Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’


Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

At the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sen. Mitch McConnell rolled out a 7-foot, 3-inch stack of paper wrapped in a red ribbon.  This stack purports to contain the 20,000 pages of regulations created to flesh out the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare”).  Regardless of your politics, the Red Tape Tower makes an impression.

Since its unveiling, the stack of paper has become quite popular.  A quick web search reveals instagram photos, facebook posts, Average Joes posing with the tower, and behind-the-scenes action sequences showing its movement backstage at CPAC.  The tower even has a twitter handle: @theredtapetower.

Emotionally-engaging symbols shape the conversation.

Does the symbol dramatically oversimplify a complex topic?  Absolutely.  Is that the point?  Absolutely.

Mitch is trying to move hearts and minds.  He has struck a resonant chord with some folks.  There is pent-up frustration with the ACA of 2010, and the tower has served as a sort of megaphone for some of those frustrated people, a way to “speak out” quickly, easily, and visually.  “Click to share” takes away the need to communicate complicated thoughts on the topic in prose.

Of course not everyone reacts favorably to the Red Tape Tower.  But Sen. McConnell wasn’t going for 100% “likes”; he was framing the conversation.

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Monday, September 21st, 2009

We all have a mental model of what the future holds. This model is based on our experiences, our assumptions, and our expectations. Depending on our personality and circumstances, we may be more or less conscious of this model.

Change introduces uncertainty about the future. It disrupts our mental model, like a careless child bumping a chessboard.

Our assumptions about “they way things are” get challenged.

And people often try to hold onto the old model—their assumptions and expectations—even after the disruption. As they try to make sense of the new reality, they experience intense disorientation. Confused individuals spend mental and emotional energy trying to “figure out” the new reality, and their work quality, efficiency, and patient/customer satisfaction tend to decline.

What can leaders do to help individuals work through their disorientation during times of organizational change? Robert Evans, an authority on organizational change in school systems, gave me 3 kernals of ideas, which I’ve expanded below:

Maintain high personal contact. Individuals slogging through the disorientation created by change need deeper emotional support than usual. Leaders who actively listen, surface difficult emotions, and productively deal with them can help people work through their disorientation. When a change also requires learning new skills, individuals benefit from having leaders who “stick with them” through the transition process, helping them get comfortable with the new way of working. Otherwise, people can feel abandoned.

Establish continuity. Caregivers are particularly passionate about their work, and expect to work in environments where their values (patient welfare and advocacy, e.g.) are honored. A change may be perceived as threatening those values. When individuals are skeptical that “the new way” will support their values, they understandably resist the change. Leaders can help by showing ways that the future state also will allow them to honor their values. This creates a “values roadmap” for those going through change, establishing a vital link between past and future.

Be patient.
As individuals process the impact of the change on them, they experience loss—loss of a sense of competence, loss of a sense of value, loss of a sense of direction, and loss of expectations for the future. They must take time to grieve. This process is necessary and beneficial, but it takes time. Leaders often have had more time to process the change, and they often are the initiators of the change. This can lead to impatience, as they want their teams to be “where they are” emotionally. Pushing those in grief too hard or too fast can actually trigger deeper resistance.

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Bypassing the Water Cooler: Communicating in Times of Change

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Nature abhors a vacuum.
–François Rabelais.

When major changes are announced in an organization, an interesting dynamic develops:

Employees have a greater than usual need for information.
Leaders tend to more strictly control the flow of information.

In times of uncertainty, employees increase their sensitivity to any signals present, frequently misinterpreting whatever facts are available and filling the information gap with bizarre scenarios they have generated. Rumors, half-truths, and well-intentioned guesses end up dominating the talk around the water cooler.

So, what does this information gap cost an organization? Frustrated, anxious employees can cause significant organizational headaches. Bonds of trust between leaders and their employees erode, leading to reduced employee satisfaction and engagement. Customer-facing employees who are distracted or upset tend to make more mistakes, build less rapport, and engage less deeply with customers. Quality, customer satisfaction, and employee productivity suffer.

For leaders who want to minimize the confusion, frustration, and disorientation that attends major change, here are some practical ideas:

Clarify the big picture, repeatedly.
Seek out answers to the big picture questions, such as, ‘Why are we making this change?’, ‘Where are we going?’, and ‘How much will it hurt?’ Then craft those answers into simple, memorable Key Messages. Most importantly, share the Key Messages, over and over again, until people cut you off and finish your sentences for you.

Answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) questions whenever possible.
Tell people as much information as you know about the details that will affect them personally.

Engage in two-way dialogue about the change.
Acknowledge individuals’ pain. Be authentic and express how you feel about the change. Surface others’ emotions, and deal with them productively. And get comfortable saying, “I don’t know;” you won’t have all the answers.

The hardest step on any new journey is typically the first one. Few leaders enjoy engaging in emotionally-charged conversations with their teams. But a willingness to “jump into the fray” can bear huge dividends in morale, productivity, and quality. Godspeed.

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