Healthcare Change Management – How To Influence Change & Best Practices for Communicating Change

The importance of Leadership.

Perhaps the most influential aspect of transformation and innovation in any organization is the leader. In today’s chaotic environment, leadership might as well be an extreme sport, but it doesn’t change the fact that leaders are often the driving force behind change. For leaders, building a culture of innovation requires focus and effort, these leaders should also serve as mentors and role models for innovation and transformation. 

Nurse leaders play a large part in empowering ideation and solutions from their team, and can assist in propelling these ideas forward into the study or  pilot phases. In order to begin identifying new care models and solutions we are first going to have to find ways to make the job of nurse leaders more tenable and doable.

While the role of nurse leaders has always been never ending and personally taxing, in today’s healthcare environment, the job of a nurse leader is literally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, whether in office or on call. With this constant overwhelming pressure, the job has become virtually impossible in terms of being successful over a long time period. This needs to be addressed if we want to see long term improvement in our industry, it’s in everyone’s best interest to see leaders succeed.

Why do leaders need to influence change?

It’s important for leaders to influence change because of their role. The leader’s voice is often heard above others’ and so they have a responsibility to use it. Leaders can advance ideas and solutions that are submitted by staff through the proper organizational channels, in an effort to see the solutions be vetted and evaluated for implementation. Many organizations funnel this work through innovation based resources, others use their existing performance improvement resources to evaluate and advance solutions. 

The other thing that leaders can do is promote and encourage a culture of innovation. If staff think that they aren’t supposed to offer solutions, or that their ideas don’t matter, most won’t bother sharing their ideas, or even thinking of any. Whether the solutions that percolate up from staff succeed or not, the goal is to create a culture where ideas can flourish given the right support and resources.

Why influencing change is important.

Influencing change is an important leadership skill to master, and one of the most difficult. Change is hard. In  fact, over 70% of organizational changes fail, according to an article by Mohit Jain. Oftentimes, even with the best goals and intentions, there are several changes that are happening at once, and it can quickly become difficult for staff to prioritize all of the new procedures over simply doing their job as they have been. Staff start seeing these potentially industry altering changes, as the “initiative of the month.”

Successful organization wide change, not to mention innovation and transformation, requires clear messaging from leaders  in order to be effective. Just as leaders play a pivotal role in building a culture of innovation, leaders also play a significant part in communication and influencing change management, acting as support systems, educators, catalysts and change champions. 

One way to assist in ensuring that changes are adopted and deployed across an organization and have a higher likelihood of sticking is to invest time in making good decisions about what needs to be changed and when it should be changed. This means ensuring that there are solid communication plans in place to communicate “why” the change is occuring. This is one of the most important aspects of transformation that is often forgotten. Influencing change is often a hidden aspect of change management that occurs in a one on one manner. 

While innovation is transformative and can be disruptive, many times the solutions from staff demonstrate incremental innovation, which should be welcomed in the organization. Incremental innovation is innovation on a smaller scale, changes that are minor or with minimized areas of effect. Every step forward, no matter how small, is a step forward.

In summary

Transforming nursing as a profession means that we have foundational work to do before we will be able to move forward and get into more transformative work. This means that innovation should be discussed often, such as during departmental leader rounding and during meetings. As leaders encourage innovation,  ideas and solutions will begin to be brought forth and can be advanced as work that is important to the organization with the necessary resources.