Encore! EP381: For Reals, Becoming Customer-centric, Transforming, or Innovating at a Very Large Organization, With Karen Root
Relentless Health Value™November 23, 202332:1344.24 MB

Encore! EP381: For Reals, Becoming Customer-centric, Transforming, or Innovating at a Very Large Organization, With Karen Root

For a full transcript of this episode, click here.

Why did I decide to encore this show about being customer-centric and transforming or innovating at a very large organization? Well, two main reasons.

First reason can be neatly summed up by this recent Tweet from Rik Renard, which I have edited slightly to suit my own purposes. Here’s the Tweet: “The Achilles’ heel for most healthcare [innovators] is overlooking the role of change management. The deal isn’t sealed until the whole team is raving. Adoption doesn’t [automatically follow innovative thoughts no matter how good they are or how much it cost to build or buy anything]. Take change mgmt seriously.”

This is relevant to pharma companies, to big provider organizations, to SaaS vendors, to payers … pretty much anyone. So, yeah. This show … still relevant.

But also there’s a #2 reason for this encore. It’s coming at ya smack in the middle of an ongoing series for boards of directors, CEOs, and CFOs of self-insured employers. As discussed last week in the show with Mark Cuban and Ferrin Williams, PharmD, MBA (EP418), healthcare has become financialized. There is a whole financial layer sitting in between health benefits and the employer, and dealing with that requires customer centricity, transformation, and innovation at the employer level—a little change management, if you will.

And with that, here is your encore.

I was at the PanAgora Pharma Customer Experience (CX) Summit. Let me tell you one of my big takeaways. Many at pharma companies who are trying to convince their organizations of the need to be provider- and/or patient-centric are having a tough go of it. Heard that coming from every direction. Seems there are quite a few pharma organizations out there who are not actually customer/patient-centric. Say it isn’t so. Turns out, they continue to be pretty darn brand-centric whether or not anyone besides the CX team and the most successful KAMs (key account managers) realize this hard truth.

This matters because, from a provider organization, physician, or patient standpoint, it’s not what’s written on the walls … it’s what goes on in the halls. It’s what a company actually does in their interactions with the rest of the healthcare ecosystem that matters and that builds their reputation.

You see this lack of customer centricity and, et cetera et cetera, there are certainly other things going on here; but you see the lack of customer centricity manifesting, right? You see the pharma reps that get kicked out of hospital systems because the perception is they add little if any value and “waste doctors’ time; all they do is shove detail aids in our faces.” Heard that recently.

Look, this doesn’t just pertain to Pharma; this is a message for the whole industry. But there is certainly a way to do well by doing good, and how that starts is helping provider organizations and patients improve patient outcomes as the primary goal. Being innovative to that end.

It’s about supporting the best-practice standard of care and bringing resources to bear that are truly helpful. That is how more of the right patients can get the right treatment/drug at the right time or take their meds as per the A1A clinical guideline. It’s probably also the way to sustainable business success.

I’ve said it here a thousand times: People trying to do the right thing by patients all need to work together. If there’s a party in the mix that nobody else wants to deal with because they are deemed not a team player or they don’t listen … yeah, that’s what I call a competitive disadvantage, beyond just squandering their ability to achieve their mission statement and improve patient care and lives, that is.

Today’s conversation is with Karen Root, who was a speaker at the aforementioned PanAgora conference. In this healthcare podcast, we are talking about how to make transformation and innovation actionable at a large organization—maybe a pharma company but pretty much any large organization with lots of people, lots of human beings with different motivations and goals. As we all know, for every early adopter, there are (it feels like) five laggards who will fight you tooth and nail because they do not want to transform. They like being brand-centric, and it’s been working out fine … well, up until this year, at least.

Karen Root is currently director of experience strategy at Boehringer Ingelheim, which is a pharma company. For many years prior to her current role, she was an enterprise head of brand and culture at WL Gore & Associates. What we talk about in this show is how to break down the historical “brand is king” mentality so that people want to follow with the awareness, courage, and determination to do so. Everything that we talk about in this episode can also be applied to pretty much any organizational transformation or the rollout of any innovation or new capability.

Here’s the key things that Karen talks about which are essential for an organization to transform, maybe (again) in a way that is customer-centric and/or to roll out new innovations or capabilities:

1. Leaders must communicate a compelling vision that also includes a realistic assessment of what it’s gonna take to reach that vision and offer hope and the promise that the hard work and inevitable problems will all be worth it.

