My Article on Changing How We Think About Change

Spring and the change of the seasons means bluebonnets here in Texas

As part of my partnership with Cardinal Health, they have published an article that I wrote on their “Essential Insights” blog:

Changing how we think about change: How healthcare leaders can create a progressive culture

Hear Mark read this post (subscribe to the podcast):


Change management, or what many might call “change leadership” is an important topic. I've seen too many Lean projects or broader organizational transformations struggle or fail because of a lack of attention to engaging people in change from the beginning.

Change management isn't about forcing people to change. Done properly, it takes time, but it's worth it. And, it's a skill that can be learned and practiced.

In the article, I write, in part:

“Too often, I hear healthcare leaders complain that staff or other managers are “resistant to change.” A phrase like this points the finger of blame, usually unfairly.  Assigning blame isn't the best way to improve healthcare safety and quality of care, and it's clear that labeling people isn't the best strategy for effecting change in an organization either. When a point of view is dismissed as general resistance, an opportunity is missed to understand the real, underlying issues.”

In the article, I also talk about tips for being more successful with change and improvement, including:

  • Gaining agreement with people early in the process that change is needed and is possible
  • Getting past “the way it's always been”
  • Starting small with pilots or tests of change
  • Making change stick by honestly evaluating the effect of change and attempted improvement and adjusting as necessary

I hope you like the article. Please post comments below on this page with your thoughts and reflections on this topic.

Disclaimer: This content is sponsored by Cardinal Health. Mark Graban received compensation from Cardinal Health for participating in this educational program.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Dean Bliss says

    Good stuff, Mark. Managing change is overlooked far too often as organizations attempt to improve, partially because it takes time to change, and impatience kicks in too soon.

  2. Tom Gormley says

    I love the application of root cause analysis to this resistance issue. Your conclusions parallel what I’ve come to believe – openness to change requires: 1) the problem is worth solving, and 2) it’s feasible to solve. I’ve recently worked with an individual who brought up a process issue, which we then began to solve, at which point she changed her mind that it was a problem and wanted to stop. Her alternative is the method she was trying to avoid in the beginning. I think she still considers it a problem or waste, but felt the effort involved in the particular solution wasn’t worth it any more. Strange, and unfortunate that we’re continuing a process with removable waste, but we’ve chosen to respect her choice, and can always come back to it later.

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thanks for the comment, Tom.

      Have you seen this article about “employee voice” and the reasons that employees don’t speak up?

      It’s not just fear… it’s also “futility.” It’s just not worth it, people think.

      It could be because they think they won’t be listened to. Or because they think the problem can’t be solved.

      I think you’re right that sometimes you can’t force the issue (often can’t force the issue). You can’t make people change. You have to meet them where they are… and maybe help them see what’s possible.

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