It’s about 8 in the morning, and the lights are dim in the hotel dining room. The conference attendees clap lukewarmly over cups of coffee, which tinkle on their saucers. It’s as tame as one would expect for your average conference awards ceremony, especially one held at the start of the day.
Suddenly, the room erupts as people at three tables stand, clapping, hooting and hollering. They’ve just announced Practice Velocity as a member of 2017 Great Game of Business All- Star Team, and those three tables are full of Practice Velocity employees.
The atmosphere changes immediately, and any clapping after that isn’t anywhere near lukewarm. It’s burning hot.
Practice Velocity set the tone for the awards ceremony that morning, which was held September 6-8 in Dallas, bringing a level of energy that Great Game participants won’t soon forget. But creating that type of energy at Practice Velocity didn’t happen overnight.
Growing a company culture where employees genuinely want to show up every single day is really important to Dr. David Stern, founder and CEO of Practice Velocity, but it didn’t start with the Great Game of Business. Dr. Stern is a voracious reader of books on business strategy, and he attends business conferences and seminars whenever he is able. Over the years, he has worked with his leadership team to craft their unique company culture based on what they have learned from others’ successes and failures.
In 2012, PV eliminated silos within its departments and took a page from Patrick Lencioni’s books “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and “The Ideal Team Player” and implemented the company’s own version of teams. What might seem like a minor change on paper made a significant change to the company’s bottom line, one the company will not look back from any time soon.
In 2013, the PV leadership team implemented WIGs, or wildly importantly goals, into the company’s planning process. The concept originates from the book “4 Disciplines of Execution.” This approach forces the company to limit their WIGs to one or two critical goals for the entire company. Then every team in the company sets their own WIG, which they believe is the number one contribution their team can make to the company WIG. In recent years, the company has set WIG and seen record improvement for NPS (net promoter score) and profitability.
For year’s Dr. Stern envisioned an ownership culture in which all PV employees from the top down acted as leaders. After reading Jack Stack’s “The Great Game of Business,” Dr. Stern realized one of the major barriers to achieving this vision was a lack of transparency and understanding of the company’s financials and operating metrics. In 2015, Dr. Stern worked with the PV leadership team to work on a roadmap for implementing gamification and open-book management at Practice Velocity.
The Great Game of Business became a part of PV’s current company culture in January 2016 with the company’s first weekly huddle, paving the way for the company’s nomination for inclusion on the 2017 All-Star Team.
After learning that PV had made the 2017 All-Star Team, there was no question that this honor would be shared with team members from every corner of the company. The company couldn’t take everyone, though, so to make the selection process as fair as possible, the company randomly drew the names of 25 team members to fly to Dallas to represent PV at the conference and awards ceremony.
Shelli Hall, senior project manager for the support team, was one of those selected to attend, and she said despite being distracted by a big client go-live scheduled for the following week, she was really grateful for the opportunity to go the conference. She said the experience really helped define the Great Game for her more clearly.
“[The Great Game of Business] helps employees understand why companies spend the way they do and how employees impact that,” said Shelli. “It’s not just about being owners. Employees [working at Great Game companies] wanted to learn and grow with the companies because they were more involved with the companies’ financials.”
Attending the Great Game of Business conference also put Shelli’s role at Practice Velocity in perspective. The educational sessions made her realize that employees spend too much time being “robotic” about their jobs, focusing on daily tasks instead of looking at the bigger picture, including how they can grow in their individual roles. What resonated with her most, however, was the session on why great employees stay in their jobs. She left that session with a sense of self-awareness that she did not just have a job – no, she has a career – at Practice Velocity.
“I feel like I give PV 150 percent, and you normally don’t give a company that much if you’re not happy at that company,” said Shelli. “You always want to come to work … You feel like this is a place you can grow and get a career.”
Rudy Escamilla, system test engineer, said the Great Game conference was such a positive experience for him. It gave him the opportunity to really break out of his shell because the family-like atmosphere made it really easy to talk to other attendees.
“It didn’t take long to get close to people,” said Rudy. “All you needed was 5 to 10 minutes to talk to them. There wasn’t anybody you didn’t feel like you couldn’t talk to. You felt like a family with the other companies. All of the companies are in open-book management and Great Game of Business, and they’ve gone through the same things; same trial and error.”
Kristina Flores, product owner, saw Dr. Stern’s greater vision for the company after attending the Great Game conference. “Seeing how all of the things that Dr. Stern has put in place over the last eight years from when I started until now, it kind of all cohesively came together.”
Kristina hopes to bring this clarity back to her fellow employees.
“If we open the eyes of our employees to what we’re really doing and how it’s all tying together cohesively, then we’ll get even more engagement than we already do,” said Kristina. “We have a lot of engagement. We have a lot of people who really know [the Great Game] and really own it. If there was more education about how we all work together as a whole, I think we’d have more of an understanding of how we’re making a difference.”
Practice Velocity’s Great Game journey didn’t end when the 25 representatives arrived back from Dallas. On the contrary, their work has just begun. After taking a few days to gather their thoughts, the group met to discuss what they all learned from the experience and what actions Practice Velocity needed to take to continue its journey toward a company culture of employee ownership.
The group’s list was ambitious, so they pared it down to their top choices, which they presented to the company at a monthly Town Hall meeting.
“I think we can get there,” said Adam Jennison, director of software support. “I think we’ve taken steps in the right direction. I think the foundation is there. I think the desire is there, and it’s just about enabling the people to do it.”
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