Change through Persuasion: Overview of the Required Steps
In the Harvard Business Review Change Management article, Change through Persuasion, it involves the process of a strategic four part plan being implemented in order to save a failing hospital from inevitably succumbing to its potential fate. This plan was designed to effectively persuade a workforce to embrace and execute a change that was well needed. The four steps mentioned in the article were: 1) Set the stage for acceptance. 2) Frame the turnaround plan. 3) Manage the mood. 4) Prevent Backsliding.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), located in Boston, was a product of a 1996 merger between two hospitals. Issues had begun after the merger of the two hospitals such as the focus on clinical practice, a failure to reduce costs, a constant inability to execute plans, and adapting to changing conditions in the healthcare marketplace. The hospital was losing around $50 million a year, relations between the administration and medical staff were strained as well as the relations with management and the board of directors. Not only was the hospital losing money and relations were deteriorating, but employees had also become discouraged after witnessing the decline in a once accredited and legendary status hospital and reoccurring failures.
Paul Levy, who had never managed a hospital before, seemed like an unfit candidate as the CEO of BIDMC although he had previously worked as an executive dean of administration at the Harvard Medical School. “His claim to fame was his role as the architect of the Boston Harbor Cleanup, a multibillion-dollar pollution-control project that he had led several years earlier. (Based on this experience, Levy identified a common yet insidiously destructive organizational dynamic that causes dedicated teams to operate in counterproductive ways . . .” (Garvin and Roberto, 2011). Before Levy had stepped in to take control, he first negotiated his conditions for employment. He notified the directors that if hired, they could no longer intervene with day to day management decisions. He also insisted the board to come to a quick decision based on his appointment so that he could start before the release of the Hunter report. The board was convinced to appoint Levy in the position in hopes to lead a successful turnaround as well as accepting his terms.
This article brings an interesting perspective to my life. I haven’t experienced a change through persuasion within the workplace, but interesting enough I have experienced a change through persuasion as an athlete, which is my job. At a previous school that I attended, the coach that recruited me was fairly new to the athletic program and I was a part of the coach’s second group of recruits. The coach had already inherited players that were the previous coach’s recruits and the players seemed to already have an established culture, which the new coach had disapproved of. The coach didn’t like certain habits of the team as well as their priorities. Although these issues were addressed in meetings, no one ever complied with what was being asked of them. They were reluctant to change and refused, which made it harder for the coach to establish authority as they continued their habitual actions.
As the next season had approached, all of the players that were previously there had graduated and the coach had a team full of their own recruits. One of the steps that was implemented was setting the stage of acceptance. In the article for example, Levy emailed the staff stating the hospital’s achievements as well as confirming the threat of possibly selling the hospital. The email also included actions he would take. The attempt to start a change that would work is that the coach had put together a pre season meeting that discussed new expectations and standards as well as establishing a new culture for the team and to soon become a respectable and championship program. The coach was adamant about the reasons to change and do things differently, therefore the coach did recognize previous achievements of the program, but wanted to convince us that we can do achieve beyond that and make the program worthy of respect as well as threaten that if anyone disagreed they could leave the team now.
The second step taken was framing the turnaround plan. In the article for example, “Levy augmented his several-hundred-page plan with an e-mail that evoked BIDMC’s mission and uncompromising values and reaffirmed the importance of remaining an academic medical center. He provided further details about the plan, emphasizing needed tough measures based on the third-party report” (Gavin & Roberto, 2011). Similar to what Levy had done, my coach had developed a winner’s manual that included rules regarding to practices, game days, new standards and rules, drinking policy, social media rules, inspirational quotes, and so on. This manual explained what was expected of you as a player and failure to abide by these rules would be an automatic dismissal from the team. These ideas were what my coach believed to be a secret formula to success.
Another step that was partaken was managing the mood. In the article, “ Levy acknowledged the pain of layoffs, then urged employees to look forward to “[setting] an example for what a unique academic medical center like ours means for this region.” He also issued progress updates while reminding people that BIDMC still needed to control costs. As financial performance picked up, he lavishly praised the staff ” (Gavin & Roberto, 2011). The way that my coach managed the mood was to have individual meetings with us before and after the season that enabled us to give feedback as well as reminding us to execute and speak the plan into existence.
The last step utilized was preventing backsliding. In the article it had mentioned, “When one medical chief emailed Levy complaining about a decision made during a meeting—and copied the other chiefs and board chairman—Levy took action. He responded with an e-mail to the same audience, publicly reprimanding the chief for his tone, lack of civility, and failure to follow the rule about speaking up during meetings” (Gavin & Roberto, 2011).
The way that my coach was able to prevent backsliding in a similar way is that we would always have team meetings as an update as well as a way to bond and build the culture of the team. In these meetings, you had to be open minded to criticism and everyone had to speak at least once and just like Levy’s method, we were allowed to disagree, but not disagreeable. If an individual did not agree, they needed to present to the team with a reason why as well as an alternative solution. If one failed to abide by the rules and complained later, coach would find out and you would be made an example out of what not to do. This aided in the practice of desired behaviors rather than divisive behaviors.
After reading this article, the effects of change management may or may not affect you greatly. Either you comply with the change or be forced out for being immutable. Many are reluctant to change and not only can the change be difficult for the employees, but it can also be an adjustment for the employer. Jumping into something unfamiliar can be daunting and many may not know what to expect. Some change initiatives may fail and some may be successful, reason being is because people may see this change as a threat to create vulnerability within and take one out of their comfort zone. Change is inevitable, it will happen regardless if you like it or not.
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