Healthcare leaders everywhere are talking about the need for culture change. It seems much like talking about the weather – everyone is affected, everyone has a story, but no one quite understands how to change the climate.
In the meantime we face the onslaught of the coming storm. Winds are whipping, waves are crashing, and we’re just not sure whether to shore up the building or flee to higher ground.
We in healthcare seek process improvement and culture change through various methodologies and tools. We count, chart, graph, extrapolate, survey and review, and in general move forward at a snail’s pace. On the surface everyone appears to agree that the old culture must go, but in every organization, just beneath that calm facade, is a murky, swirling riptide of resistance fueled by fear, uncertainty, and self-interest. And no matter who we are, none of us are completely immune to the draw of that powerful tide. Change is scary business.
Leaders often contribute to the corporate status quo by hiring and promoting from within specifically because the candidate already understands the culture. Unfortunately, that practice often translates into yet another employee who accepts the inevitability of the current system. It is unlikely that needed change will come through a new leader already immersed in the corporate behaviors and beliefs.
Yet despite its many struggles, healthcare is still a noble profession, often chosen for the most honorable of reasons; a desire to help and to heal. That in itself makes the battle for sustainable improvement (and it can indeed be a battle) worth the effort. But cultural change is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. Swimming against the tide is hard work, made a bit easier if one doesn’t have to swim alone.
Author Anita Yelton offers insights about how to recruit “fellow swimmers” in Making the Journey Toward Culture Change in Healthcare.
Employee acceptance is essential. Many organizations have declared their mission, written goals, produced vision statements and embraced a philosophy or set of values that fits their organization. These affirmations often include lofty themes.
However, often there is no structure to support the realization of these organizational objectives. The employees frequently lack a genuine commitment to their company’s stated goals, mission, value statements and general philosophies because:
- They feel they have no input into the process.
- The statements are long, vague and do not relate directly to employees’ work.
- Goals and values are only communicated once a year and then not mentioned again.
- The statements are constantly being changed or revised.
- The leadership team is inconsistent in its actions and behaviors in support of the goals and values.
A simple equation to communicate the framework for sustainable change is Q x A = E, or the quality of the solution times the acceptance of that solution will equal the overall effectiveness.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”