Building a Democratic Workplace at Geonetric

worldblu certification

Today Geonetric was certified as a Democratic Workplace by WorldBlu. We’re proud to be a company that values its employees and actively works to create such a positive workplace culture.

Geonetric has always been a great place to work. About 18 months ago, we took that a step further – we said “great culture” has to mean more than just amenities like free food and a flexible work environment. So we eliminated our formal management hierarchy and instead created self-organizing, self-managing teams. That was a pretty major step toward a democratic workplace, even before we knew that was a “thing”.

Continue reading

Clients Still Satisfied? Check.

Client Satisfaction Graph
We did it again! The results of this quarter’s client satisfaction survey (and yes, we do it every three months) shows that our clients continue to value Geonetric as their Web partner. Last quarter, we hit an all-time high overall score of 5.32 on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). This quarter, we maintained that impressive score.

We have a pretty lofty goal for response rate. We need 70% participation, every survey. And you know what? We’ve consistently exceed that goal for more than two years. This time around, 73% of our clients participated in the survey and 92% of those respondents gave us a 5.0 or higher overall score!

Continue reading

Agile Leadership Experiment Retro, Year 1


Scrum Stand Up
It has been a little more than a year since we took the radical step to eliminate traditional management entirely. The goal was to extend the observations we had made from human psychology and the performance of Agile teams to the furthest extent we could imagine. It was truly an experiment: there were a handful of well-known examples to learn from, but the literature is pretty thin on the practical realities of self-organizing teams outside the software industry. And there were no peers that we knew of in eastern Iowa that had gone as far as we were intending to go. So, we rolled the dice and went for it using the best information we had at the time. Since we declared we’d be open about the experiment, it’s about time to revisit where we’re at, what’s working and what’s not. This post will just outline a few of the areas where we’ve seen success, and some where we’ve had difficulty. I’ll use the same format we use each week on each team in our retrospectives.
Continue reading

Humanizing Work

Attendees of the Humanizing Work Conference in Denver 2013

We have all experienced it. You grind away in your daily work environment. After a while, when things go well, they don’t really mean much. When things go slightly awry, they end up blown out of proportion. You end up confused sometimes. It’s got to be better outside of these walls right?

A group of Geonetric “agilists” (cool word, right!?) set out for Denver to attend the Humanizing Work Conference hosted by Agile for All. Among the attendees were companies from across the country, both large and small. For three days, we got the chance to look at ourselves and our company from a new vantage point.

The setup of the conference was brilliant. We spent as much time learning from the hosts and coaches there as we did from each other. We networked with peers we’d never met (some we never knew existed). When we got to take a step back from the daily grind of our own work, we got to see our work through someone else’s eyes… and it looked really cool!

Continue reading

Client Advisors Are Here to Save the Day


man and woman dressed as super heros

What is the difference between a project manager and a client advisor?

It’s an interesting question and one we at Geonetric have been answering for some time now. During our company-wide roll out of agile, we refined some of our internal roles, and with that came the transformation of our project managers.

Geonetric’s project managers have always handled more than just timelines and budgets. We are a very hands-on group – we do everything from place content to test new website functionality.

But now, we’ve taken on more of an advisory role. What does that mean for our clients?

Continue reading

Learning to Build a Better Team


team building with adhesive notes

What do you get when you gather 150 digital project managers together for two days? A well-organized conference that runs on time.

I spent two days in Philadelphia at the inaugural Digital PM Conference produced by the Bureau of Digital Affairs in association with Happy Cog™. This event is being touted as the first of its kind. There are plenty of conferences that include topics relevant to project managers as a side discussion. But to have a conference dedicated to the trials and tribulations of the digital project manager was definitely unique.

The topics covered how to manage projects from a variety of perspectives. The sessions shared ways to keep projects moving, clients happy and teams engaged. I have to say I picked up some really great tips and met a lot of “my people.”

