Nous Principal Deanna Paulin shares her insights into how best to successfully achieve organisational change – such as that instigated by the movement to consumer directed care (CDC).
I was sitting in the boardroom with the executive of a service provider last year as we were about to begin a large consumer-driven transformation program. There was excitement and anticipation in the air, fuelled by the desire for real change. Then an executive turned to me and said “what if we do all this, and nothing actually changes?”
Business transformation is complex, challenging, and replete with inter-dependencies. It requires focus, attention and resources. When done well, it delivers substantial value to consumers and other stakeholders. But it is a real possibility that you can do significant work to adapt your business models, change your structure completely and overhaul systems and processes – and yet not change people’s behaviour at all.
CDC has been a catalyst for organisational change, and in some cases business transformation. It has triggered aged care service providers to think more commercially and strategically about how their services should be delivered – including how to become more responsive to consumer preferences. This presents many challenges:
Further, some distinctive aspects of the aged care environment make such changes even more challenging. These include a focus on care rather than commerce, subsistence-level funding and margins, high levels of regulation, a complex incident reporting environment, and a geographically and culturally diverse and casualised workforce.
There are four main steps that leaders should take to guide change and engagement activities. They are iterative and non-linear, but must be considered from the outset:
Nous’ experience also highlights a number of common challenges service providers experience across these steps, and strategies for overcoming them.
Some leaders take on too much and fail to distribute decision-making or solution-finding. They then lack the time to actually deliver, divert their attention away from what they are good at and fail to utilise others who are best placed to deliver. Leaders must also actively communicate about the unknowns and translate the change into people’s context. In the absence of information people make assumptions, which can turn into beliefs and plans.
This means focusing on culture, capability and leadership as much as on technical progress against project deliverables. The change plan should be part of the overall project plan. The project manager and change manager should work together to align engagement activities so that stakeholders receive a coherent story. And change and project measurement should be integrated with the broader benefits realisation approach.
Demonstrating success through actions that are meaningful, directly related to change and achieved quickly – for example, implementing a pilot, identifying examples of changed behaviour, or dealing with the biggest frustration source – creates energy and enthusiasm for the change. Conversely, it is OK to call out errors or incorrect decisions – but in private.
It is important, therefore to choose a change approach that fits your culture. This requires initially measuring and assessing your culture and defining its desired attributes. Amount of sick leave taken, number of complaints and the extent of work arounds can provide clues to culture, along with readily observable actions and words. But intangible values, mindsets and thinking should be explored as well via engagement surveys, focus groups and stakeholder interviews.
What are the associated costs? What are the service levels? Where are the peak demands? Not everything will have answers yet, and that is OK. Find out the information you must know, and then let the smaller things go.
Successful organisation transformation requires focus, attention and resources. Investing in good change management is paramount, as when done well, it will deliver substantial value, a competitive advantage, organisational growth and better outcomes for consumers.
This article is based on Deanna’s recent presentation at the Catholic Health Australia Consumer Directed Care forum.