I love engaging with our healthcare clients in their journeys toward culture change. Visioning sessions are invigorating and inspirational and I can almost see the enthusiasm seeping from every leader in the room. Their vision may be compelling, but what happens when the real work begins? It’s inevitable that even leaders with the best intentions will hit a few challenges, and it’s best to be prepared.
It seems like every organization with which I work has a few “sacred cows” that emerge during culture change. They are the ones to whom the rules don’t apply. They are the ones who, for whatever reason, are above criticism. And they are the ones who will test just how serious the leaders are about the expectations around the standards. These “tests” quickly determine whether or not the change will stick.
I’ve seen some of the best laid plans erode before my eyes as the “special ones” protest, and even bully others to get their way. And when they succeed at getting their way, they instantly erode the leaders’ credibility – because everyone is watching.
I’ve seen leaders buckle over dress codes, behavioral standards and even parking spots reserved for patients and taken by employees.
Over the years I’ve learned to provoke the discussion about these sacred cows early in the planning stage. I simply ask the leaders, “Who is exempt from the expectations?” Of course they all immediately reply, “No one!” But the truth is, they all know there are sacred cows. So I push further to get them prepared for the inevitable push back. Preparation and planning is the key. By preparing ahead of time, they will have a better idea of what they can say and do when challenged. They can plan how they will bring the focus back to what’s best for the patient and family.