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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Epic's Principles, Part 8

Epic's 13 principles
1. Do not go public.
2. Do not be acquired.
3. Expectations = reality.
4. Keep commitments.
5. Be frugal.
6. Have standards. Don't do deals.
7. Create innovative and helpful products.
8. Have fun with customers.
9. Follow processes. Find root causes. Fix processes.
10. Don't take on debt for operations, no matter how good the deal.
11. Focus on competency. Do not tolerate mediocrity.
12. Teach philosophy and culture.
13. If you disagree, dissent. Once decided, support.

Principle 10 is interesting--it used to be "Don't take on debt, no matter how good the deal," but apparently Judy had to buy some buildings on credit. It's nice that day-to-day fiscal responsibility is a priority, but unfortunately, I'm in no position to know how well Epic is doing on that. The company is privately owned specifically to keep this kind of information out of the public.

Epic gets a bye on this one, due to my lack of insider information.

Because of that, you get a twofer this week. "Focus on competency. Do not tolerate mediocrity." As with most things, Epic takes an inconsistent approach to this.

Judy most assuredly does not tolerate perceived mediocrity in its employees, but she sure is happy to have the least mediocre EHR out there. There's a difference between Best and Least Bad. Epic is adequate, but the volume of user complaints and bug reports preclude any claims of excellence. Epic does try, though; they're just hampered by how they enforce their ban on mediocrity.

I'm talking about how Epic churns and burns through its employees. New employees are trained to a level of adequacy, then left to sink or swim on their own. If they start to sink, rather than fish them out of the pool and enroll them in swim lessons, Epic lets them drown.

Most business knowledge that I've come across (google: retraining vs replacing employees) advocates that retraining is the more sound business decision. In terms of lost productivity and monetary expense, replacing costs more. Consider Epic: When I was there, communal wisdom stated that it took about 9 months for a TS to become self-sufficient after being hired. Retraining the under-performing employee should take about a month or two of concentrated effort. Replacing that employee starts the 9 month counter over. If most people are leaving sometime between 1.5 and 2.5 years, then the customer is getting minimal competency from their TS.

If training were better, and could be compressed into a shorter time frame, that would help Epic live up to its principle. Get the employee competent faster. If Epic retrained the underperformers--time management skills, prioritization, troubleshooting shortcuts, etc--then they wouldn't have to give up 9 months of non-productive time. Epic wouldn't have to pay that new employee for 9 months on the promise of only a couple months of productivity after that.

While Epic tolerates mediocrity in their product, they are quick to fire mediocre employees, which is a no-tolerance response. Epic has historically struggled with getting its employees the right training, and Epic never retrains. Competency is assumed, never questioned, and never corrected if necessary. There's little proof of a focus on competency. Epic fails on this principle.


  1. I've been waiting for #11, since I definitely think it's Epic's biggest fail. I noticed something interesting in my last few months. It seemed to me that the people who were being promoted to TL were not the people who were really good at their jobs and actually working with customers. It was the people who were mediocre at their actual role, but who hop on the 'let's put a process around every tiny thing' bandwagon and start speaking the Epic language. There's no retraining or helping struggling employees because many of the TLs themselves are too incompetent to know where to start.

    1. Former TS, I'm also former TS. Same problem. My TL was an atrocious nightmare. I hope to never work for a person like him again. What a horrendous experience in my last year or so. I shake my head every time I think about the absurdity of the TL structure and how it works.

      "Hey, this guy is your boss now. He's unreasonably aggressive and will make you feel like shit every day, enjoy!"

    2. I saw much the same thing, Former TS. There are TS who keep their heads to the grindstone and take care of their customers. They don't always say much at the team meetings, and they get more and more customers as time goes on. There are also those who speak up all the time at meetings, and they get one customer and lots of internal workgroups/projects. They're the ones that get promoted to TL.

    3. Management just doesn't care about the lowly TS. A Kaiser TC caused a downtime due to not following TC process in SU review, and it was blamed on the application TS who owned the code that broke, who was fired.

      Not like anyone knew that the code existed in the first place because the customer had introduced the custom code and not told anyone at Epic.

      Every TS team had a meeting after that incident on how to respond to such a manmade disaster, but nobody dug into the root cause, which was Kaiser introducing the problem because we didn't pursue the functionality they wanted.

  2. How do I contact the owner of this blog? I have a story you may be interested in posting.

    1. I moderate all the comments before publishing them. Leave your contact information (which I won't publish), and I'll get back to you.

  3. Have you heard anything about Cerner and how their employee working conditions compare to Epic? Or is there a blog similar to this for former/current Cerner employees?

    1. Glassdoor.com points to similar problems at Cerner, but I didn't read that many reviews. A google search for "fired from cerner" didn't yield any meaningful results.