October 20, 2016

Techniques for Leading Change

Leading change can be challenging—people like the comfort of their daily routines, and changing how things are done disrupts that. Co-leads, sponsors and others working closely with unit-based teams can use the techniques below to help lead change effectively and build an atmosphere where people are more open and comfortable taking the risk to do things differently.

Tailor communication to audience
Describe the benefits of the change in terms that matter to the audience. Always address the "what's in it for me" element for each group—labor leads and physician leads may may talk very differently to their respective audiences about the same change.

Be honest
Be honest about what will be different—don't sugarcoat it. Don't pretend it will be better or easier than you think it will be.

Under-promise and over-deliver
People are always happy when you give them more than what they are expecting.

Be clear upfront
The more disruptive the change, the more anxiety and resistance, so state very clearly upfront how you see the change working. Then, communicate often, even if it is to say you don't have anything new to report. Explain what you are doing to get more information and when you will report back.

Communicate often and in person
The more disruption the change will cause, the more important in-person communication becomes. Bear in mind that people generally want to hear messages about how change will impact them from their direct supervisor or manager.

Start with the positive and the common interest
Emphasize what is good about the change and what will remain the same. Whenever possible, find specific examples that demonstrate how the change will remedy agreed-upon problems and make the team more effective.

Set up subgroups
Do this within the department to work on specific issues: Teams can ask a small subgroup of members from the team, and the rest of the unit, to work on developing recommendations, straw plans, editing suggestions, etc.

Listen to both ideas and concerns
Ask people what the strengths of the new idea or process are first, and then ask what concerns they have. Write them down so they know you are listening. Follow up on concerns.

Keep it simple
Your stories, data, presentations, conversations and reports all should be clear, concise and on point.

For an easy-to-print version of the information on this page, download the Techniques for Leading Change tool.