Celebrating Associations: Society of Critical Care Medicine The Intensive Care Professionals


We’re Celebrating SCCM Because: It implemented a remote work environment, with a staff of 70, that employees like and saves money.

Association and History: Founded in 1970, the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) is the largest non-profit medical organization dedicated to promoting excellence and consistency in the practice of critical care. With 16,000 members in more than 100 countries, SCCM is the only organization that represents all professional components of the critical care team. The Society offers a variety of activities that ensures excellence in patient care, education, research and advocacy.

Mission: SCCM’s mission is to secure the highest quality care for all critically ill and injured patients.

Envisioned Future: SCCM envisions a world in which all critically ill and injured persons receive care from a present integrated team of dedicated trained intensivists and critical care specialists.

The Society for Critical Care Medicine Takes Working Remotely to an Entirely New Level

So, maybe you let your employees work one day a week at home; maybe even two days, and you offer flexible hours. Or maybe you’re one of those CEOs who says, “No way. I know little work will get done at home—too many distractions.”

CEOs who see a future for their associations 10 years from now with the right staff to take them there have only one option: Creating a remote work environment.

“We have more people working remotely than can fit into our office space,” said Laura Lewis, Director of Technology for the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). Instead of opting for adding more office space, moving or building a new headquarters, SCCM chose a much less expensive route: convincing leadership to trust their employees and investing in technology that supports telecommuting.

“Almost 95 percent of our employees work remotely,” Lewis said. “Even our CEO works two days from home.” Let’s hear more from Linda:

Why did SCCM start a remote workforce?

About 10 years ago, SCCM was reviewing its emergency response plan in light of a pandemic that was a possible threat on several continents. We have a very active volunteer leadership, and they’re on the front lines of providing health care in emergency situations globally. We must be available 24/7 to assist our members, whether it’s an epidemic or tsunami.

We realized that we didn’t have the technology to handle a disaster, so we started with the basics—a remote desktop service (RDS), where employees could log into SCCM’s systems from home and forward their office phones to their cell phones.

We debuted the RDS plan on a what would have been a “snow day” for employees. The meteorologists predicted heavy snow, so we told staff to stay home and we conducted our first all-employee, remote work day to test the technology. For the most part, it was a success, and we had plenty of time to work out any glitches in case of a real emergency. Now we look at this as Phase I.

What triggered the next phase?

Each spring, our CEO and executive vice president, David J. Martin​, CAE, conducts a retreat for the leadership team and asks everyone to read a book. Several years ago, the book was, Why Managing Sucks, which talked about a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). Authors Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson posed these questions, “When does work start, and when does work stop in today’s global economy?” They also discussed how defining work as “butts in the seats in the office” is pretty antiquated.

I was inspired and became a ROWE evangelist! I’ve always believed in setting department goals and then letting my staff determine how to accomplish them. As long as the work is done, I don’t mind if my programmer wants to work at 2 a.m.

It turned out that I was one of the first employees to test the remote system beyond working from home—out of state. In 2016, my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He’s fine now, but his condition was very serious back then. For four months, my sister and I took turns performing our jobs remotely for two weeks at a time from a Michigan ICU hospital room.

There were a couple of glitches. One was that I noticed that the network connection might not work in one part of the hospital, so I’d move to another location. Nothing major, but this was good intel for what might be problematic for SCCM employees working remotely.

Also, I’ve been working in technology for 20 years now and don’t get flustered. Tech people generally are not afraid to try new things. If one thing doesn’t work, you try something else. That’s my mindset.

Not everyone is comfortable with technology. How did you achieve by-in to the concept?

People still can and do work only in the SCCM office. It’s an option, but most employees choose a combination of remote and office time.

When I introduced the ROWE concept to senior leaders, I posed one question: “Do you trust your staff?” As you can imagine, people were shocked. Unless you’re standing over your employees all the time, you don’t know if they’re doing their work, and that’s not practical. If you don’t trust them to do their job at home unsupervised, maybe you don’t have the right people working for you.

We all get tired of hearing about “culture change,” but this really is a culture change and for the best. Were some people against the idea at the beginning? Absolutely! However, one staff member went from being a complete skeptic to being fully on board with the concept. Suddenly, you can watch little Johnny play baseball and not have to take a half-day off. Just do the work and be available to your colleagues. We’ve seen a real shift in peoples’ attitudes. They feel they have better control over their lives, and we do not have a high attrition rate.

While there are some completely “virtual” associations, some CEOs are still having difficulty with a couple of employees working from home one day a week. How do associations start a broader strategy such as SCCMs?

By asking some serious questions. First, in 10 years, do you expect your association to still exist? If you answered “yes,” you will need a flexible work environment to attract staff. Millennials expect access to anything and everything from anywhere. Also, we’re a global society! An 8 to 5 workday is a dead idea if you want to expand your reach internationally. Work life and personal life are blending.

