Change initiatives involve people

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Jonathan Gilbert
Jonathan Gilbert
The economy's downward spiral is driving tremendous changes in the ways businesses and other organizations operate. However, regardless of the economic climate, every organization, including long-term care and care providers, are affected by change. The new presidential administration may also mean that healthcare organizations will need to undergo change to adjust to new federal policy initiatives.

Strategically managing organizational change is critical to implementing new programs and initiatives, and ultimately, to achieving an organization's success.  With research showing that nearly 75% of all organizational change programs fail, a deeper understanding of how to go about implementing change is clearly needed.

Most initiatives fail to consider how changes affect the people in an organization, since at the highest level, business leaders are driven by financial goals and government leaders are driven by legislative mandates. Their urgent need to meet these objectives may lead them to impose change unilaterally, rather than engaging the people to find the best way to meet a more generally understandable desired future state. To successfully implement change initiatives, organizational leaders must:

o Identify the need for change and communicate it throughout the organization.
o Engage people at all levels of the organization by involving them in the design of the implementation strategy.
o Actively involve the people most affected by the change in its implementation. This will help ensure employees at all levels of the organization embrace the proposed changes.

This three-phase approach-Identify, Engage, Implement-is the methodology of the Organizational Change Management Life Cycle. Organizational leaders' ability to answer "yes" to the following questions at each of the three phases is a good indication that a change initiative will be a success:  

* Has the organization thoroughly identified and communicated the impending change?
--Are disturbances acknowledged and aligned?

* Has the organization engaged all of its stakeholders-at every level of the organization-in the change that will need to be adopted?
--Is the intent and direction of this change aligned throughout the organization?

* Has the organization developed a flexible plan for implementation that allows for prototyping to move continually toward the desired future state?
--Are the organizational responses aligned and incorporated into the evolving plan?

The human transition that is required to move from a previously accepted way of working to one that is completely new or radically different is not to be underestimated. Prevailing contemporary research also confirms that, while change is personal and emotional, it is neurological as well. If the disturbance that is produced by a change isn't adequately addressed through some alignment intervention, this resistance to change is prolonged and can be damaging to the change initiative.

Executives who neglect the human transition required in change management will be less successful at implementing change. Good leaders will make the reasons for change personal for everyone, not just for executives or shareholders. End-user benefits, down to the day-to-day experience of the individual worker, will create a more receptive environment for fostering new ideas—and a receptive environment is essential to creating any lasting, positive change. And organizations must change and adapt, or they will not thrive-or worse, they may not survive-in today's dynamic environment.

Jonathan Gilbert is director of client solutions and the change management expert at ESI International ( His latest white paper, "The Change Management Life Cycle: How to Involve Your People to Ensure Success at Every Stage," is available for free download here.

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Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.


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