Change frustration – “I get it, so why don’t they?

Do you know that saying…”the more things change, the more they stay the same”? Ain’t that the truth?!

Implementing change in healthcare can be challenging.

In a 2012 article, the authors used evaluations of healthcare improvement programs to identify ten core challenges to improving quality in healthcare. It may be no surprise, that amongst aspects such as lack of staff engagement, organisational cultures, capacities and context – leadership figured in that list. (Source: “Ten challenges in improving quality in healthcare: lessons from the Health Foundation’s programme evaluations and relevant literature” – by Dixon-Woods MMcNicol SMartin G 
As leaders, we play a role in our teams not taking action.
Believe it or not, we as leaders play a part in our teams not ‘getting’ or understanding the change enough to take action.

Fairly recently, I had a question posed to me by a nurse manager. She works in general practice, yet could just have easily be working in allied health, a veterinary practice, a dental surgery, a hospital – basically anywhere else in healthcare. In its essence, this was her question –  “This change we are implementing makes a lot of sense. I get the importance of it and I can see the benefits. Why then, don’t my team get it?”

This is a really common occurrence. Over the years, I have also seen this time and time again – managers, team leaders, senior executives, practice owners – puzzled by the fact that the team just doesn’t seem to understand the importance of the change enough to implement what’s required. 

There are many reasons people may resist, or appear to be resisting, change; many reasons why they may apparently not ‘get’ or understand the change. We believe that it is obvious, and that they should be racing ahead with the actions needed.

Without diving in here as to the reasons behind change resistance (a topic we will cover in our online community), suffice to say – some of the reasons come from our team, yet we also take responsibility. 

Is our closeness to the change an issue?

If we are really close to the decisions around change – including implementation decisions – then we are really close to the rationale, the problem, and the solution needed. We may even have been working on the change discussions and preparations for months. So we occasionally forget that our teams may not have been this close to the process, or if they were, it may only have been a small part in their daily responsibilities, or perhaps they are not that interested in the problem being solved – the point is, they are generally not as engrossed in the change lead up as we are.

So when it comes to communicating – because we understand it, and because we want to move forward with the change quickly we may assume that the team will be as across it as we are. And as anxious to get started. 

When this happens, we may communicate poorly – either too much or too little information – we may think saying it once is enough…and we can tend to get a little impatient.

So, what do we need to remember as leaders of change?

There’s a lot to this, yet distilling it into 3 bullet points, related to our original question – I get it, so why don’t they – we suggest:

  1. Communicate clearly. Generally speaking most change leaders overload with information; so ‘less is more’ is a good rule of thumb to begin the discussions.
  2. Communicate often. It may take several times, and being delivered in several ways, for your message to be understood, processed and actioned. Some people want to hear it, some want to see it, some want time to think it through, or discuss it. We all have difference preferences as to how we like to receive and process important information. What most of us have in common, is that in our busy lives we usually will want or need, to have the message a few times for it to take on meaning and inspire action.
  3. Be patient. Try to remember that most people have reasons for being slow to implement change. We may not think they are good reasons to slow things down, yet without inspiring our team to action, we will be running the race alone. We need to own what we can own and be patient as we bring others along.

3 points to remember and help you lead change. It’s not rocket science; it is human-science!


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2 thoughts on “Change frustration – “I get it, so why don’t they?”

  1. I think leaders need to understand the impact of regular communication after introducing a new concept, plan or vision etc etc. The best manager I ever had would sit down with us each week and share all the projects that were on the go and update staff. It was short, regular weekly intervals of info that kept us up to date and on track, he would say no update and that seemed ok. We knew what was going on and felt somehow part of the process. I like this model, however not all managers are ‘talkers’ and ‘sharers’ of information. My challenge is to try and harness this information by encouraging other ways of information sharing…to support buy in and a shift in thinking.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Kath! Yes, I totally agree – regular updates are very important. And, as you say – just saying ‘no update’ if there is nothing new to report on a topic. This helps to minimise the rumours that can start when there are not regular updates. Rumours generally are not in step with reality – yet people are more likely to start rumours when they have little information! Yes to regular communication.

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