A Transformation in Teaching – The Butterfly Effect, Part Two

This is the second part of a two part article on the difference made by Landmark graduates Pam Djigounian and Jeff Gamble. Read part one here.

by Mindy Sullivan

LWN - Jeff GambleA few months, later Jeff called Pam to say “I’ve been asked to lead the summer intern program with kids at work, and I want to bounce some ideas off of you”.

Out of Pam’s distinguishing in The Landmark Forum who she was in the world, her brother created an intern program with kids that saved the hospital he worked at a half million dollars in the first year alone.  She still finds it amazing that it all started with the one student thanking her for being a role model. She says that letter was the butterfly that created a wave leading to Jeff wanting to take on his program with students and saving the hospital money.  She says she would never have guessed that how she was and acted in the classroom would have had such far reaching effects with such amazing outcomes.

This year, she was chosen to be County teacher of the year, which she says is an amazing honor, but when she gives her acceptance speech, she is going to touch on how every act effects everyone else.  She calls her speech ‘The Butterfly Effect’, after the idea that a butterfly flaps its wings off the coast of Africa and that little wind disturbance causes a ripple effect that causes a hurricane on the east coast of America. She says her speech ends with “Every one of you has that kind of effect, so take care of your butterflies.”

At the time of this Interview, Jeff had flown Pam out to San Jose to co-lead a classroom of his summer interns with him. He wanted her to see, first hand, the difference her influence had made on him and these kids. When they led the classroom, what surprised him was how many kids, at the end of the day, came up to them both and said “I want a relationship in my family like the one you have with your sister”.  He said it was not anything he had planned. It was simply who he and his sister are for each other which is love, family, and now partners in the work they do with kids.

It was the highlight of his week, and the fact that the kids had said this, moved, touched and inspired him. Jeff says he would not have taken on this program if he had not seen the difference his sister was making in the lives of children.

Jeff’s program is part of the Kaiser Permanente Summer Youth Employment Program, a company community benefit that helps maintain the hospital’s non-profit status. It originated in the 1960’s and employs young people between the ages of 16-20 in underserved communities. They come and work for the hospital for eight weeks and find out what a career in health care might look like. Traditionally the kids would have four hours a week where they are together, and another 36 hours a week doing mostly clerical work and observing what is going on in the hospital. They also have a project where they interview someone in the hospital and then report on it.

Jeff was asked to take on the program in 2013. His regular position with the hospital is a manager for Team Development and Employee Engagement. He proposed that if he was to take on this additional project, he would have to link it with his regular duties. Soon after, he designed a curriculum that had the interns in an 8-hour ‘Education Day’ each week, where he would train them in what he does. Initially, his superiors could not imagine how a 16-year old could possibly make decisions that would be taxing for a 50-year old to make. With fresh new eyes, Jeff created his intern program in 2013 with 20 kids broken into teams at the Modesto facility, in departments including the emergency room, pharmacy, labs and human resources. The interns would help identify something in each department that wasn’t working or wasn’t working as well as they would like it to.

He then asked them, Landmark Style, to distinguish what was “missing – the presence of which would make a difference.”  They created a game to discover what would make that area better over the course of the 8 weeks, and used Performance Improvement methodologies like Lean and 6-Sigma that he taught them during New Employee Orientation. One young intern discovered a way to recapture gases used in surgery that were previously discarded. He figured out a way to put the gasses back into the system – and saved the company $250,000. That impressed Jeff’s Superiors!

Jeff knew at the start of the program he, at 50, did not have a lot in common with a 16-year old, so he called his best resource for that, Pam, his sister.  He sent her his plans for the program and they looked at ways to make it successful. Shortly after, his project took off, in Jeff’s words, “like it was on fire”.

Every program starts with the participants receiving a copy of the book The Three laws of Performance and they read a chapter a week together as they discuss what is possible to create. There are chapters in the book where the kids get to examine (in Landmark terms) their strong suits and rackets. They look at how their strong suits have them be successful, and how to recognize them as strong suits and create newly what is possible in a way that would have them be unrecognizable as they look at whatever is next for them. Last year, in 2014, he was able to duplicate this unique approach with the program at the San Jose Kaiser facility, demonstrating that his model could work anywhere.

Much like the letter his sister shared, Jeff recently received a post on Facebook from a former student who distinguished how gossiping in her life did not work. She explained how stopping the gossip had brought her closer to those she cared about and opened up new avenues for her. A reply posting from another student said it was a direct result of Jeff’s Intern program. Another posted the question “Who was leading your life” and she went on to describe the future she was creating and living into. The Butterflies were taking flight.

At this point, Jeff has just concluded his third summer program with his high school interns. This year, 15 departments in Modesto, Manteca, and Stockton launched performance improvements, led by interns, that addressed: increased appointment access for members in the Optometry and Ophthalmology departments; greater member satisfaction with Kaiser’s Psychiatry services; improved inventory reconciliation in the Central Valley Supply Chain and Operator Services; increased Pediatric member access through their online service, kp.org; improved surgery times in the Operating Room; more efficient discharge and room turnover times in the Emergency Department; reducing employee workplace injuries in the Med/Surg units; increased patient colorectal screenings and patient satisfaction in the Adult Family Medicine departments; and increased inpatient co-pay collections in the Admitting department.

“Inside our commitment to better resource stewardship and greater healthcare affordability,” Jeff added, “these intern-led projects will save Kaiser Permanente up to $3 million through these improvement efforts. Cost savings aside, however, this program helps mold these up-and-coming healthcare leaders and shape new futures for themselves and the effectiveness of their teams.”

Jeff says his program – in real time – is very rewarding and powerful, he looks forward to spreading his methods to the Summer Youth Employment Program — and to team development — company wide in the future. He also says that every person you touch, whether out in the world or close to your friends and family, are out there making a difference. The question is, “What can you do to support that?”

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1 comment

Samuel says:

This duo is creating a lot of positive difference in the world as well as the hearts of many people. I am inspired by their hard work and pure intentions. With the hopes to create a huge positive change in the society, I did the Landmark Forum and received a lot of knowledge from the course. I got a huge breakthrough and learnt how to be more self-expressive. I am looking forward to the courses and would eventually contribute towards the society.

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