Three Principles for Change in a Complex Organization

As in any industry that touches so many people’s lives, health care can, at times, be as byzantine as it is inspiring. We help improve the health of countless people—yes!—but we are often challenged by complex external forces: from policy shifts to evolving payment systems. At times, we are also slowed by our own internal structures. In this environment, being nimble is important. But even simple change can feel like a struggle, and trying to make an impact can sometimes be tedious. Below are three principles that I’ve used in my career to support change.

1.) Make change one person—or at least a few people—at a time.

Though it may sound simple, this is an important concept. When you have an idea or proposal, it can be helpful to seek buy-in from key people before presenting at a group meeting where all stakeholders are present. Once you have agreement from various influential people within the group dynamic, it’s much more likely that the larger audience will deeply consider your point of view.

2.) Understand the finances.

It’s common sense that finances drive decisions. No matter your job title or the department in which you work, it’s important to understand the flow of money and how your ideas for change may be funded—and especially how they’ll impact the bottom line.

3.) Address their agenda first.

This is similar to the principle of giving to receive. When you make a request of someone, understand that your aim—as institutionally strategic as it may be—might not be their immediate priority, especially as it pertains to how they perceive what your department or you can do to help them. This is where the act of listening—and really hearing—is so important. Whenever possible, it’s good to tackle any immediate other concerns they have first, before moving forward with broader strategies or tactics. By alleviating their issue, their minds become freer to focus on the next big collaboration.

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