Hospital Transitions Require A Different Approach to Change Management
Every aspect of constructing and transitioning a large, complex facility such as a hospital is a challenge. One of the more daunting tasks is ensuring staff are ready to hit the ground running. In many cases, project teams look to traditional change management tools to facilitate staff transition but hospital transitions are unique, requiring a different approach to managing change.
The reason hospital transitions are unique and exciting includes:
- The scope of the change impacts the entire organization at the same time. There’s no opportunity to test, adjust and retest… the process is an all or nothing large scale change event.
- There’s a firm deadline that can’t be moved… this fixed deadline tends to capture people’s attention.
- The impact includes people, processes, technology, workflow and patients…. This isn’t about implementing one change, this is about hundreds of big changes all at one time.
- The team has a small window of time from what is called substantial completion to the move date to train thousands of staff. The small window and large training requirement complicate things.
Because the scale and scope of change are different, there is some typical behaviour and some unique behaviour from staff;
- Staff want information and want more information at different inflexion points. (ie. Sept is usually an anxious month because summer ends and people are more focused)
- Hospital transitions are once in a career experience for all employees; therefore Managers are usually as nervous as staff, they also want information to share with their staff.
- Project teams work closely with all types of information and are extremely busy. As the move date draws near, they become very busy and focused. Frequently planning teams and leadership assume people know details that haven’t been shared. This happens on every project and creates frustration for staff.
- Many decisions and information can’t be made available until the move date draws near…. People have a hard time understanding why this is the case, it makes them nervous.
Now a few thoughts about managing this type of change;
- Because the move date can’t be changed, there will be very few people who resist, this takes one obstacle out of the way. The number one task for managers should be making sure their staff are mentally prepared for the move and for the 6-12 months that follow the move.
- They should focus on helping staff to understand what they need to do to be successful. Providing more information … even telling staff that they don’t know the answer yet, eliminates noise.
- It’s extremely difficult to maintain consistent messaging across the organization as the move date comes closer. The difficulty is that many decisions happen during the last 3 months.
- Managers need to help staff to set realistic expectations so they can be mentally prepared. They should be entering the new facility calmly, with realistic expectations.
A few thoughts on setting expectations:
- Help staff to understand that there is post move work and accompanying stress for 6 to 12 months.
- Staff won’t be happy with everything they see in the new facility .… leaders had to make choices based on a budget. It’s like building a house, I want a large garage… my wife wants a beautiful kitchen … we have to choose one or the other.
- Everything wouldn’t be perfect… some processes will have to be adjusted, some technology may not work as planned. If the project team knew where the problems are hidden they would have eliminated them.
- Staff need to be calm, supportive toward each other, respectful toward the team that built the hospital and very focused on patients.
Success is a result of staff focus, preparedness and mutual support. Post move, managers and some staff will be exhausted and some will leave. The challenge is minimizing turnover, HR needs to be engaged in managing this important challenge. Many hospitals miss this point.
Finally, don’t waste time on people who resist or who seem indifferent, they’ll come around when they’re ready or when they have to move. Have firm discussions with people who create problems.
Mark Lewis, CEO Founder