Understanding the Change Process
When undertaking a change management process in care facilities, I’ve identified 5 distinct phases of reaction from managers and staff. These have often occurred after I’ve been appointed to perform the role of statutory (temporary) manager by a DHB. This is generally after risk to residents has been identified following an audit or a serious complaint.
As a temporary manager, often there is a facility manager in place however for a range of reasons doesn’t have the resources or knowledge to meet the needs of the residents to a standard that satisfies audit outcomes.
Phase 1 is on first arriving and there is relief on the part of the staff and manager (if there is one) on the basis they have the view that I’m there to ‘save the day’, make things right and then they can get on with running things. Comments such as “you should have been called in a long time ago” are common.
Phase 2 is where the staff and in place management start to realise that I’m not going to do all the work for them and my role is that of mentor and coach. Further to that the role includes assistance with obtaining necessary resources to support clinical and operational practices. This is where push-back and resistance starts to show as people resist change and try to hold stead-fast to those practices that have got them to the point they’re at. As pressure increases for change to occur, resistance increases and at times sabotage of the new way of doing things starts to appear. As one provider put it recently “they’re ever so nice to your face and will stab you in the back”. The denial phase plays out and the anger phase starts.
Phase 3 is a time when divisions start between those who want to embrace change knowing it’s intended to improve and make the workplace safer for staff and more so, safer for residents; and those who don’t have insight to recognise the need for change. The need for people to remain in their comfort circle doing what’s known and predictable is incredibly strong for a large number of people. This slows momentum and the temporary manager starts to get the blame for things being wrong. Such comments as ‘it was all fine before the DHB stepped in, they just need to back off and let us get on with it’ are also commonplace in this phase. Sometimes senior staff at the facility will contact their DHB and say the temporary manager is unreasonable, not doing anything and needs to be removed. All as an attempt to get rid of the person they see as pushing them outside their comfort circle and affecting maintaining of the status quot. The bargaining phase can continue for quite some time but this often depends on how direct and steadfast the response is to the bargaining strategies.
Phase 4 occurs when there is the start of the depression phase and realising that solid work, participation by all and a willingness to take on new ideas and learn new ways of doing things needs to occur. The real work has started by the willing few in the early phase and continues and now the collective change can start to be evident.
Phase 5 is acceptance that the temporary management or change management process was necessary. Staff start to commend the new way and embrace new ideas recognising that things are actually better now than they’ve been before. As people always have choice about coming on board with change or leaving, invariably there are some staff and sometimes managers or even members of Governance who continue to resist seeing a new way is needed and those few will leave the organisation or continue to resist.
I’m able to observe which phase an organisation is operating in by the response of those working there and was intrigued to read of exactly this same set of steps in a book titled ‘Expert Secrets’ written by Russell Brunson. Some of you who are familiar with the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross will also recognise these phases as reflecting her stages of grief.
Acceptance is hard as people take the need for change as a criticism when in my view, people don’t fail; systems do!!