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The Importance of Change Leadership in HIT

Synopsis:  Project Plans and Change Plans – The Perfect Pair

Change leadership is a concept that comes to mind when we talk about large corporate initiatives such as organizational re-engineering and large IT system implementations.  The objective of change leadership is to systematically, sensitively and purposefully help the members of an organization to understand, appreciate and adopt new ways of working and interacting – with as little anxiety and disruption as possible.


When done well, change leadership is a bit like a marketing campaign and utilizes multiple messages, media, approaches and spokespersons.  A change plan is needed to plot these components over the course of any project.  The change plan should be developed, managed and owned by someone within the organization that has demonstrated the soft skills needed to appreciate the impact of the project.  Change leadership should therefore not be the PM’s role or responsibility (frankly, it’s usually not a good fit with the PM skill set).


Helping everyone move up the spectrum from awareness to acceptance isn’t easy.  Sometimes it’s even difficult to identify who “everyone” is.  Collaboration between the project manager and the change leadership manager is essential to the development of the change plan and ultimately the success of the change initiative, because certain project-related tasks – such as the identification of end-users and assignment of user roles – can serve as the building blocks for the change plan.


The change plan needs to be in lock-step with the project plan.  The “change manager” therefore needs to be a part of the project team and the PM’s artifacts should be leveraged as much as possible.  The PM’s project charter can provide content for the initial messages, as well as the list of leaders who should be tagged to deliver those messages (i.e., the stakeholders).  The PM’s project plan should be constantly referenced for activities and dates, and the PM’s status reports should be utilized for basic message content.  Project dashboards can be great tools to help communicate the status of a change initiative as part of a change plan.


There are many change leadership methodologies, from basic communication plans to elaborate schemes that involves organizational assessments and feedback loops and large budgets.  Whatever the approach, with proper planning, management and ownership, change leadership is an important activity that can help increase the chances of project success.  Health IT projects especially can benefit from well-orchestrated change leadership campaigns because of the inherent complexity of these initiatives.  Change is very difficult, unwanted or unexpected change is scary, and when there are patients in the mix it needs to be handled with the utmost care and compassion.