The Leadership of Organizational Change is simple.
Leading change is simple…
Leading change is simple, just like losing weight is simple.
You just eat less and exercise more, right? Simple. Why is it so hard?
I find the challenge of leading change endlessly fascinating.
So much so that I’ve made it my life’s work to crack this code.
I’ve even created an enterprise software tool to help you lead change.
It really is an art though isn’t it?
As a leader you struggle with leading change every day. It really is hard.
I’d like to share an example of an actual day in my life that you might be able to relate to as a change leader.
They made me take my wedding ring off. I’ve been married over 25 years. I never take my wedding ring off.
I had to take my ring off and roll up my sleeves then wash my hands with antibacterial soap. I was at the entrance to the NICU. The neonatal intensive care unit at a major hospital. It was 6:30 AM.
You see, it was the first morning using a new computer system throughout the hospital. I was helping the hospital implement this change. The system was called CPOE which stands for Computer Physician Order Entry.
You’ve watched the hospital dramas on TV and you’ve heard the doctor bark an order for a drug and the nurse automatically gives that drug to the patient. CPOE represented a major change.
Rather than barking the order, the physician is now responsible for entering the order for the drug into a computer system. Only then can the nurse give the drug to the patient.
Massive change. That’s when I get involved.
The work had been done. On that first day I planned to be in a variety of areas observing and offering help wherever I could. I started in the NICU.
As I enter the NICU so does a brand new baby who was born moments ago. He is in an incubator. A baby isn’t in the NICU unless something is wrong. Something is seriously wrong.
I call him baby boy because he doesn’t have a name yet.
Around the incubator is a physician, a physician assistant, and two nurses. If you’re not familiar, a physician assistant is a big part of the healthcare equation. They can prescribe medicine and in many cases act just as the MD does. The Chief of Pediatric Medicine and I are observing.
The team jumps to action to care for the baby boy. They pull up a WOW next to the incubator. A WOW is a Workstation On Wheels. They originally called them COWs, Computer on Wheels, but there was a lawsuit when a patient took offense when someone said, “Move that COW out of the hallway.”
Every few seconds a nurse calls out enzyme levels and the doctor orders something. Every few seconds, enzyme level, drug, enzyme level, drug. They are clearly fighting to keep this baby boy alive.
The physician assistant is working at a WOW. The pace is so fast it’s hard to enter each of the orders. A nurse brings a second WOW.
The system locks up.
Just then the mom is wheeled in. Dad is with her. They are introduced to a neurosurgeon who explains that in a few moments he will be taking their new baby boy for an operation on his brain. The parents are in shock. You know how devastating news like that would be.
It seems chaotic but there is a grace to the movement. The team continues to work at this fevered pitch.
The system locks up, again!
The care givers are very frustrated. They are trying to keep this baby alive. I glance at the Chief and he’s glaring at me.
I walk over and put my hand on the physician assistant’s shoulder and whisper, “Stop, just work. Don’t worry about the computer.”
You see, the system wasn’t designed for two people entering orders on the same case at the same time.
What happened here?
So much that is written and taught about change is of the kumbaya, who moved my cheese variety.
That part of it is important, I guess, but real change leadership is in the details.
Whose fault do you think it is that those caregivers that morning HATE change?
My change process and any good change process calls for tailoring to each area and ensuring everyone is ready to do their jobs.
We should have looked at each unit and its uniqueness. We didn’t.
I fought the battle with my client and lost. We don’t have enough resources. We’re in a hurry. You know how it goes.
What if we had done it the right way?
What if we identified a way to do what needed done in the NICU?
What if we considered the problem with them and came up with a solution?
What if we would have done the right thing? What I knew we should be doing?
Leading change is too hard.
Doing the right thing is too hard.
It wasn’t appropriate for me to find out what happened after the little boy left the NICU. And, I didn’t pursue it.
That little baby boy had a major impact on me. I know that what we do is important. It’s only leading organizational change but we do affect people’s lives. And sometimes…it’s even life or death.
I don’t always win the argument with an executive team but I promise you my argument is much more passionate after that morning in the NICU.
The hard work of developing the software Constituent Hub is fueled by that little boy in the NICU and the change constituents who struggle to do their important work in a changing environment.
This real life story is unfortunately all too common. While there are uncaring “results only, people be damned, just get it done” types of leaders out there, no one is immune to the impact of poor change leadership. Even companies with great leaders and grand intentions can suffer from poor change leadership.
Change leadership is hard.
This is what I call my purpose story, that keeps me motivated. Perhaps executing change well isn’t life or death in your organization like it is in the NICU, however it is worth the time to identify the purpose story that motivates you to lead change well and realize your strategy.