we do differently? And he's like, ‘just keep going because your pathway’s the right one, your questions to leaders are the right ones. You all know collectively who's real. And who's not.’ He talked a lot about that. That's maybe another topic we could go to at some point, but like, he would call about a leader being real.
Like, are you really like, are you the talk? Are you the person with the annual report that says, I care about people the most, but you don't know what your OSHA numbers are? That always freaked Dad out. And every company says people are their most important asset. And he's like, ‘I don't know if I believe you, if you don't know your OSHA number.’ So, he was great about that. And, just in supporting us in that way. So, you know, for me, the one-year out legacy is, or thoughts about Dad's passing is — to keep going. And it, and at, 56, I'm here to hopefully keep going for, for a good stretch and to keeping part of Value Capture and keep hoping to find people that want to strive toward excellence and toward really theoretical limit achievement.
And so that part feels really good. That part is still totally intact. So we miss him that he's gone, but everything, he left us, the trilogy, the, you know, the press toward theoretical limit goals, the press toward the truth and facts, like facts mattered to him so much, you know, when you start there, it's hard to go wrong. If you challenge yourself that you feel like you're getting off the rails, it's, you can maybe think of four or five things Dad taught us. And when you would say, well, huh. So like, I have some clarity because mostly he’d give you clarity.
Most of the time his questions gave you clarity, if you're, if you had the facts, when you're honest with yourself.
Yeah. So you talk about legacy and there's a website I’ll invite people to go check out PaulONeillLegacy.com has, you know, so many stories that his, you know, people from different aspects of his life have shared. So people can go and check that out. And when you say the trilogy, you mean his three questions?
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah. I call it the three questions. So, I mean, it's just, it's so fundamental for somebody to be able to say that what they do adds meaning to their life. So focusing on the third element, but like, that's a tough one because I think young people have a tough time with that one. And I, because they're just in their life journey, right. So if you just graduated from university, like my two sons have graduated in the last couple of years, and it was hard to say, like being, the low associate in a commercial real estate group, like what I do adds meaning to my life.
Like, because kids don't think that, well, I say kids, but like, you know, young people, they don't, if you haven't heard it or thought about it or been exposed to somebody that might share that kind of thought with you, you wouldn't, I don't think people put it that way. They're like, I’ve got a paycheck, or I know when my boss likes me or not, but like the idea that obviously being treated with dignity and respect every day, if you're not, you know, it. Like if the person that’s your superior isn't, doesn't treat you with dignity and respect, that's a big barrier to getting to the third question, which is, do you feel like, you know, does what you do have meaning to your life.
So, but I think exposing people to those three questions is really important. And I got a chance to guest lecture once so far at IU, Indiana University, where the Public Policy school’s named after Dad, where, you know, when you're talking to 23- and 24-year olds, they're just learning to think about their careers. And if you're still in school, you've either, maybe you've been out for a little while and had some job exposures and as a younger person, but you're not necessarily in your mid-career yet, the three questions can be tough, but the more people we can expose it to the better I think people will be. I like how we do it with folks when we engage people and I love it, that I've seen it.
And I was, it happens maybe once a year, maybe every 18 months where I'll get a text from somebody like just a random friend or an acquaintance I have, and they'll have a picture. And it'll be like, the last one was a picture of the three questions. And it was Gary Kaplan from Virginia Mason talking about the relevance of the three questions, and you know what, that's kind of cool because Kaplan's got his own game. It's obviously huge. He's been running a system for many years. He's, 20-plus years he's been there. Yeah. And I had a chance to go with Dad to Virginia Mason, which was awesome, with a couple of folks from Rand, maybe almost 15 years ago, now that was awesome.
And I think Gary at that point had already done, I think he'd done eight or 10 years already of bringing folks over to Japan, which was kind of one of his lead strategies for engaging in leadership progression and growth, if you will. But this is maybe 18 months ago and his friend screenshots me a picture of a slide that Kaplan's got up and it's got Dad's picture and the three questions. And you're like, that's awesome. Because, because if it's coming from other leaders that have their own terrific standing, that they're including Dad’s, elements of Dad’s leadership thought in their work, and that's really that's special.
So I like that that's happened a couple of times in different settings. Pretty cool.
So I'll put the text of those questions in the show notes for people who might not be familiar with those, but I'm guessing the students were, I mean, one reaction would be, you know, to be impressed that your dad was talking about the need for dignity and respect, regardless of any defining personal characteristic. Because you know, the thought, I mean, in a way those are timeless principles, it's, you know, a form of the golden rule, but in a way he might have been ahead of his time as a corporate CEO talking about issues like that, about the need for dignity and respect.
