3976_AGILEMARKETING5_Blog-1MaryAnn Godwin and Sean Sinisgalli co-wrote this blog post with Erin Liman.

One of the most pervasive and difficult challenges facing agile marketing transformation is other functions’ lack of buy-in or responsiveness. This is especially common in healthcare, where speed is often directed by compliance and regulatory timelines. Here’s how to smooth organizational friction to make agile transformations work:

  • Refocus marketing efforts on customer benefits: With a unified focus on the customer, employees become less territorial and are more willing to support agile teams’ efforts. Create new roles, structures or incentives that will help develop a more patient-centered culture. Many healthcare firms are experimenting with dedicated customer or patient experience teams and chief patient officer roles, tasked in part with infusing the patient’s perspective into all areas of the organization. Absent a full-scale culture shift, ZS commonly recommends three internal marketing approaches to reorient focus to the customer over the function:

    1. Much like a presidential hopeful who hits the road engaging communities across the country, marketing leaders can connect with the company’s other departments to share the customer vision and explain how it resonates across the firm. This helps the entire firm see how their own work impacts customer experience.

    2. Conduct role-playing or simulation exercises to make customer experience visceral and activate change. ZS helped a client improve its call center operations by having operators simulate the frustrating experience of being endlessly transferred around the center.

    3. Executive leaders and managers should empower employees to make customers happy. Ritz-Carlton’s “$2,000 rule,” which allows employees to spend up to $2,000 to fix customer problems without requesting managerial approval, is a great example.

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Brand managers, directors, data scientists and communications strategists (above) work together on agile teams to realize the healthcare marketing picture and create a better experience for patients.


  • Show tangible benefits and scale learning: Having the agile team share its positive results with the full marketing department should fuel greater buy-in and make the case for adding more agile teams. Scheduling quarterly retrospectives helps teams build on their learnings, as opposed to jumping straight into the next sprint. The marketing department can then package these success stories into easily digestible forms for the broader company. Infographics and stories summarizing results, shared over company intranets, newsletters or LinkedIn, get people excited and show progress, ultimately stirring greater interest and involvement.

    For example, when an agile team at a rare disease pharma manufacturer conducted in-depth interviews with prescribing physicians, they found that physicians are comforted by having an “act of last resort” and thus often delay prescribing the company’s product until patients have severely progressed. The team relayed this information throughout the organization, particularly the sales force, prompting the sales force to adjust its message positioning, spending less time on their product and more time on potential next steps should a patient not respond to the product. Though counterintuitive, the messaging approach addressed physicians’ emotional insecurities and changed their prescribing behavior, and many patients received the company’s life-extending treatment sooner.

Getting other functions to buy in to agile transformation can be a challenge, but by focusing on the customer, sharing your successes and showing how your agile team’s work can help other departments, you’ll be on your way to reducing the organizational friction that often stands in the way of success.


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Topics: customer insights, marketing, leading teams, agile marketing, sales teams