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Saturday, 19 October 2013 00:00

Institutionalizing Change: It's Not an Oxymoron

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Big pharma needs to embrace change, but it's a delicate balance.

A while back I wrote about how change management in pharmaceutical companies involves managing people, pace and planning in the change process.

But pharma faces a larger dichotomy:  How do you foster innovation and growth in an industry where process and procedure are absolutely essential?  How do you encourage the lateral thinking that leads to new medicines when producing those medicines requires stringent adherence to specific processes which ensure safety and quality control?

balancing change in pharmaceutical industry

In my experience, managing change, even in a process-based environment, starts with understanding the psychology of change and how people react to it.

Human beings - whether they work in pharma or in any other industry - are hard-wired for homeostasis:  They want to get to a state of equilibrium where they feel most comfortable and secure.  Changes in the work environment disrupt the homeostasis people have achieved in their day-to-day work lives.  When a change is handled poorly, the drive to get back to a sense of homeostasis can be a real obstacle to successful change implementation.

So what do you do?

Fortunately, humans are also hardwired for storytelling:  They'll become engaged in stories that have a 'goal', they find narratives compelling, and are driven to 'finish the story'.  These traits can be used to institutionalize change even in the most procedural-based organizations.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Successful change management happens when leaders understand both the psychological and the operational effects of change on their employees, and how they intersect
  2. The better organizations understand the psychological effects of change on their employees, the more they can plan for smooth transitions
  3. When employees are encouraged to redefine what change means to them - acknowledging the fears engendered by moving out of homeostasis - the more engaged they become in the process and the more they're able to 'own' the story
  4. When employees 'own' their own change story, they are more likely to be invested in coming to a successful conclusion

Instead of seeing change as a short-term, finite event that occurs at irregular intervals, make gradual, continuous change part of the organizational 'story' and culture.  By establishing a culture in which gradual change exists side-by-side with process and procedure, pharma companies can establish an environment in which 'homeostasis' includes both adherence to procedures and a more positive response to change.

Read 6233 times Last modified on Monday, 21 October 2013 03:00

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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