Training Top 100 Best Practice: Nebraska Medicine’s Culture-Shaping Initiative—Be Extraordinary Together

This initiative was developed to further shape Nebraska Medicine’s culture to its values of Innovation, Teamwork, Excellence, Accountability, Courage, and Healing (ITEACH).

Nebraska Medicine’s culture-shaping initiative, “Be Extraordinary Together,” was developed to further shape the organization’s culture to its values of Innovation, Teamwork, Excellence, Accountability, Courage, and Healing (ITEACH). This is an important part of the organization’s strategic plan to fulfill its business’ mission: “To lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premiere educational programs, innovative research, and extraordinary patient care.”

Program Details

The tactical plan for achieving the ultimate ITEACH culture is to embed the 13 basic culture principles into the culture:

  1. Be Here Now
  2. Mood Elevator
  3. Appreciation
  4. Positive Intent
  5. Stay Curious
  6. Providing Feedback/Coaching
  7. Accountability
  8. Individual Differences
  9. Levels of Listening
  10. Filters
  11. Gratitude
  12. Blue Chips
  13. At Your Best

The logistics for ingraining these culture principles included educating all leadership, starting with senior executives and then progressing through the vice president, director, manager, and supervisor levels. From this group of leaders, a significant cadre of Culture Champions was identified. This group’s accountability is to assure that each month, across all departments, a 10- to 15-minute conversation focusing on one culture principle occurs. Within each department, staff-level culture partners were educated on the culture principles. They are responsible for assisting leadership with engraining the culture principles via peer-to-peer coaching and working with leadership to resolve other issues that are interfering with shaping the desired departmental culture.

An overall corporate communication plan was established and implemented. This plan included corporate communication about culture-shaping activities, desired and required employee action, and sharing of success stories.

Nebraska Medicine (NM) is an Academic Medical Center and has a unique relationship with its academic partner, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). UNMC’s medical residents, guided by an attending physician, provide a significant portion of the clinical care to inpatients at NM. This necessitated significant collaboration between the leadership of UNMC’s College of Medicine and the leadership at NM to establish and commit to sustaining this initiative over a significant period of time. Dual partnership in the program was made clear to colleagues at the program’s launch and is reinforced by a monthly video of a specific culture principle explained by a UNMC physician leader and a Nebraska Medicine senior leader.

Monthly, a culture topic is taught by the manager to their department members during staff meetings. Videos of senior leaders teaching various culture topics are featured on the organizations’ intranet page. Culture topics are taught by senior leaders during monthly all-employee forums. Short videos reinforcing a specific culture topic are sent to all colleagues’ mailboxes.


Colleagues across the organization are invited to give their feedback and provide insight into their work experiences with Nebraska Medicine via a “Pulse Survey.” This short survey is deployed quarterly and includes the same eight questions. Results of the survey inform managers/leaders and Human Resources where additional training or guidance may be needed. A dialogue channel between managers and their direct reports has opened because of this, helping managers better understand the needs and expectations of their direct reports.

Some 80 percent of colleagues completed the survey in fiscal year 2020, meeting the organization’s goal. Data is collected monthly on two leading indicators:

  • “My department leadership is consistent in assuring that the monthly culture conversations occur and reach all employees.”
  • “The monthly culture conversations are resulting in desirable change in the attitudes and behaviors of colleagues in my department.”

In quarterly data collection, some 55 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the following statement:

“Every day, I see colleagues exhibiting behaviors that are consistent with our organization’s ITEACH values.”

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.