Change management has a better image than it deserves.
The problem in health care is that much of change management boils down to doing more with less. The mandate to do more with less does not arise from evidence of poorly managed spending, waste, or overpaid staff. It arises from government spending constraints. Although funding shortfalls provide compelling rationales for spending reductions, implementing them is not inspirational work for managers.
The responsibility to lead change that is at odds with a manger’s core values creates a lot of tension. Success in implementing the change appears to worsen the quality of care. It also leads to unhappy employees. They may be doing more with less, but they are accomplishing less with less. They just have to work harder along the way.
Team leaders cannot simply ignore change initiatives with which they disagree.
1. Their teams must adapt to the change whether they like it or not.
2. Implementing new policies is a central responsibility for team leaders.
3. Although the new initiatives are not changes for the better, they are often the most effective way for the organization and the workgroup to respond to a decrease in funding or other broad policy initiatives.
How can organizations and team leaders resolve this conundrum of implementing necessary changes of dubious merit?
What To Do
The first step for senior management is to work with managers to make sense of a new initiative. There needs to be a thorough conversation with team leaders about what is changing, the team leaders’ role in the change, and the anticipated consequences. The most constructive view may be that the new initiative represents a twist on the road to realizing the hospital’s vision. The organization remains focused on its vision in the long term, but current conditions require acting to preserve the hospital’s survival during a rough patch.
There are many ways to make sense of a new initiative. Team leaders in health care are value-driven employees with a keen perception of reality. No one will convince them that a pig’s ear is a silk purse.
This conversation needs to be ongoing. Team leaders will encounter unexpected problems and active resistance as they implement a new way of doing things.
Change is a process, not an event. So, subsequent posts will continue the conversation.