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah, I think so. And I think it goes back to him trying to draw, to unify folks around kind of unarguable thoughts, like you said golden rules, a great example of that. So you can argue with these, you know, kind of some of these key maxims and tenets and obviously his safety, his quest for, you know, perfect safety at Alcoa. And he was really trying to do it at IP before, that’s International Paper, when he was there, but he wasn't the boss, he wasn't the CEO, he was the president of the firm and his superiors and the board, I think at IP, got what he was, his journey was about, what he was talking about.
But until you're the one in the seat and you’re only answerable to your, you know, at that point, I guess if you're looking at it from a governance standpoint, your board and your shareholders, if you're a public company CEO, his take was like, now I'm answerable first to my employees. And so that's why when he, you know, jots down safety at the top of his yellow pad, when he's going to take the Alcoa job as the, you know, safety of the employees as his number one thing, for him, that was an unarguable goal that, you know, raise your hand, he would famously say, if you want to get hurt at work tomorrow to be the person that's in that last bit of fraction of, you know, your harm in your industry. Like, no one's going to want to get hurt.
So, he was really good at framing that message and already a really terrifically, safe place out in Alcoa, he had great numbers before he got there, you know. Famously, he told the analysts in his first analysts meeting of Wall Street, that safety was his number one goal. When people are like running for the phones, like sell this stock, this guy's crazy because it's, you know, how can you be this industrialist? And you're talking about worker safety as going to be the prime driver of your performance in your first meeting. And they, people really thought he was maybe, you know, being a person in government, like he had this aspirational ask kind of element to him that was like, you know, this is business, man.
And so, he never wavered. Like, it was not like, he never questioned, there was no evidence that he ever questioned that strategy. Like none that ever no one that's ever, ever questioned him, or I've never read anything other than the people that didn't get it at first. But, the proof was there. There's no doubt about that. So…
Mark Graban 22m 4s
Yeah, it seems like there was a real strength to not cave in to peer pressure or the norms of how things are typically done. It seems like his principles in his worldview were so solid. He wasn't going to be swayed from that. Is that…?
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah. Yeah. A 100%. I mean, there is so much of him that he got like from one of his favorite people, and we could do an influencer podcast at some point, but one of his favorite people that believed in him as his boss was President Ford, and they had a fantastic relationship and Ford totally got it, like he totally bought into Dad's way of being this like, facts-on-the-ground knowledgeable person. The thing that makes Dad, that made him where you couldn't really argue with him when he was in the public sector, was that he was this budget analyst from 1961.
Right. So he was, by 1974, when he's the Deputy Director at OMB under President Ford, no one knew the numbers better than him, because no one had lived that granularity that he did, that you couldn't argue facts with him. Like he just had it. It was in his head, and I have the proof that's at my office in his papers of different runs of numbers, where you look at these books of just, like this total granular, like why this little budget element was, he knew the numbers and it was uncanny how well he knew the numbers.
And you just, of course you get it in, it's kind of a Gladwell-ian-like, if you do the 10,000 hours, well, if you do the 20,000 hours or whatever it is Dad did, or, I don't know, I'd be curious to figure out the number of hours that Dad spent on it, but you can't beat him. So like Ford, notoriously, so, one interesting piece that I have that Dad saved was it was in, I think it was from the Detroit Free Press and Ford had just launched his campaign to get elected. Right? He's just, obviously this President who comes in under resignations, the only President we ever had that was not elected to either be Vice President or President.
It's Ford trying to prove himself. And he goes to Detroit to kick off his campaign. And who does he have with him? Dad. And they get off the plane and the press is there. And they hammered Ford for this in an op-ed. That was about basically saying, wow, so Jerry Ford shows up to run for reelection, and he's got this number cruncher with him, like, because no one knew Dad was in the public, in the world, in 1976 in running an election or campaign. No one knew who Paul O'Neill was. I mean, if you were a policy wonk or you really wanted to understand insiders, okay.
You would know who Dad was, but Dad was, you know, he was one of a half a dozen people that kind of fit a role like that. So this op-ed’s written. And the reason that I know about it is because somebody sent it to him in 1976 and said, holy hell, look at the trouble we're in because you're the one that's with Ford. So it's written in the margin of this article that this person who lives in Detroit is calling out Ford for saying, you're such a fool, how are you going to win if you've got Paul O'Neill there? And they send it to Dad as a dig, but Dad saved it as like, ‘Hey, this is, you know, this is proof of my value to President Ford.’
