4 Ways to Accelerate Cultural Change in Healthcare

  • August 30, 2016
  • Antique Nguyen
  • Approx. Read Time: 3 Minutes

Company culture is the foundation on which an organization is built. Regardless of its size, culture drives motivation and engagement and supports a company’s overall strategy toward success.

For hospitals, creating a culture of safety is critical to prevent errors and to improve the quality of care; however, organizations must practice patience and also understand that it’s an ongoing process. Ana Pujols, MD, Executive Vice President and CMO for The Joint Commission, states, creating a high-reliability safety culture is probably the most challenging work for any healthcare organization. Similar to any other significant change in healthcare, accelerating the development of a culture of safety begins with a clear strategy that involves creative leadership, effective communication and ongoing collaboration across all departments.

Here are four things your healthcare organization should consider to achieve cultural change with long-term success.

1. Developing a Clear Strategy

The first thing an organization must do is to develop a clear strategy that everyone can understand. Something as important as changing culture requires thoughtful planning from all top influencers within the organization. Everyone must recognize their responsibilities during this transformation and how their actions will affect the organization as a whole.

While following a timeline is needed to carry out an effective strategy, every leader and manager must recognize that the work doesn’t end after implementation—it’ll require ongoing commitment across all departments in the healthcare organization.

2. Including the Leadership Team

Changing or improving the culture of a company or team requires focus, accountability and consistency—and it must be led from the top, says Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson. Without complete buy-in from the senior leadership team, your strategy will fail and even possibly leave lasting damages.

According to Gleeson, some of the best practices leaders must own include:

  1. establishing accountability across the organization;
  2. defining the results needed from the culture change (What are we trying to accomplish?);
  3. developing a cultural beliefs statement;
  4. developing and communicating the case for change; and
  5. consistently ensuring alignment across the leadership team.

For leaders to master the ability to lead change, it requires learning and practicing the tools, planning what to do and what to say, and internal and external coaching.

3. Delivering Effective Internal Communication

After leadership adopts a comprehensive approach that provides the organization with a common language, set of goals and the tools for driving change, they must clearly define and communicate employee roles and their responsibilities. This will empower their team with tools for decision-making, rapid change and long-term process improvement, says Anita M. Yelton, a senior consultant and master change agent at GE Healthcare.

Successful leaders must not only clearly map out what, how and when they want to communicate, they must also stay on track by delivering a consistent ongoing message. Forbes contributor Rodger Dean Duncan suggests a more integrated approach that includes:

    • A communication system with a well-conceived strategy and appropriate tactics
    • A learning system to show people how to do what you’re asking them to do
    • A reinforcement system that emphasizes the behaviors and practices required to accelerate the change and implementation

Communication should be used to encourage staff and remind them of their successes toward effective change. Leadership’s ultimate goal should be to make sure employees feel valued and understand how they contribute to the overall success of the organization.

4. Fostering Ongoing Collaboration

There is a necessary and practical partnership between leaders, human resources, and marketing. While leadership and HR executives collaborate to rethink the company’s organizational culture, marketing’s internal rebranding influences how employees are receptive to that change. “Branding affects not only external perceptions, but also internal employee relationships with the business – and thereby influences culture,” says Rebecca Newton, business psychologist, leadership advisor, and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “And culture influences an organization’s ability to deliver on its brand promise.”

When change leaders across the organization work together to deliver a well-defined, compelling message, it enables your team to bring greater clarity, lead more effectively, and drive more success.

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