Harnessing the strength of a knowledge organization
Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart EVP consumables and health and wellness
The people within a large company can be one of a leader’s biggest assets when it comes to solving problems and growing the business — if only you listen to your associates and stick to a core set of principles that guide all your interactions. This was the thrust of Walmart EVP consumables and health and wellness Michelle Gloeckler’s talk, “Harnessing a Knowledge Organization,” in May at the Future Leaders Summit, co-hosted by Drug Store News and Mack Elevation Forum.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
It’s among the important lessons handed down from Walmart founder Sam Walton — this idea that large companies are only as strong as the people, knowledge and expertise that exists within them. “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved,” Walton once said.
But Gloeckler admitted that today, at organizations as large as Walmart with its 2.3 million global employees — including 1.4 million in the United States — listening to associates at the same level of granularity as Walton once did might seem impossible. But rather than be daunted by the idea of trying to talk to millions of associates, you can begin the process by identifying areas of diversity and understanding what people representing smaller groups can bring to the table, she said. By way of example, Gloeckler introduced attendees to a handful of key Walmart associates — including VP Walmart Care Clinics Sandy Ryan, chief medical officer Daniel Stein and support manager Daronn Gommer, who was homeless before starting a career at Walmart — to highlight how people from different backgrounds, areas of education and experience, and the roles they each play, can help bridge the knowledge and expertise that exists across a company the size of Walmart.
“This is the scope of associates that we have, and when you think about the challenge of harnessing a knowledge organization and listening to your people — the number isn’t the thing, it’s the vast experience and the vast life story that each of these individuals brings to work every day,” Gloeckler said.
Engagement and listening begin, Gloeckler explained, with four key factors that should inform all interactions — humility, self-motivation, confidence and the ability to filter risk. Gloeckler noted that humility was a necessary component of working with her team to find a solution to a problem in Walmart’s pharmacy business — an area in which she admittedly lacks knowledge, as she’s never been a pharmacist.
“The humble thing that the team and I had to do was to come together regardless of titles, put the common goal on the table and then work as a team,” Gloeckler said. “Being humble is about recognizing that you don’t have to have all the answers, and to be so bold as to be able to say to a group of your own associates, or your peers — or your leader — ‘I don’t know.’”
On the subject of self-motivation, Gloeckler shared a rather personal example, recalling her own modest, working-class Michigan roots, which fed her drive to work hard and succeed at an early age, graduating a semester early from college.
Another powerful example of self-motivation for Gloeckler is Gommer, the St. Louis-based Walmart support manager, who was homeless with two daughters before he joined the company. Gommer, in a profile from a local newspaper that Gloeckler read aloud, told the paper he used his situation and the difficulty of working while staying with different friends and trying to raise his kids as a motivator.
“I think about the different ways people are motivated, and that has to come from within; it has to be something that you believe in,” Gloeckler said. “In order to get the most out of any organization, you have to know your own self-motivation.”
Ironically, when she thinks about confidence, Gloeckler reflects on Michael Jordan’s career — not his six-time NBA championship career, but his otherwise lackluster baseball career, spent largely in the minor leagues. Confidence, she explained, goes hand-in-hand with humility; it is “the willingness to say you don’t know, to take a role you may not have experience in, and be humble enough to leverage the organization around you to find success.”
Finally, Gloeckler stressed the critical importance of a strong risk-filter to the leaders of today and tomorrow — the ability to know when people might be going too far and when you need to guide them back — and left attendees with a call to action.
“Think about a risky decision that’s on your plate right now. Who in your organization that you have not already reached out to might have had a similar experience or might have information that you need?” she said. “I [think about the] 1.4 million [U.S.] associates we have at Walmart — what a blessing that we have access to that many associates; what a shame if we aren’t able to connect with them and hear them.”
What is your why?
The best part of my job is that I get a lot of chances to learn cool, new stuff.
