Overcoming Resistance to Change: It’s All About the Buy-In

Man with Question

By Melinda Outlaw, Hayes Management Consulting
Twitter: @HayesManagement

Healthcare organizations are facing an overwhelming number of complex changes related to new initiatives, government regulations and the optimization of current processes. Many of these changes are regulatory generated, while others are competitively motivated, policy-driven and/or a result of customer derived requirements. Regardless of the reason, before a change is initiated the impact of the impending change to all those affected should be deemed a highly significant matter of importance in the change management planning process. So how do you manage change when there is resistance?

Own the changes

Most new changes in healthcare are a result of new technology and workflows which are commonly viewed as a threat to healthcare staff. Significant change can challenge skillsets causing a concern for work stability. It has the potential to be emotional, burdensome, and troubling for some, while others find the change welcoming. Because change commonly produces stress, resistance is to be expected, not ignored. With leadership already weighed down on a daily basis, organizations tend to move too quickly through the change management process, not strategically planning for resistance which results in lack of stakeholder buy-in and engagement that ultimately threatens the sustainability of the project.

Too often, organizations do not have a formal change management plan to drive organizational change. Dealing with “resistance to change” becomes an uphill battle. Simply setting expectations and enforcing policy and procedure limits engagement and cooperation.

Resistance is a natural response to change. Change is fear of the unknown. Using change management strategies to effectively manage resistance to change will create buy-in and increase engagement that leads to sustainability and organizational growth.

Manage resistance to change:

  • Fully expect and anticipate resistance during the initiation phase of a new project
  • Determine a strategy for resistance. Be sure to take into consideration the organization’s culture and other dynamics that affect the culture.
  • Consider the strategy for recognizing and managing resistance. This should be a part of the organization’s Change Management Plan. Tackling this hurdle can be daunting and tiring, but the value added is worth the effort put forth by far.
  • Expand on and modify a plan already in place, keeping in mind that there is no one size fits all plan. The culture of the organization must be considered, especially with resistance.

At some point in life, every employee has had to be a part of a change. It may be a new job, new responsibility or a new boss. Change can bring a level of anxiety even if the change was our own decision. Now think about when we have to accept a change made by someone else.

Imagine that you are a unit secretary who has been working at the hospital for 10 years and you know your job well. You have just been told the hospital is going from paper to EHR. What thoughts may go through your mind? This is just one example of a change that may cause resistance. Providers may be resistant as well. Some of this resistance may derive from previous failed projects, interruptions in the way that care is provided, learning a skill not previously needed, and more. The question anyone undergoing change would like answered, is “Why?”

Demonstrate why change is necessary

In the strategy and development of a change management plan, it is important to identify the value of the change. All of those affected need to know “what is in it for me?” Having this outlined in the strategy is a good start to change management planning that leads to sustainability.

One of my first healthcare IT jobs was with an organization that was and still is phenomenal in their approach for planning and implementing. The change management strategy for projects was initiated by a team dedicated to identifying, analyzing and testing measures of change for specific areas of the organization based on the project. The organization can easily be considered an organization of change in that the culture expects change more than resists change.

The benefits of planning for change

Although government regulations and requirements, competing organizations and other factors are causing a fast shift from implementing to optimizing to planning for new projects, the time is now to create an organization of change in your organization. Understanding that change affects people and not just technology and processes is the first step to project sustainability. There is tremendous value in a strong team of change managers with expertise in resistance recognition and management. The easy part is installing new software/technology. It is the people that will be using it. Lack of sustainability reduces revenue. Introducing a change management plan and getting employees used to changes will affect your organization in a positive way and create fluidity in your employees and business.

This article was originally published in Hayes’ Healthcare Blog and is republished here with permission.