‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.’ Robin Sharma
More specialist medical accountancy firms are now able to provide a much broader service offering that includes, in some instances, assisting GP practices with managing change. As one of these lucky change consultants, here are my favourite tips to help maintain practice morale:
• Appoint inspiring, positive change agents: It’s important that change projects are led by people who ooze positive energy, believe in vision from the bottom of their hearts and can articulate passionately what they believe. Appoint like-minded people from all parts of the practice to join the change team and drive the business forward. Change doesn’t just take one charismatic influencer. It takes a team of like-minded people who all believe in the same thing. For good change leadership inspires people to follow, not because they have to but because they want to.
• Make sure everyone understands the ‘why’: Paint a picture of where you want to go and how you want to feel and anchor that vision in the minds of everyone and plaster it everywhere: on the walls, on the waiting room TV screen. Tell your patients what they can expect and how the positive changes you are making will help them. In one of my practices, they have even turned their vision into a huge drawing and it sits proudly in the front office to remind everyone the journey they are on. I truly believe that if you don’t write it down or draw it, it won’t get done. As they say, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’ And don’t forget to plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan!
• Empower the team: Think about creative ways to acknowledge and empower staff who are stepping up and managing their work or teams well. Peer pressure is a great way to bring people along, so if staff are open to change, highlight them, invite them to take a role in the implementation phase and make it worth their while.
• Get colourful: If you want the practice to feel different, then make it look different. Splash some colour on the walls, lift up the old carpets, invest in comfortable seating, remove the duplicate posters from the walls and make the place feel warm and welcoming. Invest in smart uniforms for the staff that they can choose themselves and buy a coffee machine. And don’t forget to throw out all the magazines that are more than one month old. Make your practice a place where staff are proud to work and patients want to visit. I have one practice that asked local school children to paint fun ‘health-related’ pictures that are now beautifully framed and line all the corridors.
• Don’t be scared to throw objectors off the bus! Yes, change can be tough but it’s a lot tougher if internal conflict holds you back. Recognise who can change but can’t (a training issue) and who can change but won’t (an attitude problem). Stick to your guns and don’t let negative attitudes influence your decision making.
• Buy a glitterball! I have a practice that has a glitterball in the staff room, organises fancy dress evenings for the whole team, plans regular pizza lunches and even pays for all the reception team staff to get their hair and make-up done before a Friday night out. It’s a fabulous practice, they make money and the partners are happy too. Maybe not the style for every practice but why not start looking for your own glitterball alternative?
• And finally, spoil yourselves: At each milestone, celebrate your success. Recognise how much you have done and congratulate yourselves. Remember, we are all at work for a long time so it needs to be fun and full of acknowledgement. There is nothing better than that sense of belonging – even in times of tumultuous change. And if staff feel confident and comfortable, they will jump on the bus even if it takes them longer than others. As I always say, trust the process and you’ll get there in the end.
Gaynor McIntyre is a member of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants