We often have physicians contact us who are very excited about making a change from manually creating the physician on-call schedule to using software to automate the process. They like the features, they are supportive of our monthly per provider pricing model. They think we’re a great fit, and then they talk to their counterpart who also helps with the schedule. They don’t want to use software, they are happy with how things are today and see no need to change. In fact, they see the change as some sort of a threat. Although most doctors have fairly strong personalities, they are not ones for causing too much turmoil within the practice. So often times the dreams of automatically having the schedule in their phone or being able to make a vacation request from their phone is squelched by a resistant employee who is afraid of change. Is there any way to reduce or eliminate resistance on the front end or do we just have to deal with it as it comes up?
According to a recent article on The Balance.com website by Susan Heathfield, “resistance to change can be covert or overt, organized or individual. Employees can realize that they don't like or want a change and resist publicly and verbally. Or, they can just feel uncomfortable and resist, sometimes unknowingly, through the actions they take, the words they use to describe the change and the stories and conversations they share in the workplace.” In a medical practice or hospital “the more powerful the resisting employee, in terms of job title, position, and longevity, the more success he or she will have with their resistance. Resistance to change appears in actions such as verbal criticism, nitpicking details, failure to adopt, snide comments, sarcastic remarks, missed meetings, failed commitments, endless arguments, lack of support verbally, and outright sabotage” says Healthfield.
Now that we can diagnose resistance based on some of the symptoms we just learned about, how do we move forward? Here are some ideas:
- Embrace a culture of trust. Employees trust leaders and companies that are open, honest and transparent. Everyone hates surprises, especially without one hell of a good reason.
- Share the vision. Be sure everyone understands what you are trying to accomplish, and for who’s direct and indirect benefit. Tie decisions like this back to patient care. Its ok to tell your team that “were buying this software to assist the physicians”, not everything has to benefit everyone. See my previous post Who are you buying on-call software for?
- Ask for input. Be sure you are doing your best to rob from Peter to pay Paul. It’s never a good idea to make someone else’s life better by making someone else’s worse. Be sure you understand the implications of something new. Get input from everyone, not just the people at the top.
- Create realistic expectations. Try not to paint too rosy of a picture of what utopia looks like. Try to talk more about what the process looks like. Nothing is perfect in the beginning, especially with software. Sometimes it’s even a bit worse in the beginning because you are learning something new and having to get a work product completed. Look to the big picture and go back to your original vision.
- What’s in it for them. If there is nothing to benefit the user who is resistant, you may not be able to achieve success. Find a few things that will be better for everyone. This gets back to the concept of not robbing Peter to pay Paul.
If you are implementing a new physician oncall scheduling system in your practice or hospital with transparent communication and a high level of trust, you will gain a great advantage. But remember you are dealing with humans who have emotions and responses that are amplified during times of change.
The key takeaway is that there is a right way and a wrong way. Although the right way takes a bit more time, energy and the use of kid-gloves, the alternative is resistance and even sabotage. Spend the extra time, it will be worth it in the end.
PS, if you have experienced a failure in the past with integrating something like on-call scheduling software, be sure to look beyond the commercial vendor/partner features and capabilities, which is what your team will most often point to as reasons for failure. Most vendor/partners want nothing more than for solutions to be successful. The absolute last thing they want is a customer to leave and revert back to what was not working when you first meet. They have invested a lot of money and time to create commercially viable solutions. Sometimes you may need to look internally and ask yourself as an organization, why won't this work for us? Why are we so different from others who it has worked for? Did we sabotage the success of this ourselves?
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