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By Monica E. Oss

All around me, I see my colleagues grappling with the need to change—and change quickly. The change drivers? The emergence of new technologies is obvious. But new competition, work schedules, consumer expectations, organizational structures, supervisors, and competency requirements also come to mind. It’s not just the health and human service market space. But, because the health and human service market has been so insulated from change for so long, the rapidity of the current disruptive change in the market is a bit of a shock to organizational cultures.

Many organizations in the field are not able to make the changes needed to remain viable in this sea of change. They can’t “turn on a dime” so to speak. The “change” that seems to be particularly challenging for provider organizations is developing systems to optimize value-based reimbursement, delivering consumer services via tech-enabled platforms, embracing consumer self-service as a planned part of the treatment model, managing by metrics, launching new (and profitable) service lines, and managing remote employees (and contractors).

The research shows that most often, organizational change initiatives are not successful. Recent studies found that only 54% are successful (see Overhauling Change Management). Forty-eight percent of survey respondents attributed change failure to the inability for organizations to sustain change over time; 44% attribute this to change participants who don’t understand the changes; and 38% attribute this to change participants who don’t agree with the changes.

This situation lays the groundwork for “change battle fatigue”- the subject of an interesting Forbes article (see 1 Reason Why Most Change Management Efforts Fail). Contributor Brent Gleeson notes:

One very critical roadblock standing in the way of bringing a change vision to fruition is what I call change battle fatigue. Change battle fatigue is the result of many elements such as past failures plaguing the minds of employees and the sacrifices made during the arduous change process. When a transformation is poorly led, fatigue can set in quickly.

So maybe it’s time to “return to the basics” of the leadership of organizational change management. If you’re leading a change initiative at your organization, there are ten key elements to successful organizational change (as outlined in the strategy+business article, 10 Principles of Leading Change Management). Take a look at this list and see how you (and your organization) score on change management excellence:

  1. Lead with the culture-In change management, organizational culture is everything. Take into account the existing culture, as well as any changes that will need to be made to it during a change initiative.
  2. Start at the top-The engine to drive all change needs to be the leadership, and complete buy-in at the top level.
  3. Involve every layer-The change drive can’t be restricted only to the top leadership. Every level of the organization needs to understand the change, and how to make it happen.
  4. Make the rational and emotional case together-Strategy takes rational decisions, but getting the buy-in and team commitment to pull off that strategy takes an emotional appeal.
  5. Act your way into new thinking-Team members won’t automatically assume the new roles necessary for the change initiative. Define a critical few behaviors that will be essential to the success of the initiative, and hold the team responsible for those behaviors.
  6. Engage, engage, engage-Successful change requires early and constant communication with the team, not a single message at the start.
  7. Lead outside the lines-Change leadership needs to be more than just the executive leadership, or those supervisors with recognized titles. Organizational leaders can be found at all levels of the organization and need to be included to keep change on track.
  8. Leverage formal solutions-Don’t underestimate the power of formal methods for pushing change, including structured reward systems, penalty systems, ways of operating, training, and development.
  9. Leverage informal solutions-This means tapping, once again, into the power of organizational culture to make sure that staff stays committed to the formal solutions adopted during a change campaign.
  10. Assess and adapt-How do you know if your change initiative is working, or failing? The only way to know is through metrics-based management, and a concerted effort to track your team’s performance and make any adjustments needed to keep them on track.

So how does your organization stack up? Don’t forget the oft-used Peter Drucker adage-“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” To sharpen up your change management IQ, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. What Do Today’s Leaders Think About Managing Change?
  2. Creating and Leading A Team in Times of Change
  3. Don’t Just Sit There: Change!
  4. Managing Change as a Leader’s Challenge
  5. Managing at the Speed of Change: What Does It Take to Be Nimble?

And for even more, join John F. Talbot, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, & Advisory Board Member, OPEN MINDS; and Neil Massey, Development Director of Dallas, Autism Treatment Center on September 19 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat, for their session, “The New Leadership Challenge: Culture & Change Management In A Value Based Market.”

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