Our ability to change is our only security

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. Ms. Caroline O’Regan,  HSE HR Succession Management & Leadership Development, told the HMI Dublin Mid Leinster Regional Meeting in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, in Dun Laoghaire. Maureen Browne reports.

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed. Ms. Caroline O’Regan,  HSE HR Succession Management & Leadership Development, told the HMI Dublin Mid Leinster Regional Meeting in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, in Dun Laoghaire.

Caroline O'Regan
Caroline O'Regan

Speaking on “Managing Current Challenges in a Context of Ongoing Change,” she said that the only constant in life was change and our only security was our ability to change.

This was an interactive session, allowing participants the opportunity to reflect on how they reacted to and managed change, the effect it had on the team and their staff / department.  Participants had an opportunity to work on “real life” complex change(s) that they were currently experiencing or could expect to in the coming months, using “change management templates” from HSE Change Management Model; “Improving our services: A Guide to Managing Change in the HSE”.

Ms. O’Regan said that there were a number of challenges facing managers in delivering the 2013 National Service Plan.  These hinged on cost reduction, a net reduction in staff of approximately 2,400 and zero tolerance of budget deficit focus, while the financial past was stabilising.

In preparing to lead change managers should identify the driving need for change and the degree of urgency, assess readiness and capacity for change and communicate relentlessly

“In today’s intense, global, never-sleep, technologically-driven economy, change happens – and it happens fast. If organisations don’t actively manage the implementation of change, this can lead to:

  • —  Frustrated employees who resist change
  • —  Confusion around why change is happening
  • —  Unclear roles and responsibilities and therefore delayed decisions and missed milestones
  • —  Missed deadlines critical to smooth transition.

“The solution is to learn techniques to manage it. Managing Change helps managers lead their organisations in implementing new directions.

Staff might need to be multi skilled or more flexible in their work, which would require additional training, teams might need to be ‘self managed’, they would need new skills and self discipline.

“By developing an awareness of the key dynamics that makes dealing with transitions so challenging  and understanding some of the key characteristics of why people are resistant to change, we can focus on successfully managing change.

“People may fear change, but they need its stimulus too. You get more out of your people when you include them. Win or lose, you’re better if everyone is part of the team.”

Ms. O’Regan said that resilience was the ability that allowed people to go beyond coping and surviving and actually prosper during change.  We all had this capacity to varying degrees, the more capacity we had, and the more change we could absorb.

Basic characteristics of a highly resilient people was that they were organised, adaptable/flexible, proactive focused and optimistic

To maximise a positive response to change and build commitment and shared vision have the following parameters should be in place:

People must understand what they were doing and why they were doing it, they must  have the knowledge and skills necessary to execute the change, managers must remove barriers in the environment that would prevent the change from being successful and people must have motivation to change.

She said that stress tolerance was very important.  This was the ability to withstand adverse events; change and stressful situations without falling apart, actively and positively cope with change and stress and have an optimistic disposition towards overcoming change and problems.

She detailed some potential problems which could arise when organisations changed. In general the problems likely to arise were increased risk because the “new” organisation had a smaller overall workforce, there were fewer layers of supervision and management, more automated systems and increased reliance on contractors.

There were a number of potential solutions. Staff might need to be multi skilled or more flexible in their work, which would require additional training, teams might need to be ‘self managed’, they would need new skills and self discipline, reporting lines could be unclear, with individuals or teams receiving instruction from several managers, new teams would need to learn new procedures and contractors might lack the skills and experience of full time employees, so employees might need to develop skills in supervising contractors.

She suggested some solutions.  Managers, she said, should consult with the workforce and develop ideas jointly with those subject to the changes proposed, plan the change by ‘mapping’ existing tasks onto the new organisation, make it clear who worked for whom even if this changed between or even during shifts, empower individuals to question conflicting instructions or unreasonable demands, make sure all tasks were accounted for, especially safety-related tasks.  arrange training and other ways of gaining the competence needed including: management and supervisory skills, technical skills and knowledge.