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!
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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
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?
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!
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:
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.
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):
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!
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!
I’ve been developing Web strategies for years. And I recently realized – I’ve been doing them wrong this whole time.
I create strategies by the book, more or less. I begin with research and analysis, develop goals and tactics and then put it all on paper. And that’s when I get a little nervous – as soon as that strategy is committed to paper.
But before we explore the source of my discomfort, let’s review why we create “strategies.”
The concept of strategy actually comes from military operations. It speaks to the manner in which resources are utilized and deployed in pursuit of an objective. In business, we often struggle to define exactly what a strategy is. This becomes even more difficult when referring to focused strategies such as a “Web strategy.” We’re frequently asked, “What goes into a Web strategy?”
Wikipedia defines a Web strategy as “… a long-term strategic business plan indicating how to create and develop a company’s online presence adhering to the business development strategy.” Huh? A Web strategy is a business plan adhering to another strategy? Aren’t strategies and business plans different things?
Yes. But (hopefully) they point us the same direction.
Reflecting back to the military definition, I think of a Web strategy as the place where you pick your battles. Your Web strategy paints a broad picture of what you’ll focus on, and through exclusion, where you won’t invest resources. It does not, however, determine how you’ll accomplish your objectives.
My problem with traditional strategies.
The traditional route to developing a strategy is a time-consuming process including a lot of data collection, analysis and rigorous documentation. You spend months interviewing stakeholders, and performing S.W.O.T. analyses, competitive analyses, capability assessments, product value matrices, and comparisons of potential scenarios. And all to better define the state of your organization, the space you’re serving, the market, the competitive landscape and your unique differentiators.
All of this work makes perfect sense when developing strategic plans for stable, long-cycle businesses. In healthcare, the cycles of change are measured in multiple years and capital investments take a decade or longer to play out. It’s typical to create an annual – or even multi-year – strategic plan for the organization because there’s simply no way to know in the short term if the strategy is effective.
But the digital landscape is different.
When organizations take the more traditional approach to developing Web strategies, planning becomes a one-time per year event.
I used to think this was the right approach. But not anymore.
The Web moves too quickly. If you spend months conducting research, drafting your objectives, outlining tactics and getting it all on paper, the industry and your competitors have passed you by.
Web strategies need to move at Internet speed! You need a new approach. Here are six things you need to be doing differently.
- The “big strategic plan” must die. Thinking strategically shouldn’t be a once-a-year event. You need to develop a process that makes strategic thinking a regular event.
- Shorten the cycle. Traditional strategic planning has a 3-5 year cycle. Web strategy is shorter than that, usually a year. Still that’s not enough! I propose executing a rolling strategy where you evaluate, update, and prioritize your plans and the associated tactics three to four times per year.
- Make strategic planning faster. To speed things up, we need to lighten up the Web strategy development process. Going through a high effort process that takes months upon months simply isn’t practical.
- Bring back transparency. In a fast-moving world, stakeholders need a better understanding of your strategy and execution to ensure buy-in and support. Your approach for establishing priorities must be clearly communicated with the appropriate stakeholders. You also need to consistently provide information on your progress relative to the accomplishment of the organization’s current priorities.
- Rethink how strategy is captured. Use highly flexible tools for organizing, capturing and communicating strategy. The risk of having the tools slow down the strategy process is very real. Specialized software often locks in a particular way of doing things and can harm flexibility and speed. Start with the simplest of tools – sticky notes and Word® documents.
- Give the team some power. Create a multi-disciplinary governance team to advise the Web team and provide feedback on their work. This ensures your team gets input and insight from a range of perspectives from around the business and also carries credibility in its priorities. This team should certainly involve stakeholders from within the organization but may also contain patients and other health consumers.
If it changes, is it still a strategy?
When the strategy changes this much and this quickly, does it just mean that you have no strategy at all? A fair question.
But think about this – how much of your time is spent on initiatives that are strategically important to the organization? How many of your current projects are connected to your current Web strategy?
Many healthcare Web teams spend a large amount of effort in constant firefighting – reacting to the requests of whomever is yelling the loudest. In that environment, the strategy that exists is no longer meaningful. Shortening the cycle leads to a much more regular reassessment of what is most important while leaving little time to kick the execution of those priorities to later in the year.
An agile approach to Web strategy has the potential to radically change the value you deliver to your organization. To learn more, watch our webinar Web Strategy: The Best Offense is a Good Defense.