Monday, November 30, 2009

Implementing Change Strategies.

Post 377 - Talking about healthcare over the weekend, I was moved to hope that Congress gives up on the current bills, all of which are disasters, then drafts a new one and implements it considering the following guidelines. All the effort and energy expended in developing and approving a strategy for change is to no avail if the results aren’t implemented effectively. Experience suggests using the following guidelines:

• If possible, introduce changes on a small prototype scale first, with the understanding they’ll be expanded later on. The intent is not to “see if they work” but rather to learn how to make them work effectively.

• Sites for prototypes should be chosen to provide the best opportunities for learning, rather than presenting the greatest challenge to the concepts involved.

• Treat mistakes as opportunities for learning, not as experiences to punish or ignore. Make sure the learning loop gets closed quickly while the experiences are still fresh in people’s minds.

• Deal with emerging issues promptly. Don’t allow dissatisfaction and frustration to reign unchecked. Some frustration is helpful as a prelude to learning, but it's easily overdone.

• Provide formal training on an “as needed“ basis during the implementation phase, rather than trying to get it over with all at once in the beginning. Skills and concepts can be acquired more effectively when there’s some previous context in which to assess their usefulness.

• Design the training around specific, identified needs rather than using existing pre-packaged programs. The focus of the training should be developmental rather than remedial, as people tend to embrace the former while resisting the latter.

• When replacing people who leave, retire or are promoted, look to appoint or hire those who possess the personal philosophies and capabilities called for by the change initiative.

• Provide constant high-visibility feedback on what’s going right. Avoid publicizing only problems and failures. Create special events to celebrate specific achievements.

• Evaluate progress from the beginning of the implementation and don’t be afraid to introduce corrections if change elements aren't working out as planned.

• Don’t over-structure the details of implementation since doing so limits opportunities for initiative and learning by those involved. It also incorrectly presupposes that every detail can be planned in advance.

• If the change moves too quickly, many people will be left behind. As a result, they’ll be unsure about the purpose and detail of what’s likely to be implemented and unable to frame appropriate questions to express their concerns.

• People are, at times, resistors as well as initiators of change. They’re involved on both sides of the process of adjusting to change. Resistance by itself is neither good nor bad. It may be based on good reasons or it may not. Resistance, like pain, doesn’t tell what’s wrong, only that something is probably wrong. It’s always a signal that further inquiry is advisable.

• Try to reframe “I don’t want to change…” into, “It won’t work for me because…”

A final thought from Sarah Ban Breatnach: “Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. Lasting change happens in infinitesimal increments; a day, an hour, a minute, a heartbeat at a time.”

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