2. Systems thinking—a consideration of the systems and the people who will need to be a part of the transformation, thinking through what is likely to go wrong and proactively planning for it

3. Identify the right entry point. This should be a micro-journey or a quick win so that the team can score a victory and get through the messy middle that exists in any transformation or rollout. Triple points if you can find a micro-moment that has some emotionality connected to it from your customers’ perspective or patient perspective. If you can fix a so-called moment that matters, it really matters. Consider starting by looking into call center logs, finding a common complaint, and fixing it. Do it this way and it’s harder for anybody to complain that the status quo is so super amazing and tell you to talk to the hand.

4. Determine how you are going to measure what your quick win accomplished, as well as your whole larger transformational effort.

5. Ensure you have a full story arc here that shows the before and the after that clearly articulates that the before (the status quo) is problematic and that we have to, with urgency, get to the after.

6. Never forget that we’re working with human beings here and not, as they say, rational economic actors.

One heads-up: In the conversation with Karen today, we talk a lot about the so-called J curve. As Karen says (and you can look this up), whenever you introduce a new anything into an organization, at some point, there’s gonna be a mess-up. And when something messes up, the whole team will spiral into a so-called “trough of disillusionment” or a “trough of despair,” sometimes it’s called. This is the rock-bottom hook of that J in the J curve. The thing is, if a leader’s vision isn’t sufficient or their will to continue isn’t sufficient, then the organization quits at this low point instead of working through it and coming out in a better place on the other side of the J.

And you know what happens then. From that point forward until eternity, everybody who brings up implementing an innovation or a transformation will definitely hear the lecture about the time we tried that and how it failed miserably. So, the J curve … Check it out. Don’t underestimate it.

One very last thing: If you are working for a large organization (like Fortune 500 large) and you have succeeded in moving a transformation forward (like being actually patient-centric or customer-centric, for example), hit me up. I would certainly love to hear your thoughts on how you did it and why you think you were successful and the impact that you had.


You can learn more by connecting with Karen on LinkedIn.



Karen Root, MBA, CCXP, is a strategy, innovation, operations, and marketing executive with more than two decades of experience in healthcare, including medical devices, biopharma, and pharmaceuticals. Her background spans more broadly to include computer software, publishing, and consumer package goods. She has driven transformation and growth as a senior executive for companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 multinational organizations.

Driving transformative capabilities include digital marketing for Sanofi Pasteur and marketing at start-up for their subsidiary, VaxServe. Karen then led the medical division in customer experience at WL Gore & Associates, later leaving the organization as enterprise leader of brand and culture. She is currently leading customer experience in the United States for Boehringer Ingelheim.

Karen has been adding innovative experience design in the metaverse to her arsenal of knowledge. Certified in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and as a metaverse expert, she has a patent pending in smart contracts and is exploring integrating NFTs and meta-realities into the healthcare space.

Karen is the author of Spectrum Thinking and Signature Experience: The Intersection of Brand Promise and Customer Experience for Competitive Advantage. Her next book, Ready Worker One, was co-written with her daughter, Kayla Root, and is expected to be published in early 2024. It pulls from gaming and behavioral science, along with DAO structure (decentralized, autonomous organizations).

Karen was recognized by Forbes in 2022 as one of the Top 10 Healthcare Entrepreneurs to Watch.


08:51 What skills does leading a large company in customer centricity require?

10:36 What needs to be included in a vision for customer-centric change?

11:01 “In transformation, we have to adjust the approach to that vision. We have to break it down into a couple of key steps.”

11:39 What is the J curve?

12:26 “Disruption is going to happen; it’s just how do we minimize its impact.”

14:00 Why is hope so important for success in change?

17:22 “Leverage your people; understand where they are in the change curve.”

26:24 “We can’t manage what we don’t measure.”

26:33 “We have to not only measure in quantitative ways but qualitative.”

27:35 What’s the downside to not being able to innovate?

28:55 Why does leadership need to have a story to tell?

31:19 “We have to remember that these are human beings and to look for those tells.”


You can learn more by connecting with Karen on LinkedIn.


Recent past interviews:

Click a guest’s name for their latest RHV episode!

Mark Cuban and Ferrin Williams, Dan Mendelson (Encore! EP385), Josh Berlin, Dr Adam Brown, Rob Andrews, Justina Lehman, Dr Will Shrank, Dr Carly Eckert (Encore! EP361), Dr Robert Pearl, Larry Bauer (Summer Shorts 8)


Employers,Innovations,change management,optimizing costs,patientcentricity,self-insured employers,boehringer ingelheim,