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Healthcare leaders have sought to improve healthcare quality, delivery, efficiency, and customer service by using organizational change as a mechanism for success. Despite all the effort, most large-scale change management programs fail. There are no easy answers as to why healthcare leaders find themselves trying to solve the same problems year after year. Dramatic change can be the result of the added complexity from innovations in information systems, improved diagnostic tools and advances in treatment technology. Along with these come pressures to improve effectiveness and efficiency in clinical treatments while also maintaining optimal patient experience.

Many healthcare organizations implement change methodologies including Total Quality Management and Continuous Quality Improvement (TQM/CQI) initiatives. These programs typically begin with great interest but then result in a reduction in urgency. The risk is that change success never gets fully realized. The initial momentum of change can slow because of management’s inability to gain employee commitment and maintain it over the long haul. With each failed attempt at change, employee commitment becomes harder to achieve.

Step 1: Cultural Assessment

Organizational culture is more than ‘this is how we do things,’ Rather, organizational culture is comprised of shared basic assumptions that influence beliefs and behaviors. Changing processes on a functional level may seem easy. Understanding why processes are in place, the factors underlying resistance to change, and the extent that new practices are sustained is far more challenging. Understanding the collective thought processes informing behaviors allows for a deeper comprehension of what can make change successful within an organization. Some tools can be used to examine an organizational culture. A cultural assessment should include employee and leadership’s perceptions of shared norms and expectations, supervision, employer attitudes, role significance, organizational image, competitiveness, shared values, teamwork/cohesiveness, and workload. Additionally, as part of a cultural assessment, completing an assessment of both successful and failed attempts at change can provide insight into how change is perceived and implemented within your organization.

Understanding your organization’s change readiness is essential to tailoring change programming to meet your needs. Many organizations look to external resources to assist in their cultural assessment. Getting an unbiased and objective view of your organization’s change management strengths and opportunities is one of the benefits of having external support.

Step 2: Goals, Objectives & Scope

For a change project to succeed, key stakeholders must establish clear and measurable goals, objectives and scope. Goals are longer-term targets an organization wants to accomplish. Objectives are shorter term milestones that link to the long-term goals. Finally, scope ensures that the change project remains focused and clear. The challenge for many healthcare leaders is figuring out a place to start. A cultural assessment can provide that starting place. Additionally, a vision session with key stakeholders can establish collaboration, a shared vision, objectives, and engagement build alignment and commitment. There needs to be widespread and dependable support across the organization with measurable and actionable steps. Without these components, the program will result in a loss of momentum.

  1. Is the goal aligned clearly with the organization’s strategic vision and values?
  2. Why is the change important and what will be achieved?
  3. Who is affected by the chance and what may be their response?
  4. Do we have the expertise to be successful internally or will we require external assistance?

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