The old cliché that for a person to change they must really want to change is true – for individuals and organisations alike. However, the initial reason for change is nearly always a change in the external environment, i.e. something, or someone, impacts on us so greatly that we feel a need to respond. Think about why people decide to stop smoking, or lose weight.
The NHS, and the medical profession in particular, are conservative organisations. They have traditionally operated in the comfortable situation of insatiable demand and constantly increasing supply. The type of work is complex and specialised, often performed by arrogant and complacent health professionals. These are the ingredients of the ‘Success Syndrome’, which ultimately, produces declining performance and denial, ‘disabled learning’ and a downward ‘spiral of death’ (Nadler and Shaw, 1995).
In that context, how can change possibly occur? Is there anything we can learn from academic change management? Well, here are my learning points distilled from my MBA module on change management:
- All process models of change involve an initial disturbance, shift and re-consolidation
- If initial momentum is lost the process can become stalled
- Process models can be used to analyse change situations
- When beginning a change the desired end should be kept in mind
- Dramatic changes are often easier to initiate than gradual ones, but the results may be less predictable
- The importance of people issues in change management must not be underestimated
- Leaders must define their vision, garner the necessary resources, (mostly human), and communicate constantly
- Personal transition issues should be anticipated by change managers, who can facilitate progress through stages of adjustment
Ref: Nadler, D., Shaw, R. and Walton, A.E. (1995) Discontinuous Change: Leading Organizational Change. Jossey-Bass, New York.