!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: When Changing Performance Means Changing Minds

Thursday, April 26, 2007

When Changing Performance Means Changing Minds

I've cited Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford, in previous posts and will do so again today because he has published another useful column concerning people skills in the May issue of Business 2.0.

In his column, Pfeffer uses the sustained turnaround (ten years and counting) at Colorado Permanente Medical Group (CPMG) as an example of the necessity of truly changing employees' minds about their roles if an organization is to achieve lasting change.

Pfeffer reports:
The story of how CPMG pulled [its turnaround] off carries lessons for almost any struggling company. [President Jack] Cochran and associate medical director Patty Fahy focued on altering how people think about their roles through numerous training sessions. Many people in health care see the industry as a series of trade-offs: quality vs. cost, patient interests vs. physician interests. The CPMG leadership understood that physician and patient satisfaction and improved financial performance were compatible goals. ...

Second, Cochran and Fahy focused on changing how performance was perceived. As in most organizations, people in health care tend to focus on their own work and avoid those who are creating problems. And in most companies facing performance pressure, training and meetings get pushed aside in the drive for efficiency. Cochran and Fahy re-emphasized the role of physicians as leaders and, using a new evaluation process, began removing 10 t0 20 doctors a year, about 2 percent of the total. Fahy argue that the toxic behavior of some doctors — those who ducked responsibility or lacked anger management skills — infected the organization. ... Once workers saw how things could get better, they pushed to continue the process.
Needless to say, the point I'd emphasize here is that training is an essential part of the change process. Once barriers to achieving change — in this case recalcitrant MDs — are removed, people have reason to believe that clearly beneficial change is actually possible. This, in turn, promotes openness to training messages concerning how to contribute to bringing the change about by assuming updated roles.