Our world is changing every day and it is up to each organization to evolve and grow if it is to remain competitive and survive. Most organizations have very good intentions when it comes to change; they strategize, conduct assessments and identify focal points. However, these same organizations often times end up with mounds of data, minimal direction and lack of action for real change. This whitepaper presents the key elements to effective change management.
A top-down approach is no longer seen as the best practice when it comes to developing and implementing a change initiative. Nearly 100% of the time, a far superior solution is crafted when soliciting input from several stakeholder groups compared to executives going at it alone.
For example, the executive team at a large non-profit organization crafted a specified plan for a new organizational direction. After a facilitated discussion among the executives and many additional stakeholders, the executives found that only 50-60% of their initial plan was appropriate. The result of integrating multiple perspectives was a better understanding of the most significant aspects and a relevant, revamped plan of action.
Project Team Selection
A blend of focal points and perspective is critical to success. When forming a project team, enlist the help of several individuals from varying levels within the organization; and if applicable, from multiple departments and/or functions. Simply appointing a project manager to take charge typically proves ineffective. While project managers tend to be go-getters with strong organizational skills and attention to detail; they often times take an adverse approach to ambiguity and risk, preferring to maintain the status quo.
When selecting team members choose those individuals that are credible, well respected and known to “get it done”; after all, they will be the faces and the voices behind the initiative. As change agents, their enthusiasm and sponsorship are pivotal to workforce buy-in and support. Take the time to broadly communicate the creation of a project team and encourage involvement. Individuals neglected to ask could have a real passion for change and become a valuable supplement to the team. In addition, it may prove highly beneficial to enlist a skeptic to join the team. The advantages of placing a skeptic on the team are two-fold, eliminating a potential roadblock and gaining additional support, “because if this skeptic supports it why shouldn’t we”.
The more employees own the solution and feel that it is their own, the more power behind solving the problem. To get employees to begin FEELING differently and not just THINKING differently, get them involved, solicit their feedback and regularly share progress. Construct open communication channels that allow feedback to freely flow from the project team to employees and back. Welcoming and utilizing employee feedback helps to indicate precisely what works and what doesn’t, along with increasing overall employee engagement. Engaging employees in the change process ultimately leads to greater ownership, stronger commitment and better results.
Change management consists of motivating people to do something different; however, it is nearly impossible to motivate someone to change if they are completely content with the way things are. A certain level of dissatisfaction with the status quo must be established to promote a strong sense of urgency and excitement around the problem.
A Success Story
A prominent hospital set out on a large-scale change initiative to improve engagement and quality among its constituents; doctors, employees, patients and the community. Taking an innovative approach to change management, this medical center enlisted the help of all of it Nursing Managers. Each joined one of five project teams; a mission and values team, and four satisfaction teams, each representative of a different constituent (doctors, employees, patients and the community). Every team had 7-10 members, of which a leader and a facilitator were chosen. Individual team leaders joined an additional leadership team to share insights and best practices among the separate groups.
To find innovative solutions, the hospital’s project teams went out into the workforce and the community to converse with constituents. It was through this interaction that team members were able to bring new, creative ideas to the table. Within each group meeting, all members were encouraged to participate and free to brainstorm without criticism. This open and collaborative atmosphere made members feel comfortable voicing their opinions and created practical value from ideas. (Open communication is especially critical in project teams with individuals of varying ranks and positions.) Seven years after the initiative’s inception, the hospital’s project teams are continuing to work together, earning the RIT/USA Today Award for Improved Quality and Expense Reduction in a Healthcare Setting.
Barriers to Change
Change itself is an event/an announcement, it is after that announcement that the real challenge begins. Some people will welcome change, others will be skeptical, others still will be resistant. It is important to pay attention to emotional reactions and communicate the message accordingly. A common misconception is that the majority of communication should be focused on change resisters; while in reality, research shows the majority of time and energy should be devoted to skeptics identified as swayable, and the least should be allocated to resisters. For those that remain resistant, good performance management and accountability measures are essential.
One of change’s most daunting challenges is sustainment, especially if project team dissolves. From the initiative’s conception, it is important not to disregard the present culture. A change that fits the culture is much more likely to be accepted and sustained as opposed to one that goes against it. Try to imbed the change into existing systems and processes. If possible, turn off the old system completely and make the new system the only way of doing things.
One way to support sustainment is to create a separate coordinating committee that promotes the change and is regularly assessed on the change contribution as a part of their present job. These individuals will be given specified responsibilities and sanctions from the organization to review and update change efforts, while perpetuating a constant communication vehicle.
Change is a long-term process; it is not something that can be accomplished overnight. In most instances, things get worse before they get better; however, once people get onboard change will happen and the benefits will be well worth it.