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Nebraska Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Steve Martin's management transformation

Agile strategy helps deliver complex projects under budget

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska has been shifting its management system over the last 10 years to become a peer-to-peer network instead of a top-down hierarchy, reported the Huffington Post.

CEO Steve Martin (pictured right) has led the cultural transformation using Agile, a management methodology that emphasizes working in self-organized, cross-functional teams. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska first embraced Agile in 2008 for its IT department, which drastically improved its ability to deliver complex IT projects under budget.

Thereafter, Martin began scaling Agile to the rest of the company's departments while training managers and staff in Agile tools and practices, including one of the basic principles that the team, not the individual, is the essential building block of work. This concept shifts the idea of responsibility from individual tasks to team performance. That means all employees are expected to follow through with their commitments and help each other whenever needed.

Another feature of Agile that's clearly visible around the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska offices is Post-It notes all over the walls. They're often arranged in pictures showing stories behind employees' projects.

"Visualization is powerful, because it clearly conveys how everyone's work is interconnected, fosters collaboration and gives people the tools to effectively self-organize their work," Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska CIO Susan Courtney told the Post.

In fact, these Post-It notes helped the insurer a few years ago when the company's computer network went down for five hours while many IT employees were off-site. Several on-site employees were able to organize their own efforts and effectively resolve the computer outage with help from the Post-It notes.

Other insurers have been incorporating innovative tactics to boost their employees' productivity and increase their retention rates. For example, Aetna is raising the incomes of its lowest-paid employees by as much as 33 percent, to a minimum of $16 an hour. And Anthem has expanded a pilot program that pays for some of its employees to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree from an online college, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Huffington Post article

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