Risk Management

Enabling change requires organizational self-awareness

January 28, 2022 7:56 pm

Constant change in the healthcare industry demands an enterprise-wide change management strategy, the success of which relies on organizational culture grounded in transparency and investment in all stakeholders.

From mergers and acquisitions to new technology to major shifts in ways of working, healthcare leaders are redefining their business models. Layered with regulation compliance and complex payment models, understanding of the organization — including not only its operations, but its culture — is a key factor in operationalizing these important changes.

With the failure rate of corporate change initiatives historically estimated at 70% by the Harvard Business Review, recent meta-analysis suggests that this rate could be even higher at approximately 78%a. When comparing failures and successes, this study indicates that a common factor contributing to successful change implementation involves a prioritization of people.

Jennifer Morelli

“Successful organizational change management strategy factors in the current state of the organization, such as current culture, influencer networks, and effective communication and education channels,” said Jennifer Morelli, principal and National Business Change Enablement leader, Grant Thornton, during an October webinar.

“Understanding the existing levers that can be pulled across an organization provides the foundation for a right-sized and effective people-first approach to managing change in an organization,” Morelli said.

Preparing stakeholders to adopt and sustain new ways of working requires a tailored organizational change management (OCM) program that accounts for behavior, process and technology. A deliberate focus on driving awareness and preparedness of employees and related stakeholders minimizes potential disruption and provides a positive experience for those involved, translating to a more successful transition to the new state.

Invest in organizational change management

Weaving change management into business operations, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to create stakeholder buy-in while navigating planned change as well as pivoting in the instance of unexpected change. Minimizing a reactive approach helps save time and resources, supporting healthcare organizations’ pursuit of the Triple Aim.

OCM can strengthen cost-saving efforts, according to change management research conducted by Prosci, which reported that 81% of projects incorporating effective change management came in on or under budget.b

Constituting effective internal communications, training, technology adoption and project management initiatives, OCM also extends beyond these areas. As a framework that integrates these processes and tactics with enterprise-wide knowledge and cultivation of stakeholder engagement and relationships, OCM may increase the potential for success.

“The most successful organizations don’t just have a change management team or approach, they embed it into the way they work, where everyone plays a role in making change successful,” Morelli said. “And when you look at organizations that are continually improving, it becomes part of the fabric of who they are.”

When striving to use resources strategically while delivering quality care, healthcare leaders must examine their processes to reduce any waste. Ineffectual, siloed change management can lead to overspending and missing deadlines, pulling staff and resources away from other tasks.

According to Prosci research, organizations with quality change management programs are six times more likely to meet project objectives. By preparing for new ways of working, organizations can achieve desired results, however, success also is dependent on employee buy-in throughout the process. Research demonstrates that employee engagement leads to a 71% project success rate.

The success of change initiatives is not limited to the results. Minimizing disruption to advance and accelerate the process, OCM prepares organizations to sustain the transformation. Investing in this approach can lead to nearly 70% higher capacity for continuous improvement after change implementation, according to What successful transformations share: McKinsey Global Survey results.

Key players

While healthcare organizations’ core functions such as human resources, communications, and learning and development are crucial to the success of any change initiative, all stakeholders have a role in enabling change. Employee response ranges from awareness to ownership to ultimately commitment, and it takes a deliberate effort from a variety of stakeholders to drive to a successful outcome.

Through continued and consistent engagement, leaders of people must build a culture that nurtures stakeholder relationships, demonstrating transparency as well as promoting inclusiveness in decision-making and execution. “Strong leadership is critical,” Morelli said. “[Strong leadership means] leaders who are open to listening and willing to take a stance in support of the broader leadership alignment behind the common goal that the organization’s striving for.”

Senior leadership plays a crucial role in enabling change and is responsible for promoting organization-wide involvement. Change practitioners provide structure, sharing both guidance and tools to navigate the process, while project teams lead employees through project planning, delivery and transfer to day-to-day usage. Managers support their teams throughout and beyond the change, and front-line employees embrace the change.

“We need to pay attention to the people who make the change possible by bringing what was planned, strategized and developed to life,” Morelli said. “Employees want to be part of the solution, to improve and change together.”

OCM is not limited to a specific department or change initiative but should be threaded through the organization and instilled as a priority in all people. When determining the best course of action in any change initiative, solid tactics are crucial, but leadership must acknowledge that employees are essential to success.c

Framework for enabling change

A self-aware, inclusive organizational culture that prioritizes its people establishes a foundation for OCM. Relying on active executive sponsorship and engaged employees, this effort is ongoing, including open communication, educational opportunities and proactive risk management.

As OCM is embedded in organizational culture, the need for self-examination reaches across departments and strategic priorities. Before launching a change initiative, an organization should complete a comprehensive evaluation process. In addition to understanding change readiness, planning includes identification of stakeholder groups and assessment of the type of impact.

Equipped with knowledge from evaluation, organizations prepare by educating and training employees. Training will be more impactful if education precedes it, and user-friendly content delivery can help with adoption. To roll out changes, organizations can leverage superusers to support other stakeholders as well as offer easily accessible training materials.

By sharing relevant updates with target audiences, organizations successfully engage employees throughout the change process. To encourage a conversation, leaders should build systems and utilize engagement channels for employee outreach and feedback.

Laying the foundation through evaluation, education and engagement, organizations can empower stakeholders to sustain changes. Leadership continues to play a crucial role in championing these initiatives, and communication channels remain open to continue the conversation.

When built on a foundation of organizational culture rooted in transparency and investment in employees, OCM offers a full-circle approach to navigate change while advancing organizational strategy. Integrating OCM into the day-to-day remains crucial, and gauging overall success will be interconnected with broader objectives.

“Change management alone doesn’t change things,” Morelli said. “It empowers others to start to live in that new way and engage in changing the organization together.” 

Jennifer Morelli is a principal with Grant Thornton and the National Business Change Enablement Solution Leader.

This article is based on an October 2021 webinar and input from change management leadership.

About Grant Thornton

Our clients take advantage of our collective knowledge, gained from long experience in and with healthcare organizations. More than 400 Grant Thornton health care professionals deliver solutions focused on growth, transformation, and protecting core assets.


a. “The secret behind successful corporate transformations,” Harvard Business Review, September 2021.

b. “3 change management statistics you need to know,” Capacity For Health, March 2018.

c. “Change and innovation in healthcare: Findings from literature,” National Institutes of Health, May 2021.


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