The human side of change

London, 21 September 2010 – Every now and again I stumble across a gem of an article in the newspapers and trade press. This weekend I read a great piece on change published in PharmaTimes. The article was written by Katrina Megget, so I’d like to acknowledge her before I do anything else. Managing change is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in recent months, because it is a large part of my work at the moment. Quite clearly as the UK adjusts to living within its means, many more organisations will be contemplating change. I suspect for most people it will be filling them with fear.
The NHS never stops changing, which must be immensely stressful for all who work within it. The new government here in the UK is set on changing the NHS still more in the years ahead. I guess employees must wonder if they’ll ever be left to get on with their jobs. The NHS IT programme remains controversial, and most of the headlines we’ve read about it in recent years have highlighted excessive costs and patchy performance.
I wonder how much of this is down to the poor management of organisational change within the health service. The failure to explain why change is necessary, and the promise that change may hold for an organisation. In many cases these top line messages seem at best poorly defined and at worst, almost non-existent.
The excellent PharmaTimes article listed eight steps towards managing change, as defined by an American change management expert called John Kotter:
1.       Create urgency by identifying threats and opportunities.
2.       Form a powerful coalition. Talk to everyone. Listen to everyone.
3.       Create a vision for change. Show people the promised land.
4.       Communicate the vision. Keep talking to everyone, and keep the message
          easy to understand and relevant.
5.       Remove obstacles. Understand what might be behind objections.
6.       Create short-term wins.
7.       Build on the change. The project never ends. There are always
          opportunities to improve.
8.       Make change part of corporate culture. Demonstrate how change is benefitting the organisation.
There is nothing revolutionary about this. It’s good old fashioned common sense. The point is change won’t happen unless you bring people with you before, during and after the process itself. Bring people into the process and many will become agents of change in their own right. Ignore them at your peril.