Being at the intersection of healthcare and IT makes for compelling and meaningful work, but often, it’s also complex and challenging. One thing is for certain—both industries demand constant change.

Whether it be the rapid advancements of technology, new challenges in security, pressures to improve clinical outcomes and patient safety or the seemingly never-ending regulatory mandates, all leaders in healthcare and IT are faced with the challenge of motivating teams through various levels of change. This can be especially daunting when those teams are comprised of highly skilled and tenured professionals who may be unreceptive to change.

I’ve had to lead teams through various change initiatives, ranging from the adoption of new required processes and methodologies to managing teams through acquisitions (both as the acquirer and as the acquired). The scope of impact has widely varied, from small teams to cross-organizational global teams, but the basic principles of leadership remain the same.

Health IT executives often are at the center of both causing change and trying to the resulting ensure new realities are successfully assimilated into an organization.

There are four essential leadership steps for successful organizational change. While system-wide transformation can create anxiety and uncertainty, following these steps leads to much smoother transition processes.

Clear definition and alignment
At the onset of the change management process, it is essential to clearly define why the transformation is being enacted, the benefit it yields, and the intended scope and outcome. Leadership should also clearly define how the intended change aligns with overall organizational goals and strategy.

Defining these elements prior to implementing change can help avoid the trap of unnecessary transformation efforts. Additionally, it creates a strong basis for building stakeholder alignment to support the change.

Create a framework for execution
After a decision to introduce change is made, it is important to create a framework for execution. The foundation of this framework is leadership’s direct support and sponsorship. While it may not be necessary or practical to be directly involved in the details of execution, it is important for leadership to visibly communicate their commitment and sponsorship. Additionally, it is beneficial to engage sponsors and consistently gather feedback throughout the change process.

The purpose of engaging sponsors is to identify members of an organization who can provide overall guidance through every stage of the transformation life cycle. This can come in the form of a steering committee of representative stakeholders and thought leaders.

Monitor and gather feedback
Successful transformation can involve many steps, including education and documenting processes. It is important to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure the steps for successful adoption occur. While these KPIs should include the overarching objective and quantitative goals, it’s also important to gather subjective feedback from all relevant stakeholders.

By checking in with the biggest critics, as well as leveraging organizational thought leaders, leadership can gain useful insight as to how a change is being received by the team. Leaders should also leverage more formal feedback channels, such as round table listening sessions, observation sessions and surveys to solicit feedback throughout the process.

As feedback is received, leadership should remain open to adapting or refining the plan. It may be that the execution has been over-engineered or misses the mark. Sometimes, leaders can lose sight of the specific problem they’re trying to solve with organizational transformation.

Change can be constructive, disruptive, energizing and challenging all at once, but if organizations neglect to focus on the main issue at hand, the change will be ineffective and lead to wasted time, efforts and resources.

Communicate and support
Above all else, leadership must actively engage in ongoing communication. Announcing a change in direction is just the beginning. Proactively communicating progress, successes and lessons is essential to keeping the organization energized and invested in achieving the end goal.

Demonstrating an understanding of the impact on teams and acknowledging the challenges of change creates a positive environment of executive engagement and support. When stakeholders are surrounded by a supportive environment throughout the transformation process, they are more likely to approach the challenge with commitment, rather than compliance.

Whether organizations are prepared or not, change is coming. To be successful in the future, leaders must create and implement a strategy for dealing with organizational transformation in the present.

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