Agile Methodology in Healthcare with GE Healthcare

A Retrium Customer Story with Rob Hafer, Software Engineering Director @ GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare is the part of General Electric focused on health-related information technology, such as medical imaging systems and patient monitoring devices. These cutting-edge medical technologies and services help their customers deliver quality medical care while reducing costs.

By Niki Kohari, Retrium COO

"Part of Their Toolkit for Distributed Teams"

When you think of a huge company that almost everyone has heard of, the idea that they're Agile doesn't automatically pop into your head (or at least it doesn't for me). However, the GE Healthcare group has been using scrum at the team level and kanban to manage their portfolio of projects for some time now. Along with their project management solution, CA Agile Central, and their team collaboration platform, Sococo, Retrium helps their distributed team stay on the same page and continuously improve.

Rob first discovered Retrium through our amazing customer, Sococo. (You can read more about them in their own customer story.) He was looking for a way to bridge the communication and context gaps that naturally come with a distributed team, and Sococo was a great way for them to learn the connections within the company and hang out in "offices" to brainstorm together. It's a tool that our distributed team at Retrium also uses everyday.

When he first discovered Retrium, Rob's team was responsible for moving GE Healthcare's infrastructure to the cloud, and he and his team were looking at opportunities to use best practices and automate every part of the process. They wanted to retire old applications in a responsible way and replace any human intervention with new, automated operations. As you can imagine, that required a lot of discipline and sophisticated software development policies and practices.

Like many teams who are distributed, they wanted a better way to inspect and adapt, given everything they wanted to accomplish, so Retrium was exactly what they needed. In fact, Retrium worked in ways they hadn't imagined.

"Retrium scratched an itch I didn't know was there. It gave me and the team fantastic insights that we never would have otherwise gotten, and we continue to gain new insights every time we use it."

Knowing that Retrium could help people bring up new topics, get to the root of issues, and help people deal with change from the experience with his own team, Rob decided to utilize Retrium for gathering other types of team feedback also. Check out those other use cases below.

Using Retrium for University Projects

GE is a big supporter of University programs, and they work with students on senior projects that help them get a glimpse into what it's like in the working world. Rob worked with software engineering students from Michigan State University to show them how to solve real problems that companies experience everyday.

These students were much like how I was in college; they didn't have a lot of experience outside the classroom and they hadn't really ever collaborated with a team on a long-term project. Coming from a place where the requirements are clearly spelled out to the ambiguity that is the modern work environment can make for a difficult transition for many students.

As Rob was supporting the students through their project, it became very clear that, even after months of working together, the team was still floundering. They didn't have experience talking with customers to get feedback, tasking out their own work, and self-organizing to get things done. Project management and agile skills weren't taught to them in the classroom (though maybe they should be).

Because the team was struggling with communication and work coordination, Rob introduced retrospectives using Retrium to help them figure out what their issues were and to get moving in the same direction. Amazingly the student project turned around almost immediately after using Retrium. It gave them all an opportunity to talk about how they were working together and what needed to be changed. The team started collaborating more effectively and used the action plan in Retrium to create a clear to-do list.

As Rob noted, CA Agile Central is a robust product for work management, but it can be "too much" if you're new to organizing work. (I should know since I used to work at Rally Software, the company that made the product before it was acquired by CA.) Our action plan was just enough structure for task management, since it gave the team a simple list of tasks to focus on. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best!

"All the students wanted to do was check off the boxes next to the actions, so it really motivated them to get things done."

Rob believes strongly that any project like this should run retrospectives in Retrium to collect feedback on how things are going. I personally would have loved to do retrospectives with teams I worked with in school because it would have been a great learning and growth opportunity. Maybe some Universities out there should give us a try.

Using Retrium for Customer Advisory Boards

Customer advisory boards are meetings that periodically occur with several customer representatives, so that a company can get feedback, make improvements, and validate the direction of their product. The trouble is that sometimes you can get advice or ideas that don't have a clear next step. After all, every customer has different needs.

Rob has run a customer advisory board for a long time, and before using Retrium, he had to try to figure out what was most important to customers. He wasn't really sure what they needed and was often left guessing about what to do based on the feedback he received.

He decided to use Retrium as his tool of choice to run his customer advisory board meetings. He wasn't entirely sure what to expect, since this isn't a typical use case, but he's had great results.

Here's how he used Retrium for his customer advisory meetings:

The customers anonymously input their feedback during the "thinking" phase in Retrium. They then group the feedback, vote on it, and discuss the most relevant topics in order. Ultimately, Rob leaves the meeting with a very clear idea of what's going well and what isn't along with some action items. I think that's pretty cool, but it's even better to hear it in Rob's words.

"Using Retrium for my customer advisory board has allowed me to validate ideas and gain new insights about our products and services without a lot of investment. A customer advisory board usually takes either a lot of time to get everyone on the same page or you end up with varied feedback that isn't really actionable. Retrium is the fastest tool out there to take a random group of people from zero to a list of things they actually care about most. I always end up with a clear list of the top 5 things to focus on next sprint, and that is truly invaluable."

Using Retrium for Employee Roundtables

Like many large organizations, GE Healthcare has gone through organizational changes, and recently, they went through a restructuring process. Change is hard, so there's always confusion, excitement, and a whole host of other emotions that come along with it.

To help ease the transition, Rob ran employee roundtables in Retrium to get people's feedback about their new roles and even the communication about how the change was taking place. When emotions are likely to come up, the Mad, Sad, Glad format is a great option, and he chose to use this with the employees in this case.

Rob felt like using Retrium made the restructuring process much smoother than it otherwise would have been. Employees got the opportunity to get things off their chest, share insights, give feedback that directly changed parts of the process that were less than ideal, and much more. It was also great to see the nuggets of Glad thoughts related to the change. This is what retrospectives are all about!

Ultimately, people were much happier in the end having their voices heard in the process. This finding fits with the research on organizational justice, a topic area I used to study and publish about when I was in graduate school. The employees even had really good things to say about using Retrium to gather feedback, saying they felt that it was a "constructive and positive experience".

Rob's Favorite Feature

As you can see, Rob uses Retrium with all sorts of teams, some that are persistent, and some that will only gather once. Because of this, he loves the convenience of using the shared URL and password security setting.

"You can just join a session in Retrium with a group of random people. Those that have never used it before can come in and the whole process feels totally anonymous, and I believe this reduces the bias in the conversations we have. I can get candid feedback from anyone with very little effort, and it's super easy to do."

Want to gather feedback from your team and beyond like Rob at GE Healthcare? Try two free retrospectives in Retrium and see the value for yourself!

Learn about some of our other happy customers!

See Kat's Story

"Retrium takes out the friction really. And with the friction gone, then it means you're not going to miss a retro just because you can't quite be bothered setting up for it."

Mohamed Salti

Since using Retrium, I haven’t seen a retrospective that wasn’t close to 100% participation...

See Marc's story

"Retrospectives are the core of agile because they help teams inspect and adapt."

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