WorkBoard at GHX
CFO and CRO
Business Process Owner:
Leader of Global Strategy Execution
Enterprise wide platform and expert coaching services
Higher focus, less burdensome reporting and less burdened managers
WorkBoard CEO Deidre Paknad sat down with Tina Murphy, President at GHX, to hear about how GHX’s OKR journey and what Tina’s learned along the way. Tina talks about transformation, the cathartic and energizing effect OKRs had, and the shift in leadership she’s made over the past year.
Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO: How did you start on this journey, and on the path of accelerating alignment on strategic priorities for GHX?
Tina Murphy, President at GHX: Our customers expect GHX to understand best practices across our entire network and work with them so that they can leverage those learnings to improve their own supply chain and ultimately improve patient care. To do that, GHX needs to be really agile. We need to be able to make decisions, move fast, and mobilize across the entire organization so that we can stay ahead of our customers and meet their needs.
So a more dynamic marketplace inspired you to find ways to iterate on GHX’s strategic priorities and engage your team in meeting those changing customer expectations.
Our ability to rapidly focus and mobilize the organization around a very clear purpose became critically important. What we've found, because we are in healthcare, was that when we can align the organization around our mission and a clear purpose, the energy that they bring to work every day is amazing because we're in healthcare, and the work we do matters. So finding a system that would allow us as leaders to lead from the front, allow us to set direction, and mobilize the organization in a very fast way, was critical — WorkBoard brought this to life.
I often say communication is the most important thing to do and also the most challenging. So if suddenly this process that was supported by the technology that would allow us to have that communication flow clearly and address all the layers of abstraction that occurs from C-suite to the front line, that was clearly going to be a game-changer for us as we transform the organization.
When we can align the organization around our mission and a clear purpose, the energy that they bring to work every day is amazing because we're in healthcare, and the work we do matters.
How did your organization respond to more clarity and more connection to the strategic priorities?
The organization was absolutely hungry for this level of clarity. There just wasn't enough clarity in the org on where people should be spending their time. When we rolled out this process, there was such hunger for it; people really leaned into the process and to the technology solution that supported it. The hunger was driven by the desire for understanding. People want to know where they need to spend their time — and where to not spend it!
You’ve been using WorkBoard for the past year or so. What has shifted at GHX in that time?
A year ago, we had really smart, passionate leaders across the entire organization, but they were fatigued. The personal reward and satisfaction that comes from focusing on the right things — the things that matter and make a difference — was missing. There is now a clarity of purpose around where everyone should be spending their time, which has relieved a lot of stress.
Also, a year ago I thought we left space for people to manage their time in a way that, if I ask for something, they can say, "Okay, I can do that, but here's what I can't do." That they were empowered to ask for and make trade-offs.Going through the OKR process uncovered that we weren't leaving enough space. Our leaders appreciated not having a governor on themselves, but they were taking it on and taking it on and taking it on and not crying “uncle.” Ultimately, this situation left them feeling fatigued.
We found that the OKR process welcomes, invites, and rewards speaking up about trade-offs. So what we found ourselves having these really hard, important conversations about where to focus over the next 90 days and how to know what that means, what things we’re going to push until next quarter. This was liberating for the team, and it elevated all of our leadership.
That's awesome. Talk a little bit about the transition from a focus on output and deliverables to conversations around outcomes. That's hard for most teams and most orgs. It’s often a natural conversation for leaders, but less so for our middle managers and teams. It’s an even bigger shift for frontline teams. What was that like, and how did people do?
The journey from output to outcome is very interesting. What I learned over the past year is that our leadership talked about and thought about outcomes, but those below us in the organization felt personal satisfaction from output, so they had conversations about output while we were, in fact, looking for outcomes.
This journey and WorkBoard have given us a common language, which was half the battle! It strengthened muscles that allowed us to think clearly about what outcomes we were looking for, and how to debate and measure them.
It was fascinating to see how much our outcome-based KRs improved each quarter! It really changed how we showed up because we had to take the time to get clarity as an organization and a team. So then day in and day out, we became very focused on what, in fact, were the outcomes versus outputs versus having eight meetings in a day. That was a huge shift for the organization.
Finding a system that would allow us as leaders to lead from the front, allow us to set direction, and mobilize the organization in a very fast way, was critical — WorkBoard brought this to life.
As you know, in the OKR cycle, we align on the things that matter, we execute for results, and then at the end of it, we celebrate what went well and learn from the outcomes. We’ve talked about the improvements you’re celebrating: reinvigorating leaders, the liberation of alignment. What were some of the challenges along the way?
When I reflect back on when we first started this journey, I can see how I was a bit naive. I had read what there was to read. I had spent time with the WorkBoard team. I had watched YouTube videos and talked to leaders — I was a disciple. I was fully sold on this as the right evolution, that this was the right time for our organization to get to the growth we were looking for. And so, we started the process of going forward with our first OKRs in Q1. But shortly into the process, I realized we hadn't built the vision of the prize strongly enough. So what I saw was people checking boxes — I saw people taking action, that if this was their to-do list, they were piling this on to their to-do list. And they knew how important OKRs were to me and how passionate I was about them. So they wanted to do it, but they didn't have a vision for what it needed to look like.
