Constant change in the healthcare industry demands an enterprise-wide change management strategy. Success relies on organizational culture grounded in transparency and investment in all stakeholders.
From M&A to new technology to major shifts in ways of working, healthcare leaders are redefining their business models. Layered with regulation compliance and complex payment models, an understanding of the organization — not only its operations but also its culture — is key to operationalizing these important changes.
With the historic failure rate of corporate change initiatives estimated at 70% by the Harvard Business Review, recent meta-analysis suggests that this rate could be even higher — at approximately 78%. When comparing failures and successes, this study indicates that a common factor contributing to successful change implementation involves a prioritization of people.
“Successful organizational change management strategy factors in the current state of the organization, such as culture, influencer networks and effective communication, and education channels,” said Jennifer Morelli, leader of National Business Change Enablement. “Understanding the existing levers that can be pulled across an organization provides the foundation with a right-sized and effective people-first approach to managing change.”
Preparing stakeholders to adopt and sustain new ways of working requires a tailored organizational change management (OCM) program that accounts for behavior, process and technology. A deliberate focus on driving the awareness and preparedness of employees and related stakeholders minimizes disruption and provides a positive experience for those involved, translating to a more successful transition to the new state.
Investments in OCM pay off
By weaving change management into business operations, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to create stakeholder buy-in while navigating planned change, as well as pivoting in the instance of unexpected change. Minimizing a reactive approach helps save time and resources, supporting healthcare organizations’ pursuit of the Triple Aim — improving population health, enhancing individuals’ experience of care and reducing the per capita cost of health care.
OCM can strengthen cost-saving efforts, according to change management research conducted by Prosci, Inc., and reported by Capacity for Health. The research showed that 81% of projects incorporating effective change management came in on or under budget.
Comprising effective internal communications, training, technology adoption and project management initiatives, OCM also extends beyond these areas. As a framework that integrates these processes and tactics with enterprise-wide knowledge and cultivation of stakeholder engagement and relationships, OCM may increase the potential for success.
“The most successful organizations don’t just have a change management team or approach; they embed change management into the way they work, where everyone plays a role in making change successful,” Morelli said. “And when you look at organizations that are continually improving, it becomes part of the fabric of who they are.”
When striving to use resources strategically while delivering quality care, healthcare leaders must examine the processes to reduce any waste. Ineffectual, siloed change management can lead to overspending and missing deadlines, pulling staff and resources away from other tasks.
According to the Prosci research, organizations with quality change management programs are six times more likely to meet project objectives. By preparing for new ways of working, organizations can achieve desired results. However, success is also dependent on employee buy-in throughout the process. Research demonstrates that employee engagement leads to a 71% success rate in completing projects on schedule.
Engage key players
While healthcare organizations’ core functions such as HR, communications, and learning and development are crucial to the success of any change initiative, all stakeholders have a role in enabling change. Employee response ranges from awareness to ownership to, ultimately, commitment. It takes a deliberate effort from a variety of stakeholders to drive a successful outcome.
Through continued and consistent engagement, leaders must build a culture that nurtures stakeholder relationships, demonstrating transparency as well as promoting inclusiveness in decision-making and execution. “Strong leadership is critical,” Morelli said. “Leaders must be open to listening and willing to take a stance in support of the broader leadership alignment behind the common goal that the organization’s striving for.”
Senior leadership is responsible for promoting organization-wide involvement. Change practitioners provide structure, sharing guidance and tools to navigate the process; project teams lead employees through project planning, delivery and the transfer to day-to-day usage. Managers support their teams through and beyond the change, and front-line employees embrace the change.
“We need to pay attention to the people who make the change possible by bringing what was planned, strategized and developed to life,” Morelli said. “Employees want to be part of the solution, to improve and change together.”
OCM is not limited to a specific department or change initiative but rather should be threaded through the organization and instilled as a priority in all employees. When determining the best course of action in any change initiative, solid tactics are crucial, but leadership must acknowledge that employees are essential to success.
Establish the framework for enabling change
A self-aware, inclusive organizational culture that prioritizes employees establishes a foundation for OCM. Relying on active executive sponsorship and engaged employees, the effort is ongoing and includes open communication, educational opportunities and proactive risk management.
As OCM is embedded in organizational culture, the need for self-examination reaches across departments and strategic priorities. Before launching a change initiative, an organization should complete a comprehensive evaluation process. In addition to understanding change readiness, planning must include the identification of stakeholder groups and assessment of types of impacts.
Equipped with knowledge from the evaluation, the next steps are educating and training employees. Training is more impactful when preceded by education; user-friendly content delivery can help with adoption. To roll out changes, organizations can leverage super users to support other stakeholders as well as offer easily accessible training materials.
By sharing relevant updates with target audiences, organizations can successfully engage employees throughout the change process. To encourage a conversation, leaders should build systems and utilize engagement channels for employee outreach and feedback.
Laying the foundation through evaluation, education, training and engagement, organizations can empower stakeholders to sustain changes. Leadership continues to play a crucial role in championing these initiatives, and communication channels must remain open to continue the conversation.
When built on a foundation of organizational culture rooted in transparency and investment in employees, OCM offers a full-circle approach to navigate change while advancing organizational strategy. Integrating OCM into the day-to-day is crucial, as is gauging overall success through interconnection with broader objectives.
“Change management alone doesn’t change things,” Morelli said. “It empowers others to start to live in that new way and engage together in changing the organization.”
Jennifer is a leader of Grant Thornton's Business Change Enablement practice. She advises clients across a broad range of industries on how to handle the ‘people side of change’ through organizational, process and technology transformation.
David Tyler is a partner in Grant Thornton’s Health Care Advisory Services practice. Based in the firm’s Atlanta office, Tyler leads the national managed care services and the Health Care Advisory Services practice in the Mid-South market territory.
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