As a practice advisor for over 15 years, I know the only constant in healthcare is change. I also know that successful navigation of these changes can make or break your practice, or at the very least, your sanity. Be it a practice that has recognized a need to adjust over time, or those working through mergers and acquisitions, change management has never been more important.
What is Change Management?
Change management is defined as the "discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change to drive organizational success and outcomes."
When a practice undertakes projects or opportunities, change is inevitable. It stands to reason these changes will involve organizational structure and processes, but it is about your staff transitioning their personal responsibilities and embracing the changes. If your staff is unsuccessful in their transitions, the initiative will fail. If employees embrace and adopt changes, it will deliver the expected results.
Recently, I worked with a practice that felt by communicating with the staff through staff meetings and some one-on-one follow up, they could work through the changes that came with merging with several other practices in the area.
Sadly, it seems to be the same story repeatedly when leadership is focused on the desired result but fails to understand the importance of managing the process to get there. Regardless of the size and scope of the changes, humans don't like it. Here is an opportunity to peek into the crystal ball when change management is an afterthought.
This is what your staff is thinking
"What will happen to me?" Make no mistake - that is all they will be thinking, all the time. They will not focus on their responsibilities. They will gossip regularly, looking for some sliver of information from another co-worker or at least someone to bond with over mutual fears. Even the best and the brightest are stressed and everyone knows that no one is really "safe."
"But we had a meeting and told them all of the great plans…"
The meeting reinforced the rumors they have talked about for months- things are changing. If there are new administrative faces at the meeting, the staff will not believe the rhetoric from the new leadership. New leaders are not trusted, and the old leadership failed them. In some ways, they may even think their old leaders were dishonest with them and now find themselves feeling duped. Even the ones that feel secure in their position are not likely to believe that there is anything positive in this change for them. Extrapolate this over several newly acquired practices, and you have an awful lot of people who are demoralized, nervous and praying to just get through their days under the radar.
"Change is hard, but they will be fine…"
Once the staff is nervous and talking to each other about their concerns, the rumors, infighting and back-stabbing begins.Errors are made, customer service fails due to the stress and everyone is out for themselves in a weird version of Medical Practice Hunger Games. Eventually, it is decided that to "win" I need to beat the new leadership to the punch and find a new job. Suddenly, most of your team is out there looking.