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by Mark Kever
Published on February 27, 2018

If you work in a job that involves sending emails and working from a computer at all, you’ve likely made a switch to hosting documents on the cloud or will in the very near future. Speaking for myself, I recently made this change and let’s just say that I wasn’t the “early adopter” that I like to think of myself as. You see, I knew the change was coming and there would be a day that I would have to start storing my files online or risk losing them. I even knew that there would be a lot of benefits with the ability to access my files from anywhere, but I still wanted the safety and security of knowing that my files were on my laptop. Inevitably, the day came to change and as I started the transition I was very frustrated with the process. It seemed to take more time than I wanted to spend, and no matter how much I thought I knew, I kept running into issues that I didn’t understand. Luckily for me, my organisation had a great support structure in place and I could quickly get my problems resolved. Gradually, I’ve become more familiar and comfortable with the technology. Though it initially took me more time to use the new process, I’m now able to easily share documents, collaborate with others online, and I was even able to access something from a hotel computer when I had issues with my laptop. I’m still not an expert but I must say, storing my documents on the cloud is clearly making my job easier today.

The story I’ve just described is a classic example of the transition curve and, whether you realise it or not, we’ve all experienced this throughout our lives.

William Bridges explains this curve as the three phases individuals go through during a change: Endings, Transition, and New Beginnings. Think about the last time you went through a change in your personal or professional life. Was your phone slowing down and you had to buy a new one? Maybe it was time to move to a new city? I’m willing to bet that you went through this same process. In my example, you can see how I went through each of the major stages, beginning with struggling to give up my old ways because I was upset about moving to the cloud. From there, I became frustrated as I experienced challenges. One important concept to point out is that of the “neutral zone”. Think about your own example for a second. When you were frustrated or confused during your change, how productive were you? In my example, I specifically remember a few days where I had trouble getting files to transfer to the cloud and it seemed like I got NOTHING accomplished. The neutral zone can be a dangerous thing and the longer you are there, the longer it takes to see the benefits of your change. When transferring my files, I was fortunate enough that we had a great support system in place which allowed me to move through the challenges quickly. As I made it over the hurdles, I quickly started to see the benefits and today embrace the “new” of using the cloud.

In Healthcare, it can feel like there is a new technology or regulation coming out every day. These are all seemingly created with the best of intentions, yet there’s one thing that I have consistently seen forgotten – people. If people don’t accept, embrace, and implement the change, the desired results are very unlikely. With people often forgotten, should we expect differently if we leave them to get stuck the neutral zone? Since change is constant in the industry, it is a factor that organisations must consider. Not only should they consider it, but finding a way to successfully facilitate this change is one of the biggest competitive advantages an organisation can have today. In fact, a 2003 Capgemini study revealed that organisations with a transformation strategy in place were 26% more profitable than those who did not.

When rolling out a new technology, it’s not a matter of if the transition curve will occur, but how long it will take to complete the cycle. If organisations hope to remain competitive, they must accept and embrace the concept of empowering their staff to manage change or risk costly time with team members stuck in the neutral zone.

So what can you do about it? How do you get people out of the dreaded neutral zone as quickly as possible so that they are happier and the organisation more profitable? Let’s face it, people are confusing so the answer to this can be complicated. There have been many change management models developed that each try to solve the puzzle. For those that are familiar with the field of change management, you probably have a favourite. For those who aren’t familiar, it can be difficult to determining which model to follow. Rather than going through the pros and cons of different models, there are 5 key strategies that can be applied on their own or within other models that help make it CLEAR.

Communication - Relevant, transparent and consistent communications, combined with empathetic listening, help people be receptive to change. These strategies help everyone understand the “why” behind the change, what the change entails, and how people will be impacted by and contribute to the change.

Leadership - Leaders prepare the organisation for successful change by defining vision, establishing governance, and committing resources. Effective leaders also demonstrate and communicate to their organisation why change is necessary. They visibly serve as role models in living out the behaviours that ensure the organisation’s vision is realised.

Engagement - Key stakeholder groups play an active role in guiding others through the change. Identify and prepare influencing audiences with action plans to purposely engage all people who are impacted by the change. Involving people in the change increases their commitment to it.

Alignment - The business functions of the organisation should support the overall vision of the change effort. Aligning the organisation's tools, resources, and processes structurally enables individuals to adopt the desired change.

Responsibility - Key interpersonal skills contribute to the development of an adaptable culture supportive of ongoing change. The organisation must foster an environment where individuals feel comfortable and responsible to demonstrate these actions that lead to a change-ready culture.

The next time you’re thinking of investing in a new technology or complying with a new regulation, ask yourself, “Does this change require something of people? Does any measure of its success depend on people doing something?” If the answer is yes, then be sure to make it CLEAR and you will be on the right path to achieving the outcomes you’re after, helping staff become happier, and increasing your chance of higher profits.