Second, do you have commitment from the top? The first step is to present your ideas to your CEO. I wouldn’t have even thought to proceed without David’s support for many reasons, and because I knew people would go to him to complain. Changing the culture is the hardest part. The technology is easy. How people define work, how the association defines work, and do you trust your staff are questions that need to be answered.

What would you have done differently?

Our original phone system did not work well for this number of staff to work remotely. We had to use work arounds such as forwarding your phone. Well, people often forget to forward their phones.

We also may have relied too long on technology being housed in the physical office space, and a server went down. That was a fail. Moving to Office 365 helped. We are working on moving all of our servers to the cloud—no physical data “center” will be necessary.

We also should have brought a few more people to the table during the early planning process. It’s always a challenge to determine who the “right” people are. While you can’t have everyone involved in every aspect, it would have been a good idea to include, for example, the switchboard operator—not just her boss—from the beginning.

Last piece of advice?

The world will not end if the conference call goes dead.

Share YOUR Story: What is your association doing for its profession or for its operations? How is your organization delivering on its mission and its strategic plan? Contact connie@orgcommunity.com for details about submitting a story or to be interviewed. 

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OTA Launches Modern, Intuitive, Flexible Website



​The Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) was conceived and organized in 1977 and formally established in 1985. Although headquartered in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons building in Rosemont, Illinois, OTA is a stand-alone organization, managed by a staff of 10.

The organization’s membership includes more than 2,000 medical professionals who work in the field of musculoskeletal trauma injury in the United States, Canada and around the world. Members are academic and clinical orthopaedic surgeons, residents, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, researchers and other allied health professionals.

The Challenge

A website reflects every facet of an organization’s brand. Even groups with robust IT and communications departments do not launch a redesign without some trepidation. Success depends on the entire association’s involvement. From the CEO to the most junior staff member, everyone needs to be ready to give extra effort, creativity and commitment to get the job done successfully.

Like many newer organizations, OTA’s staff was lean but efficient. There was no IT department and no employees who had IT as their sole responsibility. Consultants would need to identify strategies to help the small staff cope with the additional tasks this project would generate.

OTA’s physician base had been rapidly growing. Members didn’t feel their current site reflected the vibrant organization they aspired to create. They were excited about the redesign process and adding many of the bells and whistles that they saw when they visited their favorite online communities and brands. Staff was frustrated by a platform that did not allow for flexibility in design or graphics. In addition to looking out-of-date, OTA’s site was slow to load, not compatible with mobile devices and built on an unstable platform. An even larger issue was the fact that no one could explain why the site seemed to be invisible to search engines.

Content creation and management was another significant area where advice and improvement was critical. Information was not intuitively arranged, making it difficult for visitors to explore the site or find what they were seeking. Since best practices for communicating on the internet change rapidly, the staff also needed to be updated on the latest techniques.

The Solution

.orgSource’s goal, as consultants, was to understand OTA as thoroughly as a trusted employee and to approach the redesign with an insider’s care and enthusiasm. We were also committed to identifying a vendor who would provide the comprehensive range of services required by a growing organization with limited staff resources, including:

  • Oversight for all IT functions involved in supporting the site
  • Ongoing maintenance and upgrades
  • Hosting, monitoring uptime and site load times, and responding to issues
  • Integrating with other platforms such as OTA’s Knowledge Portal, which was being developed by the publisher of the organization’s journal

After in-depth reviews of the staffs’ requirements, .orgSource prepared an RFQ which was circulated to prospective vendors. As responses arrived, we organized the vetting process and walked employees through a comparative analysis of each proposal. A small group of vendors was invited to demonstrate their products. When the winning bidder was selected, .orgSource assessed the contract to ensure that it met OTA’s budget and technical requirements.

Developing new, exciting and well-organized content was a multi-step process. A content strategy survey was the starting point. Key staff and members were asked to identify OTA’s various audiences and to pinpoint the type of information each group would be interested in receiving.

The survey was followed by a card sort exercise. Participants categorized and labeled the information into separate buckets. The goal was to create a site architecture that would be logical and intuitive for visitors. A content strategy workshop brought all the pieces together for fine-tuning. Staff was provided with tools and templates to help them decide which information from the old site to delete, revise or augment. .orgSource also organized a tutorial on effective writing for the web so that the copy would be as contemporary as the site’s new visuals.

In order to ensure that the new site would be easy to find, .orgSource’s technical detectives investigated and identified the coding problems that were causing OTA to be overlooked by search engines. Consultants also offered tips on how to use keywords and other features of Search Engine Optimization to ensure that OTA remained at the top of the search results.

The Results

OTA’s site has a fresh professional look that matches its members’ aspirations for the organization. The site’s improved architecture makes it easy for visitors to find the information that they need. The staff has the flexibility to add interesting graphics as well as video. In phase two, the website will integrate with OTA’s Knowledge Portal, which will improve the journal’s impact and further support members in their continuing education. This site should serve OTA well into the future because the new vendor is ready to help staff manage the content and make software updates as initiatives and plans develop.