How technology can be a lever for achieving your company mission

More than sixty thousand people die every year in the US from overdoses. Concerted Care Group (CCG) is a Baltimore-based opiate treatment program center dedicated to preventing those deaths. They serve thirteen hundred people a day, helping them avoid or recover from an overdose. Their patient populations are typically living in severe poverty, and many of them have a severe mental illness. CCG’s goal is to give everyone a fair shot to the best standard of care, regardless of income level or socioeconomic status, through comprehensive, integrated, and evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment.

Dr. Andrey Ostrovsky, CEO of CCG, knows firsthand the impact of the opioid epidemic: after learning that his uncle died of an overdose, he dedicated

his career to preventing them. But treating addiction and a systemic problem like overdosing requires more than dedication to a cause. It calls for focused execution and constant improvement so that solutions can adapt to ever-changing problems and people can stay alive—and thrive.

When Andrey joined CCG, it was an organization with great ambitions but failing to achieve its goals. CCG was stagnant in the face of the constantly evolving challenge of the opioid epidemic: They struggled to adapt their processes, move quickly, and keep improving. Andrey quickly realized that he could use technology to increase the impact of every CCG employee working towards achieving their mission.

We recently spoke to Andrey to hear how he took a standout team and special cause and transformed a struggling organization into a thriving, impactful business by leveraging technology.

Paint us a picture of what CCG looked like when you arrived.

Andrey: The fabric of the mission—to help individuals meet their goals through comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment—was there, which is what attracted me to the organization. The challenge was that the processes in place weren’t accommodating for growth. They also didn’t allow for change in an environment where the reimbursement landscape is changing, where delivery models of care are evolving, and most importantly, where our patient population’s needs are so erratic and so drastic. We need to be a true learning organization—including our processes and culture—in order to fulfill our mission.

I realized that having the right mission is different from smooth operations and execution—which are critical to achieving your mission. While one of our core values was being the best in the world, in order to be the best in the world, we had to keep improving.

What were your top priorities when you started?

Andrey: I started by looking at who the end users were of the experience that we were creating: our patients. Using some basic human-centered design exercises, I got a grasp on what their journey is through the process and developed some personas based on the people we serve.

But understanding our end users was one thing; understanding the user journeys for our internal stakeholders was a whole other priority. So we sourced a set of eight values, and once we had those elements, we established our long-term vision, which is to eliminate addiction in all American communities. While this is far beyond where we are now in Maryland, it serves to inspire everything we do.

“I realized that having the right mission is different from smooth operations and execution—which are critical to achieving your mission.”

During this time, I also did a lot of analysis of the biggest risks to our success: our costs were significantly higher than our revenue.

Finally, we aligned all of these inputs to come up with a shared understanding of what we could be really good at and do sustainably. This grew two very measurable ways of succeeding, which we call our True North measures:

  • Improve clinical outcomes
  • Achieve financial sustainability.

Once we had those True North measures, it was a matter of executing well.

The importance of execution

With their True North measures in place, Andrey set about putting Agile processes in place to achieve them. But CCG’s new process-driven work could not be organized without a communication and work management platform. This is where Andrey seized the opportunity to use technology as a lever for change and adopted Asana.

How did using Asana impact CCG?

Andrey: Put simply, Asana allowed us to roll out our agile processes and lean management system. It decreased the number of fire drills, helped us de-prioritize the stuff that isn’t mission critical, and prioritize the most important work. We rely on Boards to track our sprints visually and the flexibility of the platform to run our agile workflows.

Without Asana, all this would have taken three or four years and the company would have gone under. We could not have done it without the technology underpinning our processes—we couldn’t have done it without Asana.

What considerations did you make in deciding to adopt technology like Asana?

Andrey: At one point, we literally had to make a choice: do we hire another addiction counselor, or do we invest in Asana? We chose to invest in Asana, because we knew that it would expand the capabilities of all of our addiction counselors. Asana’s technology allows us to amplify the impact of every CCG employee, which is the most important thing we can do to treat our patients. Asana is literally helping prevent people from overdosing, and that means a lot to us.

What were some challenges you faced in trying to overhaul the way that the organization works?

Andrey: Well, technology was the least of our challenges. As with any organization that’s a couple years old or more, there’s institutional memory and institutional inertia, or momentum. Overcoming that momentum was really the most challenging thing, especially among middle managers. Getting managers to believe in management science and the utility of a tool like Asana was the biggest hurdle we faced.

For example, our COO is exceptional; she’s a really strong leader, and has a lot of innate ability. When I joined the organization, she had never been formally trained in management science, so getting her buy-in to Agile methodology and adopting Asana was crucial for me. Now she sees Asana as a way to organize our collective thoughts and help us use the very limited amount of time we have each day to do the most impactful work. She’s now a tutor to many employees on how to structure the process of planning, reviewing, building, evaluating, and iterating. She’s become an Agile coach of sorts for each of her center directors.

This is just one example of how Asana has acted as a lever to empower folks across CCG and contributed to the growth of our success.

What improvements have you seen at CCG since implementing new technologies and processes?

Andrey: We’re starting to show improved clinical outputs. The percentage of our patient population that is testing positive for illicit substances has gone down from 75 percent to 69 percent. Also, our revenue is up 82 percent, while our expenses have only risen five percent.

Behind this success is our commitment to management science and improving our organization, and behind that, the technology upon which we depend: Asana. Using Asana allows everyone from a frontline addiction counselor to our CFO to see the core problem we’re trying to address, our concrete goals, prioritized list of action items, who’s responsible for them, and when they’re due. That sense of accountability and empowerment encourages everyone and helps every employee, from our C-suite to frontline counselors, connect the dots.

With the ability to connect the dots, every CCG employee can increase the impact they’re having on the organization—whether they’re on the front lines or behind the scenes. Our transformation and adoption of Asana has taken our organization to new heights and brought us closer to achieving our mission.

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