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How Will Your Team React to Change?

This is the ​twelfth in a series of excerpts from a recent Arch Collaborative exclusive webinar, hosted by Taylor Davis and featuring Rob Schreiner, MD, President of Wellstar Medical Group.










Taylor Davis:

"Walk us through this graphic. I really like this when you first shared it with me."

Rob Schreiner:

"I'll do this again in a storytelling way.

So, change is introduced.

Let's say I, as the leader, walk into a conference room at 6:00 PM and there are sandwiches and potato chips at the back. I stand in front of the audience and say, "Boy, have I got a great idea for you!' I go through my elaborate presentation - by the way, I spent the last month working on it!

I got all my words right, and my transitions right! The PowerPoint looks great and the animation works and I hear nothing but crickets out in the audience. So I go home and tell my wife, "I really nailed it. I prepared so well for that change announcement, I didn't get any comments or questions! I'm home free!"

But in fact, what the audience is going through is denial.

During a denial they figure that that my change idea is going to be just like the last four that they heard about. You know, where we chased a bright shiny object and we weren't successful. We got distracted by some other more important change effort.

The denial phase - in a Pavlovian sort of way - we've conditioned our audiences to resist or deny the introduction of change because of their past experiences of un-success.

Eventually this leads to resistance which is, "Oh my gosh, Rob really means to do this. He really does intend to lead us through this change! This is going to be horrible. I'm going to speak up and yell and kick and scream and carry on!"

That's the resistance phase, and it's actually the more desirable - or the most important - of these four phases. It's in the resistance phase where you get to pressure test your idea. Maybe you do need to modify your idea in some important ways. Maybe you didn't consider all the characteristics of intended and unintended consequences here.

And it gives your team an opportunity to speak up. Ideally, you would have included some representation of them in the design phase back in the coalition section of Kotter's templates, stage two. But if you blew that or your audience is bigger than that, you should expect and plan for resistance and embrace it rather than take it personally or resist it.

The next phase is exploration: "So Rob is quite serious about this change and the initiative. He's listened to me thoroughly. In fact, it looks like he has incorporated some of my ideas into the revised plan."

Now your team will explore what additional things are possible. "If we're going to fix flow in primary care and get me out on time; maybe we can incorporate some other element of change for a second problem that I want fixed." 

And then commitment is the last is phase. Your audience makes a commitment to use discretionary effort. Remember, change is pain. So it means discretionary effort to weather that pain. You get a commitment from your audience to go through the pain of change because of the promise land seems valid and achievable."

Taylor Davis:

"You know, as you talk about this, there's a real key with resistance. When you go through change, you expect some of these challenges and maybe what you're more worried about than than resistance, is apathy or a lack of engagement altogether.

Is that a fair statement?"

Rob Schreiner:

"That's true. And so I characterize the denial stage as denial alone. But in fact apathy is perhaps a more appropriate representation of what the audience is feeling. Yeah, some of them are denying that the change is actually going to happen, but most of them think, "I don't care. This doesn't affect me or it's not going to happen anyway." Or, "It'll be somebody else's job to provide discretionary effort for this change." So apathy is probably the more prominent emotion."



Watch the next excerpt.

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Photo Cred: Pixabay