Seeking the approaches that enable faster change in the complex world of health and social care
Over my career I’ve encountered a lot of process based methodologies claiming to provide the silver bullet to successful change, none of which lived up to their claims. Undoubtedly, they all have some value, partly as they often have principles that work in particular circumstances. However, they all seem to focus on a repeatable set of processes, that, if followed, would lead to success. This concept is very appealing, so it is repeated time and again. Truth is, the success rate for change initiatives has remained static, and disappointingly low, despite these methodologies and an army of people who will help you run these processes and methodologies.
It may be that in a perfect world these methodologies and their processes would provide the expected results, however I never seem to find myself in this perfect world. The world I work in is; messy, complex, uncertain, ambiguous, facts can be difficult to determine, situations difficult to describe, and where different perspectives of the same situation are completely valid. It’s far from a perfect world, where a ‘magic’ process could deliver consistent results. Despite this, we keep buying, certifying and training people to use these processes.
Perhaps, it’s time to move to something new. Something that acknowledges the complex nature of the change environment. If people are a big part of this complex world, perhaps embracing them would help.
Academics have identified the issue and are beginning to find better approaches, built around relationships, trust, stakeholder management, ensuring alignment, collaboration, influence, leadership and genuine engagement. All really messy stuff, especially for someone like myself, with many of the methodology certificates.
In practice, the shift is also evident, and there is a clear shift away from ‘magic’ processes to one that could be characterised as being mainly focused on relationships e.g the emergence of Agile, an approach based on principles, drawing together people from different functions to work closely with their customer. Social movements are another, often driven by internet connectivity, clearly demonstrating that by bringing people together resulting in change and in some cases at incredible pace (e.g. Egyptian 2011 revolution), people power is king.
This all feels a little scary for an ex-engineer and probably for many colleagues well versed in the methodologies. Although, in the past I have been a huge advocate of methodologies and process and whilst there is clearly a need for some process, I now understand that accelerating change needs a much greater focus on people. Can I make the shift from the process to the relationship age happen? I do hope so, because it might improve my chances of successful change.