And so I don't know if I've ever told you that story before, Mark, but it's kind of, it's really cool with this. Like, you know, Dad would save these kinds of things. Like you would think like, Oh, that's something I'm going to, I'm going to throw away. Like, why would I want anybody to know about that? And that's, for him, it was a cool reminder of like, ‘Hey man, I was there and I was picked for a reason.’ And so I'm sorry, I went down a rabbit hole there time, but it's a really cool proof of like the relationship that Dad had with Ford and how as an influencer and someone that treated Dad with that, you know, again, go back to the three questions, like dignity and respect.
Do I get, do I have the tools when I need to do my job and am I recognized for it? And so, really, I think that Ford was the one who solidified that message for Dad, because that's how he felt.
Yeah. And you're, I mean, this is speculation or alternate history had Ford won the ‘76 election. Your dad might've had a, a bigger role where he would have been in that administration?
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah. For sure. He would have been the Chief of Staff. And not an unarguable, like that would have been his role. And it was interesting. I know that Carter asked him, are you interested? There was like a little, you know, because Dad had been a bureaucrat all these years. So, he’d been part of the, you know, he'd only been in an appointed position since ‘72, maybe. So he hadn't really had to declare himself. And so a lot of those kind of insider people kind of went between administrations. And so, but no Dad would, Dad would’ve said, no, I don't want to do that.
And he really he's like, I need to go make some money because he was, at that point, I think he was, if you were his level job in the government, you were making maybe $38,000 a year. And so you weren't, you know, in 1976 dollars that's not terrible, but that's not what you're making on the outside. So, so he left the government, went to International Paper and we moved. And I remember moving once when I was a kid, I think we moved to a different neighborhood, I think partly because they, my Dad wanted to get the equity out of his house, the house that we were in a little bit of it, because my oldest sister was going off to college, she's going to Clemson and they just didn't have a lot of extra money. You know, people will say, they assume I grew up in his country club setting because of Dad's success later on.
But you know, when I was a kid at that time, Dad drove an orange Pinto, ‘71 Pinto, and my mother drove a station wagon. And, which is fine, which is great. We're lucky to have what we did, but you know, there wasn't a lot of extra cash laying around. So it was, it was interesting to see how he navigated his career. And he was actually really on top of it. He knew every level of what he, I think he really knew what his opportunities were. And I think he decided, you know, ‘I want to take this private job, because it's not only for the financial potential reward, but because I want to kind of see what that's about.’
And so he went as the head of planning for IP and ended up as the President over a course of years, he held maybe six different jobs there, maybe four or five different jobs. But he appreciated that progression and being able to be in the private sector. Well, of course he ended up at Alcoa in ‘86, ’87.
Right up until he left Alcoa to join 43’s administration. So he had a good long run at Alcoa. Yeah.
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah. So he was retiring actually. So we went to a retirement dinner in New York with family. And then a month later, the election is over. If I recall it's December, probably 19th. I forget when the Supreme Court decided to, when that decision came down and Gore withdrew essentially, and 43 became President, that Dad was, you know, originally I think they've been floated that, Hey, maybe you'd be the Commerce Secretary, or we'll give you something else. And he was like, I'm not interested in it. Wasn't even… no one called him.
Paul O'Neill, Jr. 30m 35s
And then finally Cheney calls them and says, Hey, you know, it's not Commerce or OMB. It's Treasury, are you coming? And so he gave him something to think about, because he was really effectively going to be retired. Maybe the more interesting political piece is when Bush 41 gets elected, and Dad was very close to 41. He calls Dad, Dad been at Alcoa for, um, it's ‘88 when Bush wins and Dad was not a Reagan guy because Reagan was not a Ford guy. So, Reagan had Dad in a commission, but, and he met Reagan several times and helped with certain things, but he was not going to be in a Reagan administration, but when 41 wins he calls Dad and he says, why don't you come?
I think the quote is essentially, Baker's going to be at State and, and Schultz is going to be part of this, but what do you want? And so he had actually, you go back and look at New York Times front page at that time, the leak was that he would be the Secretary of Defense, that Dad would be offered that position. And he famously says, no, I don't think I, you know, I'm not interested, and so Cheney ends up in that job. So it's kind of interesting. What would history be like if Dad had said yes to that job, that time. But he wasn't going to leave Alcoa, which is the real point, he was honored to be the CEO of Alcoa. He'd only been there a brief time and he said, you know, I want to stay, I want to do this. I made a commitment and the board, the board brought me in as the first outsider ever to run Alcoa, they'd always picked someone from the inside to be the CEO. And he famously says no. And so anyway, we we'll hold it some other time.
Yeah. But yeah, I mean, but again, it sounds like that that was a principles-based decision. He made a commitment, he was going to stick to it and he did great work of course, at Alcoa. And, you know, people read about that in at least, you know, Charles Duhigg's version of that in the book, the Power of Habit. And then the Ron Suskind book, which I had a chance to read a year or two ago, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill that's out there on Amazon for anyone who is interested in looking at that. So, Paul, I hope we can do other episodes for sure. There's a lot, we can dig into.
