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Change is the inevitable and always to be expected, but for some reason it’s the very thing that scares people the most. Two of my favorite mantras are “Change is in the air” and “Comfort is the enemy of progress,” and I have both quotes posted on the outside of my office door. When I joined Emory Healthcare as a Change Manager in the fall of 2016, that was my mindset when entering this environment. How can I help to impact some change? I knew I had the expertise, experience, and capabilities, but were they ready for the change needed to move the organization forward?
During the interview process, I was made aware of potential obstacles and was up for the challenge. When starting with a new company, there are always existing hurdles. In this case, there was no formalized process, documentation, review, or approval process, and everyone was working in silos. There were a group of leaders that periodically met to discuss changes, but were not tracking work or documenting it in one place. There was also another team that was using a home-grown system that was created to vet their team’s changes that only they used. Essentially, they were reviewing and approving their own changes. The good news is this showed that there were members of the organization that were establishing some type of process and knew it was needed, but possibly needed a little assistance streamlining their initiatives.
Emory had gone through several audits and failed in the change management requirements. My hire was filling a gap and an audit requirement, which I was all too familiar with as I’d gone through several with my former employers. The interview also revealed that Remedy was the tool of choice. Emory was already using the tool to record their incidents, and the change management module was untapped and available to me at my disposal. Having experience with the tool was a bonus, and I knew exactly how it would help with implementing this process.
Prior to working with Emory, I’d come from WellStar Health Systems, which is also a healthcare organization. Historically, things at non-for-profit organizations are known to not move as fast as for-profit companies, so I knew that this was going to be an uphill battle. I’ve been lucky to have much of my IT experience be centered within the healthcare arena and other well-respected companies, including Grady Health Systems, Chick-fil-A, Kaiser Permanente, Texas Health Resources, Georgia Department of Public Health, in addition to WellStar Health System and now Emory Healthcare. My takeaways from past companies are that patience and culture will play a major role in the success of your process.
If you’ve been selected, have applied, are currently trying to implement or update a change management process within your environment, you have to know your audience and the many personalities that you might encounter. Be ready for anything! During the first 30 days in my new role, I decided to do a full assessment on current tools (application, systems) and processes and procedures that were being used along with getting to know Who’s Who in the department. Being able to identify key individuals and build one-on-one relationships can make or break the buy-in of your process. People typically support who they know and respect.
Like me, starting off with somewhat of a blank slate left room for making this thing my own. I came in the door, guns blazing, eager, and ready to do the work! After the first 30 days, I was hit with the realization that this might be a little more complex than what I’d thought. Many of my new co-workers were a little resistant to the possibility that this process could be implemented. There had been many unsuccessful attempts prior to my arrival and having their buy-in and support from leadership were going to be key.
I created a roll-out plan and was ready to get started. My roll out plan consisted of change management training, establishing a Change Advisory Board (CAB), and developing a charter, policy, procedures, workflows, and a demo of what the tool could do for the change management process. Now it was time to take this thing on the road. I then began to host road shows with various team members and leaders throughout the Information Services (IS) department. I presented my plan and gathered their thoughts, ideas, along with any pain points that were identified during previous launches of this process. This was the most valuable information yet. Understanding your audience, users, and customers shows that you are including them and their opinions in the process.
During this time, I came to realize they weren’t resistant to change management; however, they yearned for clear structure and guidance. It’s always easier to adapt to a new procedure when the process and expectations are clear. With the information that I gathered from the road shows, I went back to the drawing board and created a new plan of attack, one that had the perspective of the users, customers, and members of IS. The rollout then continued to the remaining members of IS.
Guidelines for getting access to the Remedy change management module required that you attend the training class. Having this as a pre-requisite ensured that only those who’d been properly trained were given access to the module and allowed me to control the user community.
Leading up to the initial launch, I established my team, the illustrious Change Advisory Board (CAB). These were eight key individuals within the company who were in leadership positions and also had clear oversight and deep understanding of the inner workings of the IS department as a whole. Although they were chosen for their expertise in their respective areas, they were also selected to act in the best interest of all stakeholders.
Within six months of joining the company I was able to roll out a fully operational change management process, a process that had an established weekly meeting, a set of change types along with required documentation, and approval mapping processes and procedures. The CAB members are my voting team. They decide whether a change is approved or denied. Having that established relationship and buy-in from the top-down made this an easy selection process. CAB members were provided with individualized training to ensure that they understand their roles and responsibilities. I informed them that as the change manager, I act in the capacity of governance. I don’t officially vote on the changes that are presented during the meetings. This was an eye-opener, showing that their involvement is the glue to a successful process. They are not just participants of the process, they are the decision makers. Things resonate differently when you realize that the lack of proper review and documentation within a change becomes just as much a part of your responsibility as the person implementing the change. Having this level of responsibility and ownership was welcoming and refreshing to the board; their voices and perspectives are being heard and valued.
The change management process at Emory Healthcare has been in full swing for almost three years and is going strong. I’m always working on process improvement opportunities and continue to stay engaged with my user community. I host bi-monthly training sessions for new and existing employees on the requirements of change to make sure the information stays consistent. It has been a joy working with this company, and I have built some extremely solid relationships thus far. If starting this process at your company seems daunting, just step back, breath, and access your surroundings. Nothing happens overnight. But with patience and a plan, you can do anything.
Carla Smith has more than 15 years of IT experience in various roles, including project management, application support, process management, development, and management/leadership. She's currently the change manager for Emory Healthcare, where she developed a strategic plan, training, policies, procedures, and workflows that have been widely adopted in a culturally diverse environment.
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