Rolling with the Changes Requires Buy-in

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Employees agree upon home health changesRegulatory changes … procedural changes within your agency … changes in home health software that require significant buy-in from clinicians and staff. You deal with changes all the time, and we’ve written extensively about the change process.

But as Deborah Lipman Slobodnik says, “Talk is cheap. How do you tell whether you’re getting the buy-in necessary for change? You look at the body language, not necessarily the words.”

Slobodnik is principal at Options for Change, a consultancy that has helped companies and institutions large and small successfully navigate the waters of change. “You need to understand that resistance is normal, and you need to understand that it’s part of a cycle,” Slobodnik says. “If leaders try to fight (change), they are part of the problem.”

Executive support is a critical component of the change process. She suggests having the CEO or other appropriate top executive attend the kickoff meeting or launch event. Frequent and meaningful communication also is important. Send updates to the CEO and make sure everyone in the agency knows the CEO is receiving updates, Slobodnik suggests.

People who are going to be affected by the change generally slot into three categories: early adopters (about 16% of the total); the early majority (about one-third); and the late majority (just over half). But Slobodnik cautions that change is not a linear process. Early support may waver as details about the change become clearer.

Here are seven questions to ask yourself about whether you’re really getting buy-in:

  1. Is someone saying one thing but doing another?
  2. Is there a real commitment to action?
  3. Is there an authentic declaration of support and resources?
  4. Is there a partnership formed?
  5. Is there positive energy moving forward?
  6. Does the person see the benefit?
  7. Does the person follow through on promises?

That’s why you need to pay attention not just to what a person is saying, but how that person is reacting to the change through body language and other nonverbal cues, Slobodnik says.

Next: Learn strategies for successfully communicating change

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