CVS Health CIO: Why doing what you say matters in IT

CVS Health CIO: Why doing what you say matters in IT

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We use a performance management mechanism within IT at CVS Health called the “Do:Say Ratio” to continually remind ourselves that ideas are great, solutions to problems are wonderful – but if you don’t execute on those great ideas and solutions, we will not achieve our goals.   

This gap between what we say and what we do is one of the key contributors to an organization’s underperformance.

You may have heard of the Say:Do ratio, which is a similar concept comparing the number of things said by an individual or a company to the number of things that are actually done. We intentionally inverted the concept to Do:Say in our organization because if you think about it mathematically, if you do everything you say, then the ratio is 1:1, which is ultimately where you want to be. If you don’t do everything that you say, then the ratio is less than one. It made more sense to me to see underachievement represented as less than one, because it places stronger emphasis on the gap that we need to close.

I have found, in both business and in life, people’s instincts are to say the right things. When confronted with failure, it’s human nature to say the right thing in the moment like, “Yeah, this is what happened. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix it. And here’s what we’re going to do make sure it never happens again.”

Where the performance gap arises is when we don’t do it, or we only fix half of the problem. This gap between what we say and what we do is one of the key contributors to an organization’s underperformance. Since our goal is to create a culture of accountability, we wanted underperformance risks to be immediately recognizable within our Do:Say ratio.

When we first introduced this mechanism, the first question we got was, “Is there going to be a scorecard? Are we really going to count these things?” And the answer, of course, was no – it’s a tool, an illustration to make a point. There are no scorecards for individuals and there’s no scorecard for the organization. It’s a tool that is used to illustrate a potential gap in performance that we need to raise to the top of our consciousness. The goal is to continue to create a culture of accountability – one that’s not measured by scorecards, but rather, by developing a strong formula for success in meeting our existing goals and our existing commitments.

Today, across IT at CVS Health we hear colleagues incorporating our Do:Say language into their daily interactions. They’ll say, “Steve, if you remember a month ago, I said I was going to do X, Y and Z. Well, I want to give you an update on X, Y and Z.” That’s a really good sign that we are embracing the concept and taking accountability for doing what we say.

The Do:Say ratio may be a simple enough concept, but if properly integrated into your operating culture it can drive big changes in how individuals in an IT organization are communicating and behaving.


Phenomenal concept. Trying to

Phenomenal concept. Trying to quantify human behavior in a measurable approach is an exceptional way to monitor results. Finding that intrinsic motivation to do the right thing is key, for sure!

I think you should say only 1

I think you should say only 1 thing then, because then if you do ANYTHING the ratio will be >= 1.

Stephen Gold is Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for CVS Health. In this role since July 2012, Gold is the company’s senior technology executive and has responsibility for all information systems and technology operations, including information technology strategy, application development, technology infrastructure, and business and technology operations.

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