One final question I was going to ask for today. Given your dad's passion for safety and extending that to patient safety and the role of leaders and systems, I'm curious, do you know if he had any other observations, you know, during the last couple of years of his treatment, he was spending a lot of time with different parts of the healthcare system. Did it reinforce or open his eyes and in different ways that, you know of?
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
For me, it was being there by his bedside and a lot of these cases, and actually he had a quad bypass in 2007 that he, thank God he had ended up, had a heart attack, but it was, it was kind of one of those things where he was in danger, but he wasn't, I guess, so he was lucky. It wasn't a widowmaker situation, or he wouldn't have made it past ‘07, but he, he was great. His observation skills were so good, right. So anybody who's ever spent any time with him in a hospital, him observing people at frontline, he had really good observation skills. And, so of course he was a great observer of his own care.
And he would say, boy, the opportunity is still here. The opportunity is obviously still here. And he does the numbers and he's like, you know, in his mind, you’ve got 30% waste it’s still the same or more. And so, you know, it's quick math, you know, what would you do with a trillion dollars if we could put that out of our, the waste out of that system and think of all the things we could do with that money. And I know that the numbers have only grown over the year or so, so it's, what would we do with those resources to help people, that need help?
Because he, because his answer was always about if you saved, if you, if you created more financial capability, who could we help?
Right. It wasn't about like, you know, they turn it over to shareholders necessarily, right? So most people think of productivity and they think, well, the shareholders are going to do better. And you know, Dad was all about certainly, especially in healthcare and in education and all the thoughts he has about how about improvement always led to – who else could we help next? And so, after his observation didn't change at all. So, he short answer, and to anybody that got a chance to be on a unit with him of any provider, any healthcare, could tell that he could see it. And he just wanted other people to learn how to do that.
I love how Value Capture does one of our key first couple of day experiences with leaders is to have them to have that observation experience and see, because most places focus on, obviously we know they focus on the big things that happen and, oh my goodness, you know, wrong-site surgeries, and the things you read about the paper. The things you don't read about in the paper, the things that where Dad felt the opportunity was the greatest, right? Like med pathway redesign was always in his mind. And that was forever being confirmed in his, by just watching what happened with him and the opportunities for a place, just to think about being better. You know, I, as an investor, I love McKesson's stock over the years, but putting robots in pharmacies drove Dad nuts because, you know, a human being had to load the pills into the robot for them to be distributed then to people.
So if you think about the processing of loading a robot, that that always made Dad crazy.
Yeah. Quick story. I was in a hospital pharmacy once and I asked how much labor did they save because they put in the robot and the person I asked, they started to turn a little green. Yeah. And the answer was, Oh, we had to add labor to your point about, we, it took more people to run the pill repackaging machine than were saved.
Paul O'Neill, Jr.
Yeah, of course. And you still have the pharmacy tech and then they still are going to be delivered. And it was fascinating. So, Dad was always able to break those things down into a bare form and he tried to do it safely. Like I just kind of, I did it not quite safely right there. I mean, no offense to people that are in those jobs, obviously. And I've met with them many times and, and I'm actually in Tennessee right now doing this podcast. And at Wellmont, about an hour from here where I am now, you know, I got to be spend a bunch of time in the pharmacy with Lisa Beckwith and Leslie Corak and our colleagues and, think about redesign. And it was always like, oh my God, this is a very difficult job and that robot's not helping anything here.
So anyway, it was, but I say with all respect for anybody that's in the process, it's really about… to Dad, it was always the lack of respect that the, some of the elements of these pathways of care through often have… that was the opportunity. Yeah. So anyway,
Paul, thank you so much for taking some time and sharing some reflections. And I do look forward to, you know, having other conversations with you whenever you like. So just, you know, we're, I know a lot of the listeners and, you know, a lot of the other guests, a lot of the other, a lot of the listeners, they're listening because they were impacted by your dad. And, so there are a lot of people thinking about him, thinking about you and the family during this time.
Paul O'Neill, Jr. 38m 54s
Thanks so much. I'm glad we're able to do this, at any time I can meet you and be on and we can dig in more. That'd be great. Okay. Thank you, Mark. Appreciate it.
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Mark Graban is a Senior Advisor for Value Capture and has served healthcare clients for over 15 years. Mark is internationally recognized as a leading author and speaker on Lean healthcare. He is the author of books including Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement, Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements, and Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is also host of our “Habitual Excellence” podcast. Mark's full bio