A quarter in, I realized we needed to re-engage the leadership team. So we had you [Deidre] come in and do an executive training session with the leadership team on why alignment and accountability are so central. It was so rewarding for me to see all the team go, "Oh, now I get it. Now I understand." And that was a moment that shifted because instead of ticking items on a to-do list, they now understood the value, the purpose, and the vision — and now they could bring their whole self to it.
And so that ability to evangelize the importance — the ability to ultimately improve the caliber of the conversations because everyone now understood why it was important — went up significantly with my direct reports, their direct reports, and that’s when we really started seeing it filter through the organization.
What else did you learn along the way? If you could rescript it and do the last four quarters over again, what would you have done differently in the journey?
We did a great job with our L-1 OKRs starting out, so we had clarity of corporate objectives, but in retrospect, there wasn't clear connective tissue between the corporate objective and where those objectives were by function. So in our second quarter, as we were going through OKRs, there was that misalignment, and it started putting the integrity of the process into question — which really highlighted that we were misaligned. So, at the end of that quarter, we all sat back and said, "Wow." And it was a bittersweet moment because we realized we were misaligned, and we also wanted to celebrate that realization and were excited to solve for it.
That bittersweet epiphany happened several times through the process. And that extra clarity, that extra visibility that this process unearthed for us, is ultimately what allowed each of us to be better, stronger leaders. And had we not been so actively focused on the process, we would have lost those insights and the opportunity to improve altogether!
Bittersweet is the perfect word to describe the discomfort of finding out that we weren't really aligned or that our assumptions were wildly off. I think leaders, in particular, all have that experience, and not just once. It also happens at the director and manager level. And I think where the opportunity to practice and get stronger is with those managers in the middle. They're less prepared to absorb how uncomfortable it is. I think there's an important leader development opportunity to embrace the hard work of aligning, for senior leaders to show empathy by acknowledging the discomfort of peeling back assumptions to get to alignment.
Yes, and I think there’s a really interesting growth opportunity there to raise manager effectiveness overall, to help people really value the absolute beauty in finding out that you're not aligned -- which instinctively does not feel that awesome when you find it out. I think the second time you learn it, it feels worse than the first time because you thought you fixed it already!
One of the things that I think we did well as leaders was to show our vulnerability. As we learned those lessons — and granted it's painful sometimes to see those — we embraced them as learning because that's what the process is all about. This is not a process about chastising; this is about celebrating every time you found those moments. Exemplifying that relieved a lot of pressure throughout the organization. Empowered is a two-way street, so empowering a team is opening doors, but the person that's walking through that door is also empowered.
At GHX, our employee surveys reveal that the middle level of management is always the lowest in terms of job satisfaction. I think they take on a lot of the pressure in the organization, so for them to be able to see leaders exhibiting the vulnerability of not being where we thought we were and learning from that to improve going forward was very freeing and very liberating for them and made them comfortable with having those same conversations.
The journey with WorkBoard from output to outcome has given us a common language. It strengthened muscles that allowed us to think clearly about what outcomes we were looking for, and how to measure them.
I think when we can work with what the situation is in an unemotional way, with just the data and the facts now without ascribing “good” or “bad” labels to those facts, we’re more effective ultimately.
It is practice. Sometimes there's a certain type of language that isn't serving us well — and when it's embedded in your culture, you can’t always see it. Engaging on this journey with WorkBoard and with you, Deidre, we were able to shift the paradigm and focus more on the learnings.
That's great. At some really basic level, the job of leaders is alignment and accountability. To get everybody pointed in the same direction and make sure that's clear. To drive progress, make sure that ownership is transferred, and people feel accountability.
I was working with the CEO of Juniper Networks last week. We did this whole set of exercises on accountability, and what came up over and over again in those exercises was how alignment is so fundamentally essential to accountability. We really don't get accountability without alignment.
For him, a big epiphany came when his leaders — his directs and the VP layer below that — were very focused on their function, on the work in the domain. His call to action for them was to spend 70% of their time aligning within and across their function, and 30% of the time working in that function. Because right now, it's 95% on working in the function and 5% on aligning. What we've just learned is that's not enough; it was a brilliant observation.
One of the things that became clear to us as we went through this process was that we were, without realizing it, still operating in silos. So where those cross-functional dependencies weren't as clear to us — because initially, we didn't have very aligned goals across the functions. We had very, very well-meaning, well-intentioned people were working at cross-purposes. And this process made it very clear how critical alignment only happens when you focus cross-functionally. And it's actually very rewarding as a leader to start seeing subtle behavior changes.
I'll never forget the first time I was in a meeting with my team, and I sat back, and I thought, if you were watching this meeting, you wouldn't know who was sales, marketing, product, or operations because everybody was aligned on the same goals. And I thought we've made a lot of progress here!
That’s wonderful. As we wrap up, what are three words that come to mind about your new process and platform?
Three words would be alignment, accountability, and focus on what matters. And alignment is about having all the energy in the organization, coalesced on a single purpose. Accountability is around personal ownership. When I know where I've spent my precious time this week in the right area, it creates a lot of pride and satisfaction. And then the third — focus on what matters — is especially important in healthcare because that focus ensures we make our most valuable and important impact.
Last question: what's your favorite Workboard feature or benefit?
As a leader, I'm trying to manage so many different projects — while also understanding the status of each one of them. And then, as I try to structure meetings with the team so that we're focusing on results, the most critical issues and Business Reviews are ideal for that!