Jim Austin

Jim Austin
Decision Strategies International, Inc. (DSI)

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Jim Austin, a former senior executive at Baxter Healthcare, combines business strategy and organizational development theory with extensive industry experience. Jim is a Faculty Consultant at the Aresty Institute of Executive Education, Wharton Business School, where he tailors senior-level seminars for leading entities including SIFMA, CUES, Boston Scientific, Coca-Cola, Lincoln Financial, GE, GlaxoSmithKline and Hitachi.  Specifically, he leads seminars at Wharton on:

  • Finding New Growth Opportunities
  • Building a Vision
  • Execution and Leading Strategic Change
  • Improving Strategic Decision-Making
  • Scenario Planning and Strategic Agility.

In 2013, Brown University appointed Jim a Senior Lecturer of Healthcare Leadership in their Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership (MHL). He is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice where he heads a graduate Leadership & Workforce Development course.  From 1996 through 2016, Jim was a Business Management Professor at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management where he received the “Most Distinguished Corporate Education Faculty Member” (2009-10) and the “Learning Excellence” (2015) awards.  From 2013-2016, he was an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Health Systems Management, College of Health Sciences, Rush University, where he taught a graduate seminar on Healthcare Ethics.  Jim’s book, Transformative Planning: How Your Healthcare Organization Can Strategize for an Uncertain Future (Health Administration Press, 2018), helps healthcare leaders drive transformational change.

From 2005–2016, Jim worked at Decision Strategies International, leaving as a Senior Principal. There, he directed numerous projects including scenarios of the future for a medical devices firm, R&D priorities for a major consumer products company, a strategic plan for the American College of Radiology, scenarios of the future for the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, and a new vision and strategic priorities for the national and IL Boards of Volunteers of America (VOA). He now heads his own firm, JH Austin Associates, Inc. (www.jh-austin.com).

Prior to joining Decision Strategies, Jim spent 12 years at Baxter Healthcare, the last four as vice president of strategy development for the Renal Division.  At Baxter, Jim identified new business opportunities, facilitated annual strategy planning processes, and worked with senior management on organizational development for this rapidly growing, nearly $2B Division. Before that, Jim was assistant to the president for ANCHOR HMO, a subsidiary of Rush Medical Center, Chicago. Prior to his move to Chicago, Jim worked as a consultant for Arthur D. Little, Inc., where he led several large-scale planning, business development, and strategic positioning studies. Between college and graduate school, he spent four years as an economist/planning officer in the Ministry of Finance, Botswana.

Jim holds a BA in economics and politics from Yale University. He was a Special Student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Urban Studies Department; he received a joint Master of Public Affairs (MPA) and Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. Previously, Jim was chairman of the Strategic Leadership Forum, a board member of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, member of the Board of Directors for the University Club of Chicago, treasurer of LaSalle Language Academy, and member of the Admissions Committee for the Latin School of Chicago.

Speaking Topics:

Improved Decision-Making and The Art of the Con

Why do some individuals gain support for their ideas in meetings, while others seemingly languish?  At the core of any organization's performance are the decisions that leaders make…those financial, strategic, human resource, marketing and leadership decisions that underlie an organization's performance. Understanding how to improve decision-making is a truly fundamental leadership requirement. In this session, we will explore typical decision “traps”--those biases in large part determined by how the human brain operates. Drawing on recent research, this session will expose participants to decision biases through short exercises and offer ways to alleviate them.  

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how we are all susceptible to “irrational” decisions in certain situations
  • Ways to spot such biases within one’s own organization or team 
  • Frameworks to counteract decision biases.

Finding New Growth Opportunities

As Steve Lohr writes in an article on Microsoft, “One of the evolutionary laws of business is that success breeds failure; the tactics and habits of earlier triumphs so often leave companies--even the biggest, most profitable and most admired companies--unable to adapt."  Clearly, sustained competitive advantage, Michael Porter’s definition of “strategy”, is difficult to attain, especially in these increasingly uncertain times.  In this highly interactive seminar, Mr. Austin will outline key frameworks for identifying innovative, new avenues for growth.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the difference between “inside-out” vs. “outside-in” thinking and what it means to be “customer-centric”.
  • Identify obstacles to strategic growth and approaches for overcoming.

Execution and Driving Change

High performance requires effective execution and, for many organizations, change management. Unfortunately, major change efforts have a dismal track record. In multiple studies, highlighting the experiences of hundreds of companies initiating large-scale changes, the overwhelming results are poor. For example:

  • John Kotter’s seminal research in the field of change management half a century ago revealed that only 30% of change programs succeed.
  • A 2008 global IBM study of major change initiatives found that only 41% fully met their objectives, while 44% missed their budget, time, or quality goals, and 15% were seen as total failures.
  • In 2013, a report that aggregated over 6,000 senior executive surveys revealed that 70% of change efforts fail to achieve their target impact.

As the Harvard Business Review’s editor articulated so well in discussing why so many transformation efforts fail:

“…no business survives over the long term if it can’t reinvent itself. But human nature being what it is, fundamental change is often resisted mightily by the people it most affects: those in the trenches of the business. Thus, leading change is both absolutely essential and incredibly difficult” (Kotter 2007).

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand a 3-step process for driving execution; and
  • Improve capacity to lead change. 

Speaking Topics

  • Improved Decision-Making and The Art of the Con

  • Finding New Growth Opportunities

  • Execution and Driving Change