Rachel Gertz presented “Clients Matter; So Put Your Team First.” This topic fits well into the agile culture we work in daily at Geonetric. Clients continue to make requests and our primary goal as project managers is to keep them happy, but sometimes we do this at our internal team’s expense. We are so buried in the weeds that we forget the needs of our team. If we lose our team’s confidences, we’re sunk.

Continue reading

Fresh Perspectives: Build a Rewarding Long-Term Patient Experience

arms lifting ornate mirror into air

As healthcare marketers we enjoy being in control. So coming to grips with the fact that sometimes we’re not in control can feel quite uncomfortable. This growing reality was difficult to swallow a few years ago and even more so today. We need to embrace the fact we can’t control every single piece of the consumer experience. Sounds radical doesn’t it? Not being in control goes against the very nature of who we are as human beings and how we strive to become even more valuable as marketers to our communities.

Does giving up control mean losing control of your story or message? I submit to you, if done correctly, it does not.

Continue reading

Humanizing Work: Conference Review

About 1/20 of the giant post-its capturing learning at the Humanizing Work Conference.

A number of the readers of GeoVoices are other companies using Agile methods, or considering it, because Geonetric is particularly aggressive in using Agile methods. If you’re interested in Agile, this post is for you. If not, feel free to skip this one!

Our Agile coach, Richard Lawrence, and his company Agile For All, put on a conference called Humanizing Work this week for advanced practitioners of Agile. Everyone had at the minimum been through a full Agile training program already; most had been involved with Agile for quite some time, some for many years. Attendees ranged from very large, well known corporations to small businesses and everything in between. Continue reading

Voice of the Customer versus Survey Fatigue

Photo of a man holding his hand to his ear.

It’s a well-documented fact that Geonetric surveys our clients every quarter to find out how we’re doing. In fact, we just wrapped up our Q3 survey.

Some might ask why we survey so frequently. Doesn’t that lead to survey fatigue? Aren’t we worried about over-surveying leading to skewed results and lowered response rates?

On the other hand, good businesses have to pay attention to the “Voice of the Customer.” What are their preferences, expectations, and experiences with our company?

So how do we balance these two seemingly conflicted questions?
Continue reading

Geonetric’s 6th Scrumiversary

Geonetric Retro Meeting

In October of last year, I wrote about how we were using Scrum to drive agile marketing campaigns. This ended up being our pilot program to see if Scrum works outside of the software world.

We found out a lot of what makes Scrum so great does in fact work outside the walls of software, just not everything. We actually deemed the practice “Scrum” (yes, making finger quotes when you say it!).

A year later all of our teams are using some elements of Scrum, and to a much greater degree, embracing the constructs of Agile that help us get things done. We are trying not to call it Scrum either, when it’s not.

Our software teams still embrace Scrum and the rest of our company has learned a thing or two from this.

Agile-versary??? Stay tuned for more about this exciting effort in the next few months!

Scrum, Minimum Viable Product and Operation Overnight

Image of Geonetric's Operation Overnight logo

Last week Geonetric held its second annual Operation Overnight, a 24-hour volunteer event that brings teams from across Geonetric together with local area nonprofits in need of website makeovers (or even first websites). Despite it being a 24-hour event with the feel of a hackathon, many of the basic tenets and concepts from Scrum are applicable. In fact, I posit that a Scrum approach is more important, not less important, for an event like this.

Breaking the day’s work into manageable sprints, having a sprint board, hourly standups, retros, and a clear investment in backlog grooming — all help. In fact, this year I introduced a new concept to our Operation Overnight team: the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). What’s an MVP? Kenneth S. Rubin, noted Scrum theorist and author, introduces it this way:
Continue reading

Embrace What Makes a Team Better and Ditch What Doesn’t

light-a-match

Change is scary. But what happens when you throw all convention out the window? Like really let loose and do something totally extreme. When you keep doing something over and over that doesn’t work… isn’t that the definition of insanity? So instead of driving yourself crazy, beating your head against the wall doing the same old thing, what’s stopping you from trying something different?

