For those within the healthcare industry, embarking on a major change initiative may feel daunting, but successful improvement yields a range of benefits, including enhanced patient experience, improved revenue and reimbursement and increased staff expertise.
Cultural and organizational change probably won’t be easy. And to see results you’ll need changes to stick over the long term. Yet, only 25 percent of change management initiatives succeed over the long haul, according to a study from consulting firm Towers Watson.
Why? Change is difficult. Shifting the way a healthcare organization functions and changing its culture can be a rough adjustment for employees—and for patients.
But healthcare organizations do have several principles taken from change management best practices at their disposal. Below, we take a look at seven of the principles that have proven invaluable to steer a healthcare organization through a time of change.
1. Create a Roadmap
Carrying out a big change is hard enough, mapping a change strategy is even harder. Through training, executives are better able to:
- Gather stakeholder input
- Gather thoughts from those who will be affected
- Make informed and inclusive decisions
- Seek engagement and commitment from employees
- Map action steps and a timetable for change
- Receive measurable feedback, which can be put to use if further transition is needed
- Create performance expectations
- Diagnose problems when the change initiative is in motion
2. Train Leaders
Putting change management concepts into action might require an expansion of leaders’ skills and abilities. Enhance these through a targeted training program that clearly states the rationale for the change and that offers administrators and managers the skills needed to guide staff as their department or entire organization revamps itself.
Through training, executives learn how to coalesce the various reasons for the organizational change and to shape those into an overall message; and to further break down message statements applicable to the various managers, departments and teams. Though change is difficult, the organization will be better for it and so will its employees. Staff who know and understand the reasons for the new direction are much more likely to rally behind it.
3. Keep Communicating
Staff, managers, and directors responsible for managing change will need to communicate regularly via meetings, email, intranet or other methods with each other and with their staff. Before change begins, know the technology tools that will be used to communicate with team members. Ensure a method is in place to capture all communication electronically.
Also, set a weekly meeting time that can be added to everyone’s calendars.
For staff members, the more communication the better. They’ll want to hear from their managers, and often, during this time. Communicate the essentials simply, ask for questions and respond to them.
4. Form Organized Partnerships
Consult with leaders in other departments, even at other organizations, about how they’re managing or have managed change. This is no time to maintain and dig into organizational silos. When one department experiences change, the effects ripple through the entire organization. Consider forming cross-departmental partnerships to lead change management efforts.
5. Push Change to the Granular Level
One true challenge to change is the many actions, decisions, and behaviors of every single employee in an organization. Plans for change that don’t address change at this granular level—that is, how the actions, decisions and behaviors of every employee will be affected by the new course—won’t succeed. They do this by setting clear, measurable and outcome-based objectives for teams and managers and their individual employees.
6. Delegate Responsibilities
Knowing how to delegate is no small task. Executives should assign managers particular roles during this time of transition. Just as executives must lead teams through change and recognize the value within each individual, so must their managers and others responsible for change.
7. Measure Outcomes
Why go through the potential hardships of change if it doesn’t improve processes, procedures, and the bottom line? There are a number of ways to measure the effects of change, whether through surveys or competency models. Measurements can be taken both during the transition and after. Change leaders usually chart processes before the move to have a baseline against which to measure. After change efforts, they might be pleased with the new normal or they might decide even more change is in order.
While organizational change is probably always going to be hard, results are always worth it. With these tools, the transition will go smoother than you’d have thought possible.
The Towers Watson study found that 55 percent of change management initiatives met initial objectives, though that number subsided over time to the 25 percent. But effective change management using the best practices and principles outlined here can raise both those numbers.