The Upside of Change

Often, change is viewed as a negative. But that’s not the whole story.

Change typically doesn’t have good connotations in a business context. At best, it’s a process that has to be managed. But it’s a misperception that people don’t like change. Often, it’s not the change itself that people object to—few people would trade in their smartphones for the rotary dial version, for example. It’s the way that change is managed. People tend to resist change that has been initiated by someone else. The legion of consulting firms that provide change management services are engaged to do things like “predict, measure, and manage risk associated with a change,” or “monitor and manage resistance.” The consultants tell us that change is hard. It’s scary. And it takes time to overcome resistance.

There is a lot of truth to that. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties of change in the workplace. Nonetheless, the change process isn’t 100 percent challenge. It has its rewards, also. ANI keynote speaker Joseph Grenny, author of Crucial Conversations and Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, casts the role of change agents, whom he calls influencers, in a positive light. As Grenny discussed the roles of influencers, in areas such as helping people do what they can’t do and providing encouragement and assistance, I was reminded of the upside of change—three upsides, actually.

First, change can bring people together around a shared goal. Surviving a major organizational change can be very stressful, but it can also bring teams closer together. People who are engaged in a major workplace change initiative invariably emerge from it with compelling stories to tell. And the bonds that are formed from those shared experiences can last for years, even for a lifetime.

Second, change can get people out of a rut. I have always said if you think you’re going to be sitting next to the same person doing the same thing a year from now, you’re kidding yourself. Some people tell me I should stop saying that because it makes people nervous. However, if you don’t believe that things will change in a year’s time, what if we change the time frame to five years? All you anxious people out there: Do you really want to be doing exactly what you’re doing today in five years? It’s true that on the security versus thrills continuum, finance leaders don’t tend to be thrill seekers. But my guess is that even the most security-conscious folks in our midst don’t want to keep doing the same thing day in and day out forever. Where is the professional challenge or satisfaction in that?

Third, change offers the satisfaction of creating something new. It gives you an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself, which is why many healthcare leaders go into this field in the first place.

In health care, change is imperative. Anyone who is familiar with the volume-to-value transformation understands that. Try approaching the change process by encouraging the upside, not just managing the downside. You may find that reframing makes all the difference.

Follow Joe Fifer on Twitter: @HFMAFifer 

From the President’s Desk

Joe Fifer expands on his ideas in his August column.