OHA Health Achieve 2007 – thoughts from day 1

Just got back from day 1 of the OHA Health Achieve 2007 convention held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto. The motto for this year is “inspiring ideas & innovations”. As with each year, the OHA organizing committee tries to keep a light and fun atmosphere at the convention grounds – this year, they decided to go with a festive New Orleans Mardi Gras theme with beaded necklaces and colours all over the place.

I thought I had written up things from last year’s convention, but apparently I never got around to it. In any case, this year’s convention started off with a bang.

Opening Session: Hillary Short – OHA President address
I’ve been very impressed with Hillary Short’s messages. She’s not the most dynamic of speakers, but she projects an inner strength. This year’s message continued her trend of focusing on people. She highlighted several examples of people in the Ontario health care system (specifically within hospitals) exemplifying innovation, kindness, compassion, leadership, and excellence. I think those are the key words for this years convention. Here are some highlights/interesting points I got from her address:

  • health care needs to continue to challenge the old ways of doing things to improve care
  • health care professionals have tough choices to make to balance the need to control rising costs while providing the best possible care
  • Ontario’s hospitals are some of the most efficient and effective in the world
  • innovations in Ontario hospitals have led to changes in Canada and around the world
  • Ontarians need to celebrate the achieves and passion of health care professionals that make the system great
  • people create successes, not buildings or structures: “everything we do, we do for patients”

There was a short presentation to Hillary following her address. She was recognized for her leadership over the past 35 years in health care, as she will be retiring at the end of this year.

Keynote Speaker: Colin Powell on “Leadership: Taking charge”
I’ve never heard Colin Powell (OHA bio, wikipedia entry) speak until today, even though I’ve had quite a bit of respect for him ever since learned of him many years ago when he was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell is an excellent speaker. He’s quite charming and funny on stage, with no pretense about him.

It took him nearly 20 minutes to get to his main topic of leadership. Prior to that, he was sharing stories about his life after public service and some of his current interests like Revolution Health, a role in a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and getting used to being a “normal guy”. One of the most entertaining stories was of how he missed having the use of a private jet and getting used to commercial flying. As the Secretary of State, he had a private jet waiting for him to use all over the world. As a civilian, he had an interesting experience when trying to fly to New York from Washington for a business meeting. On one occasion, he showed up late at the airport, paid cash for his fare, and had no luggage. He got strip-searched and “wanded” as per the policies he put in place, even though the security folks recognized him and addressed him by name – heh heh. That had the crowd roaring.

As for his main topic, he related out leadership is leadership is leadership. He related his experiences from the military to health care. Here are some highlights:

  • Powell defined leadership as “putting followers in the best position to get the job done” because “leaders don’t get things done. Followers get things done”.
  • Leaders need to set clear and meaningful missions and goals, and to ensure that each person in the organization understands his and her importance to achieving the goal. Everyone’s contribution is critical.
  • It’s not good enough to motivate people, but to inspire followers. Leaders must be passionate about achieving goals.
  • “Take care of the troops” – leaders need to make sure that followers want for nothing.
  • Recognize and reward the troops. The human connection to people is more important than physical rewards like money.
  • Sometimes leaders need to prune the organization by retraining, relocating, or removing people who are under-achieving, “bad followers”, or not contributing. He pointed out that the “good” followers often know the problem before the leaders do.
  • People will follow you if they trust you.
  • Leadership comes down to execution. Here’s a great line and warning to leaders: vision without execution is hallucination.

Powell talked about the need to change based on new information and for a need to move “faster than the competition” in this new information age. He shared about his career and how he faced change many times, especially with the falling of the Soviet Union. Powell briefly talked about how the world today faces several challenges:

  1. Creating economic wealth around the world and not just in a few
  2. Energy – how do we control it, use it, conserve it, and preserve it?
  3. The Environment – how do we keep our environment safe?
  4. Education of the young

He ended by reiterating the idea of keeping our societies, specifically America and Canada, “open” – that our multiculturalism, diversity, and welcoming of other people is our greatest strength as neighbors.

There was a brief question and answer period following his speech. When asked, he gave an honest response to what happened with Iraq. He was forthcoming in how at the time, everyone in the US government was convinced of the course of action to invade Iraq. When the news came out, he said he was devastated and confessed that they made a mistake. But, he said that at the time, everyone in the intelligence community (US and abroad) was in agreement that Iraq was preparing for some sort of biological attack. Apparently this information was based on unreliable sources. He talked about some of the mistakes made in Iraq, specifically about not establishing order immediately after the military victory. I can’t speak for everyone there, but his answers seemed genuine.

All in all, I was very impressed by Colin Powell. I can see how people are drawn to him. I would have liked a bit more about his thoughts on leadership, but his stories were quite entertaining.


None of the afternoon sessions interested me, so I left for the day and did some work. I’m planning to attend tomorrow’s ehealth session with Michael Dector as the featured speaker. Wynton Marsalis, renowned jazz musician, is speaking in a session tomorrow and I think I’ll attend. Wednesday’s closing session features Queen Noor of Jordan.


2 responses to “OHA Health Achieve 2007 – thoughts from day 1”

  1. […] What an exciting day.  Yesterday on day 1, I heard Colin Powell speak about leadership at the opening address.  Today, I stayed for the entire day and attended both the morning and afternoon […]

  2. […] an eventful and interesting day 1 and day 2, the final day of the OHA Health Achieve convention drew to a close […]