SHSMD Taskforce Unveils the Ultimate Healthcare Strategy Guide

Strategy GuideThe forces of change are arraying and the impact on healthcare marketing, public relations, communications and planning will be significant. The change isn’t just driven from healthcare reform, it’s also coming from health consumerism and advances in technology including big data, personalized communication and CRM.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past year to be part of a SHSMD think tank exploring the future of the strategy disciplines — marketing, planning, public relations, corporate communications, and physician relations — within the healthcare enterprise.

This task force, working with David Grandy and a team of design thinking consultants from HDR consulting, interviewed, work shopped and vetted its conclusions with hundreds of professionals, executives and CEOs from both inside and outside of our industry.

The result of this work is the impressive Bridging Worlds report. It provides a detailed and actionable plan outlining the changes that healthcare organizations need to make to succeed in the future.

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Sometimes It’s Hard to See Change From Up Close

geonetric-cultureFor the past month or so I’ve been working very little with the Geonetric team. We moved to our brand new building last month, and I was pretty focused on that. But I’ve also been working with startup teams on our second floor in the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and will be until November. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know about our 18-month old experiment in which our teams operate without managers. Perhaps this takes the experiment to its logical conclusion: can the teams run without a CEO for three months?Of course the answer is yes.

Today I joined the entire company in our new café for our monthly company meeting. But unbeknownst to me, they had changed it up dramatically. And the modifications they made to the meeting are indicative of the important cultural changes that have been taking place.

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What Does Geonetric Value

In the second year of our Agile-beyond-software transformation, we had an “aha” moment. We realized our core values were fuzzy and didn’t necessarily reflect the company we are today. We trust employees to self-organize and make the “right” decisions – but they didn’t have clear principles to guide those decisions.

In a traditional environment, the executive team might hire a branding company to define and roll out the organization’s values. The company then typically ends up with words that are cliché, ambiguous and impossible to measure – values like “passion” and “excellence” – or a Dilbert-like phrase filled with buzzwords – such as “leveraging core competencies to achieve synergistic results”. That doesn’t cut it here.

So of course, we decided to turn the process on its head. We asked employees to tell the executive team what our core values are.

Employees were asked to write a value and short description on a card and post it on our newly-created Core Values wall. For two weeks, each employee could add as many or as few as they wanted, and in the end, employees contributed nearly 50 cards.

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From there, we grouped the cards based on similar ideas, and came up with twelve high-level themes. Those themes then were put into a survey tool, where employees were asked to rank them. The results were crystal clear. Employees believe we have five core values, with the other seven supporting those.

Our final step was to have our marketing team help wordsmith the final values, because of course, they have to sound like us.

Core_Values

And here are the values that our employees believe make us who we are and define how we work with each other and our clients every day:

  • Own it: We’re accountable to ourselves, each other and our clients. We keep our promises.
  • Bring it: We deliver exceptional service and value every day. We’re aiming for Wow!
  • Push it: We’re always moving forward or learning from our mistakes. Standing still is not an option.
  • Say it: We’ve torn down the walls so ideas and information flow freely. Candid and direct is a way of life.
  • Unite! We are strategic and creative, thoughtful and candid, fun and different. We’re one team, united by a common vision.

If you interact with any of us at Geonetric in any way – as a client, vendor partner, community neighbor, agile co-conspirator, prospective client or candidate for employment – I trust that you’ve been seeing those values in action for a long time. We’ve just finally written them down in a way that sounds just like us. Yep – nailed it.

 

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”.

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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!

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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.

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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?
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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.

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The 2013 SHSMD Annual Conference in One Word

SHSMD Annual Conference

Having spent my week at SHSMD schmoozing with the biggest gathering of healthcare strategy, planning, communications, marketing and PR professionals that the Society has ever had, the current state of our industry can be summed up in a single word:

Uncertainty

We’ve been on the cusp of major industry shifts for a few years now, but for all of the discussions and debate, no one is really sure what our industry is going to look like three years from now.

This week saw the biggest step to date in terms of actual implementation of the ACA (AKA Obamacare) and we’re still playing a guessing game to determine what its real meaning to our service mix and financial picture will really be. Obamacare applies leverage to the edges of the healthcare system, but doesn’t dictate what the care delivery system will look like or how it will work.

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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):

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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!

Geonetric Forums: Better Together

Forums

I like to believe I bring insightful perspective when consulting with healthcare organizations and in my speaking, writing, social media and blogging activities. What I bring to the table is insight that spans all organizations. I see how different healthcare professionals approach similar problems, when they succeed and fail, and, with a little luck, can provide some thoughts as to why certain outcomes happen.

What I can’t bring to the table is the first-person perspective. I’m not the person in the hospital working to move that initiative forward. I’m not the one navigating the internal politics, receiving the angry phone calls from physicians, or selling the health system’s brand. It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve worked in a hospital and I’ve used up my war stories.

Fortunately, I work with a truly incredible group of healthcare organizations. The wisdom and depth of experience I find when talking with healthcare professionals is as valuable as the perspective I bring to the conversation. Likely more so.