At the end of May, Drug Store News and Mack Elevation Forum co-hosted the first Future Leaders Summit in Chicago. Unfortunately, my list of key takeaways from the event runs much longer than my word count will take me. Luckily, our in-depth special report appears in this issue.
So for now, I’ll just stick to one dominant theme from that day: Purpose matters.
It was said a lot of different ways by different people throughout the day, but perhaps most simply: What is your why? CVS VP health care George Coleman described it as “connecting to the emotional core” of why you do what you do.
SoapBox CEO and founder Dave Simnick talked about the difference between cause and purpose. “Cause is an afterthought; purpose is intentional,” he said.
Purpose is in the DNA of the (fill in the blank): Company. Brand. Person.
Purpose matters more and more, because people demand it of the brands they buy. According to Edelman’s 2016 Earned Brand Study, which talked to more than 13,000 consumers in 13 different countries, 62% will not buy a brand that fails to meet its societal obligations; 60% believe it should be a part of the brand’s DNA; and 53% believe brands could be doing more.
It shouldn’t be surprising that people — particularly, the next generation of business leaders — are demanding it from the companies they work for, too. The best people will gravitate toward the companies that have defined purpose.
So, what’s your why?
Figure it out. Fast.
U.S. Reps. Carter, Collins ask CMS to protect community pharmacies
WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Buddy Carter sent a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday asking for a review of Humana’s proposed amendments to its Pharmacy Provider Agreement for the 2017 Part D plan year.
The letter says the amendments will force independent community pharmacies to accept predatory pricing provisions that could severely impact their ability to do business. Collins and Carter, who have been strong advocates for community pharmacies, issued the following statements after sending the letter:
“In many rural parts of the country, including Northeast Georgia, folks may see their pharmacist more often than they see their doctor,” said Congressman Collins. Pharmacists, especially those from independent pharmacies, have an established connection with those they serve in the community, and take great care when advising their patients. Many of these establishments are family-run and have been part of these communities for years.”
“Humana, one of the largest insurance providers in the country, currently has a proposal the would require these small pharmacies to lose $5.00 per prescription, up front, with the hope that they will be reimbursed if they meet certain metrics. However, meeting all of the criteria is not a guarantee that the pharmacy will get reimbursed because there are only spots in the top rankings for a few pharmacies. Under this proposal, a pharmacy could meet most of the CMS benchmarks, provide quality customer care, and still not be reimbursed by Humana. Humana’s criteria has little to do with patient care, and everything to do increasing their profit and driving community pharmacies out of the market. Some of these metrics, including “patient adherence” are beyond the control of the pharmacists. Pharmacies already compete for customers and business, let’s not set a precedent to make them compete for reimbursement by insurance companies as well.”
“Humana is using this proposal to attempt to drive community pharmacies out of the marketplace, to clear the way for big box chain pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS. If this proposal is allowed by CMS and enacted, these community pharmacies will either have to pay huge sums of money with no guarantee they will be able to recover their costs, or become out of network providers, which will increase costs and drive patients away. Improper metrics are being used to determine the future existence of community pharmacies in this situation, and deserve further examination from CMS.”
“As a community pharmacist for more than 30 years, I know firsthand how hard it is for the smaller guys to stay competitive, especially in the face of predatory pricing,” said Congressman Carter. It is unsustainable and unacceptable for one of the largest insurance providers in the country to force small pharmacies to lose money upfront with an uncertainty on whether or not they will even be reimbursed. This proposal would allow Humana to not reimburse pharmacies even if they meet most of the CMS benchmarks.
“I’m a free-market guy. We need to let the free-market work. This proposal does nothing more than infringe on the free-market in pharmacy, increase Humana’s profits and actively work to drive community pharmacies out of the market. If allowed, this proposal will leave community pharmacists with two choices: leave themselves vulnerable to the very real possibility they will not be reimbursed or become an out of network provider which will increase costs for patients. My patients were always like family members and they should have the ability to choose whatever pharmacy is best for them and their health. I strongly urge Acting CMS Administrator Slavitt to reconsider this adverse proposal.”