Culture change initiative LO11394

Mark L. Peal (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 10:32:57 -0500

Reply to LO11359

Arthur Buttram requested ideas to help with a culture change initiative in
a public sector organization. Arthur, it's good that you're nervous. It's
a sign that you won't make the mistake of underestimating the magnitude of
the task.

Your query immediately reminded me of an article in the British Medical
Journal, "Managing Change," by Peter C Barnes. (BMJ, vol. 310, pp.
590-592, 4 Mar 1995). The article is part of a series on management for
doctors, but the lessons are pretty universal. Your local library may have
it, and it's worth a read.

The article studies the closure of a small inner-city hospital and
transfer of its services to a large teaching hospital, and comments on how
the change was managed. It studies four components of the organization and
the effects of change on each:

-- Tasks
-- Formal organization arrangements
-- Informal culture
-- Individuals.

It cites these steps in managing the change:

-- Describing the future
-- Publicising the change
-- Commitment planning
-- Action planning
-- Maintaining the status quo.

I was especially fascinated by the comments on commitment planning. The
author suggests preparing a list of all the key players and assess them on
a scale of commitment:

No commitment: likely to oppose
Let it happen: won't oppose, but won't support
Help it happen: provide resources
Make it happen: actively involved and willing to lead.

On the list, plot where the key players are and where they need to be for
change to occur, and you have a starting measure of the work ahead of you.

Other points: keep the decision making and change processes wide open,
accept that the organization's politics are critical, plan for training
needs, respect and deal with the difficulties people have in the face of
change, and don't destroy continuity and tradition just for the sake of

Good luck in your efforts.

Mark Peal
Massachusetts Medical Society, Waltham, Mass., USA
"We're all chunks in the same chowder."


"Mark L. Peal" <>

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