That’s why I regularly co-present topics with our clients and engage with them when I write. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to so many conferences and tradeshows throughout the year.

I’ve recently been taking my conversations a step further. I’ve been putting a group of healthcare professionals in a room together, introducing a topic and then getting out of the way. These sessions are one part focus group, one part mentoring, and one part group therapy session. And they’re truly wonderful!

We held the first such session back in April at the Geonetric eHealth Symposium, our annual client event. We gathered the audience in peer groups with the thinking that the issues faced by smaller community hospitals and specialty centers often look different from those of large, complex health systems with many moving parts and a regional reach. To my surprise, this was not only a fascinating session for me to facilitate and watch, but also the most highly rated session of the symposium!

This week I get to do this again with a virtual twist. We’re holding our first Geonetric Forum. During these quarterly conference calls, our clients will again be divided into peer groups and will meet to share critical trends in healthcare and digital communications.

We all get tied up in our day-to-day challenges. Participation in this community of expertise is a wonderful way to take a step back and think strategically about the challenges we face. I’m very excited to be a part of the experience and to see what I’ll learn.

And who knows, maybe there will be a blog post in there somewhere.

Responsive Design is a Journey, Not a Destination

Highway with arrow, illustrating the responsive design journey

We’ve been talking about Responsive Design for a long time. In truth, Geonetric was one of the first healthcare Web firms to promote the benefits of this approach in our industry. With the explosion of new devices, form factors, and formats like Windows 8’s touchscreen computers and convertible laptop/tablets, it’s more important than ever to evolve our thinking from “the mobile Web” to a “Whole Web” philosophy.

The initial goal of Responsive Design was simply to deliver all of the content and functionality on our websites to the mobile audience. And it accomplished that. Adobe Flash® features went out the window. Mouse-over menus were outfitted with touchscreen friendly navigation support. And content was prioritized to keep the most important items visible as screens got smaller and smaller.

But now as designers gain more experience with Responsive Design, they’re not just adapting their design techniques. They’re also adapting their processes to deliver a better digital experience given the new demands of emerging platforms. The mobile first design approach – where you create a design for the mobile site before the desktop site – is an example of this.

Changing our processes requires us to rethink the solutions we deliver. This has certainly proven true as Responsive Design evolves beyond making more usable mobile sites to developing the whole site based on the mobile experience. I’ve heard a lot of hospital marketing executives expressing a desire to have their website “not look like a hospital site.” And let’s face it – hospital websites were starting to look a lot alike. It’s time for change.

The drive to create great mobile experiences has initiated a Web design renaissance. We think not just in the horizontal but also the vertical. Designing “above the fold” is an antiquated concept, and scrolling is no longer verboten as gesture supports – such as swiping and pinching – make it easier for visitors to find information below the fold. Designers need to embrace the new reality – a lack of the type of precision control in how their designs will look to any given user as they build sites that adapt.

The emergence of mobile isn’t an event or a change that happened very quickly. It’s a series of changes that have been happening and will continue to happen. That’s why it’s an exciting time to be working in the healthcare Web space. But, it’s also a risky time for organizations that are resting on their laurels and not being aggressive in keeping up with a changing Web!

To learn more about how healthcare website design is changing and explore some hospitals that are breaking the “hospital website design” mold, join us for our webinar, “Pushing Hospital Website Design” at 3:00 p.m. CT on June 20.

An Innovative Solution to the Content Conundrum

Screen shot of the Blaze content strategy tool

If you’ve worked in the Web industry for any length of time, you’re painfully aware of how challenging it is to plan for, create, and maintain great content. In healthcare, as in many other industries, there is an enormous amount of informational content. It can easily become overwhelming. However, nothing is more central than content to the success of your online strategy and the overall experience of your audience.

Talk with content strategy experts and you will hear war stories about hours spent manipulating spreadsheets. Dozens of articles and blog posts describe in tedious detail how to combine numerous data files into a single view. All of this cutting, pasting, manipulation, and frustration doesn’t leave much time – or energy – for actually  understanding the content or developing a solid strategy, let alone writing anything.

Leave the Spreadsheets to Accounting

It’s time for a new toolset. We’re creating Web-based software that helps Web teams to see all of their content across multiple channels, easily access quantitative metrics, and add insight with hands-on qualitative analysis.

Interested in progress updates, invitations to collaborate, and early access?
Visit blazecontent.com

We’re making it possible to do this in a collaborative, real-time environment – no more waiting for locked files, trying to track down the latest version, or merging sets of changes. We believe that content is the crux of creating great user experiences, and that better tools lead to better content.

Escaping Gravity

You may be wondering how this impacts all of the stuff Geonetric does today. Creating something new is difficult. It’s especially hard to overcome the gravitational pull of what you’ve done in the past. With that in mind, this project is designed to be insulated from existing products and services. We’re operating as a lean startup inside of Geonetric with a small team that will grow if when! we are successful.

Rather than being a drain on the existing organization, we’ve already seen positive side effects. What seems like a tiny shift has thrown open the door for team members to collaborate differently, share new ideas, try out new technologies, and find better ways to solve problems. That’s innovation.