If you follow our blog, you’ve probably heard how we jumped in and implemented agile methodologies throughout our entire organization. Whether you know what that means or not, the bottom line is we knew we could do things better but the constraints of traditional management and organizational structure were preventing us from changing.

Continue reading

Pit Stops and Continuous Improvement

At our last company meeting, we watched a video about pit stops. Why? Because it was freaking awesome to watch! The Red Bull team set the record for the fastest pit stop in April of this year. The video shows it in slow motion for a minute and a half, and then the entire process in real time.

So, before you watch it, predict right now how long you think it takes to do a pit stop for a Formula One racecar. Remember it, we’ll come back after you check it out (you will want to put in on HD, and turn up your speakers):

Continue reading

The Geonetric Games: Cross-Functional Teams for the Win!

geonetric-sharknados

At Geonetric, we’re all about cross-functional teams. We organize ourselves in groups of people with various expertise and we all work toward a common goal.

This year’s Geonetric Games was no different. Teams were formed and a heated competition ensued. Teams took the events as seriously as we take our commitment to doing great client work! This year’s favorite events included office chair relays, javelin (a.k.a. pool noodle) toss, and a water balloon toss (er… fight). As I whizzed past CEO Eric Engelmann in an office chair I thought, “How awesome is Geonetric?”

If you want to participate in next year’s Geonetric Games, check out our current job openings and join the fun! Bring on next year!

How Do We Get Beyond Our Malkovich Biases?

blue-up-arrows

The most common place where technological solutions go wrong is that they’re built for the person building them and not for the person who will be using them.

Where teams fail is not that they don’t intend for the solution to work for the target audience but rather an inability to recognize they are not a member of that target audience. This is not as obvious as you might think. If you’re building a website for cancer patients, the challenge is not that you believe yourself to be a cancer patient. Rather, the gap is in realizing an actual cancer patient is going to use the tool differently than you will.

This phenomenon has a name – The Malkovich Bias: The tendency to believe that everyone uses technology the same way that you do.

The name was first shared by Andres Glusman of Meetup.com in his blog and has, apparently, worked its way quickly into the psyche of the user experience (UX) community (you can listen to Glusman talking about the concept and UX testing in this video). The concept refers to the movie Being John Malkovich. At some point in the film, just about every character gets the opportunity to be Malkovich, but even given the same tool, they use Malkovich in entirely different ways.

We see the same thing in technology. For example, I use Twitter for content curation and to engage with others at tradeshows and conferences. I’ve been on long enough to know that others use it to crowd source their breakfast menu or as a form of very public group chat. I couldn’t imagine using it that way. Likewise, following 2,000+ people, I couldn’t imagine using the original SMS-based interface, but there are many users without SmartPhones or regular Internet access for whom Twitter is a text message-based solution today. They use these tools very differently from the way I do. Point is, if I’m planning to reach them with Twitter, the way that I use the tool doesn’t really matter.

So how do we get beyond our Malkovich biases?

  • Realize that the bias is there: First and foremost, we need to actively question our assumptions when working on a project. If you work in healthcare and spend a lot of time online there are many things that you could throw at a user which won’t make any sense to them at all.
  • NIHITO: For those of you not familiar with Lean improvement strategies, NIHITO stands for Nothing Interesting Happens In The Office. In other words, get out and spend some time with your customers/end users. And not just once, but regularly.
  • The only thing that matters is what actual users actually do: You look at a piece of technology and know exactly how it works and how you use it. You can even run tests in a usability lab to get an outside perspective. Sometimes even the best designed products can be misunderstood.
  • Iterate on innovation: We all try to check things off our to-do list and call them done. Real innovation requires risk taking, experimentation, measurement and adjustment.

Where have you found your Malkovich biases? How do you overcome them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!