Healthcare IT Leaders

Did Your IT Project Fail? Here are 4 Ways Change Management Could Change the Outcome

Woman looking at sticky notes

The road from identifying the need for new software to end-user adoption is an intensive quest during which your team will need to scale several barriers to success. Yet, the biggest hurdle you’ll face isn’t what you’d expect. What often causes transformational IT engagements to falter isn’t time, resources, or funding—it’s people and their resistance to change.

The science of change

Why is change so scary? Experts say it’s in our DNA. Humans are wired to look for patterns and predictability, so any uncertainty—even if it’s anticipated or positive—can trigger anxiety.

Resistance to change is common and can come in many forms, according to psychotherapist Kealy Spring. It can be subtle or overt, and can be seen in both individuals or groups. Some examples might be missed meetings, sarcastic remarks, criticism, nitpicking, or even sabotage.

If organizational resistance becomes ingrained and spreads, it’s harder to overcome. That’s why it’s key for project leaders to proactively mitigate the discomfort and stress associated with large-scale, complex IT engagements.

Methods to manage change

Change management is a framework designed to accomplish just that. It outlines step-by-step efforts that leaders can take to help ease the tension for their teams while working through high-intensity, transformational periods.

There are a variety of tried-and-true Change Management methodologies favored by consulting organizations, from the the 8-step Kotter Model to the Prosci ADKAR method.

At their core, most change management systems are about understanding your people. Who are they? How do you communicate with them? And how are you making their voices heard?

If you’ve ever presided over a failed project of any type or size, chances are, you may have overlooked a few key opportunities to help your employees feel confident and supported during each stage of your initiative.

Below are common reasons why healthcare IT projects fail, along with our change management remedies to achieve better outcomes.

You didn’t engage leadership and stakeholders

Just like armies need generals, transformational changes require leaders to provide oversight and boost morale for boots on the ground. They must be respected, supportive, and enthusiastic members of your organization. Picking the wrong fit could have dire consequences. Troops struggle to get behind leaders who fail to inspire.

We recommend nominating two individuals to sponsor and champion your IT efforts:

  • Senior executive leader (CEO or COO)
  • Clinical leader (CMO or CNO)

There are many hats these c-suite execs will wear as your primary change agents. With their status as business leaders, they bring credibility and visibility to your initiative. In addition, because implementing a positive culture begins from the top-down, they’re essential for instilling a sense of excitement and dedication to the work that will unfold.

Don’t forget your subject matter experts

Rank and file subject matter experts (SMEs) are just as important as C-suite champions. These are typically mid-level stakeholders who understand day-to-day workflows within a department and can speak for the practical needs of end-users.

These SMEs also understand the inefficiencies in your current processes and can act as Sherpas to the implementation team helping guide them to system enhancements that benefit the larger organization.

You didn’t create and share a clear vision

Employees need to understand the ‘why’ behind any significant change. Large-scale IT projects, in particular, can be taxing on an organization and cause individuals to question whether the change is worth it. Sharing a clear vision of your ideal future state (in contrast to the challenges of the current state) is critical to remind employees of how their lives will be different and better once the project is completed.

Sharing your vision means documenting it, and making that vision widely available to the organization by outlining your:

Defining the project’s vision can’t be the job of any one individual. Instead, the aforementioned senior leaders and stakeholders should spend significant time in the early planning stages to debate, refine, and ultimately agree on the ‘why’ and then be prepared to enunciate that vision to the larger organization.

You didn’t keep everyone in the loop

Lack of communication breeds fear and anxiety that can cause mistrust and torpedo a project. That’s why it’s vital, according to Keely Spring, “to cultivate a culture of transparency whenever feasible and to share information as often as possible with employees, especially when trying to navigate a change.”

Build a communication plan that extends beyond project kickoff all the way through launch and that includes multiple opportunities for feedback through different channels, like Town Hall meetings or surveys. Employees need to be heard and their concerns, if relevant, should be acted on.

Use multiple channels—in person and online—to communicate to the organization, and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Employees will need to hear about the change many times and in many ways in order to fully understand and support it.

Individuals often fear that they won't be proficient with a new system, so share training plans as part of your communications to reassure nervous end-users.

You didn’t pop the champagne

Allow your staff to shake off some tension by making time to celebrate key milestones. Most IT engagements span months, if not years. Brushing off the importance of recognizing and rewarding small wins makes staff feel unappreciated and exhausted as you trudge onward toward the finish line.

Rejuvenate their spirits by hosting team receptions (with treats to sweeten the occasion). Invite project sponsors to share positive sentiments about your progress. Some worker-bees never get facetime with a CEO or Medical Director. It’s a reminder that leadership is in the trenches with them.

Applying change management principles

The risk for failure in a large software project is much greater when organizations fail to take into account the feelings, concerns, and input of individuals most affected by the change. But the reverse is also true. When effective change management strategies are utilized, individuals will adopt changes faster, more completely, and more proficiently.

Are you interested in exploring more effective change management strategies? Connect with our advisors who can help your organization minimize disruption and mitigate risk with your upcoming engagements.