What does it take to lead transformation?

Sep 24, 2021

Here’s a look into one of the biggest and most complex transformations I’ve ever led.

In a previous role, before the pandemic, I led a family doctor business supporting over 40,000 patients. We'd been highly innovative and had adapted our teams to be as diverse and efficient as they could be but the fact of the matter was that with rising demand and limited resources we couldn't keep up. One summer, we were poorly struck, and three doctors were suddenly out of action due to physical health. We tried our best to plug the gaps, but non-urgent care delays had stretched to five weeks!

We knew that we had to make dramatic shifts to our model and changed the appointment system. Every year, we handled 200,000 in-person appointments. We knew we had to switch to a total triage system (look at everything much sooner) and digital-first.

We had the luxury of time and resources to get the initiative off the ground and launched in 6 months. That still felt like breakneck speed. Of course, it was difficult, and we had to make adjustments quickly in a live environment, but it has made a significant difference to patients. Those who cared for elderly relatives were able to ask for help at times that worked for them. Families with small children came forward because they had questions they weren't sure about, and we found the service appealed to a lot more men. Unexpectedly, we also found increasing calls about mental health issues coming forward because people felt safer telling the computer they needed help than telling a person. A giant leap forward.

It wasn’t as easy as that. The programme came after years of establishing a culture of innovation, of improving communication loops within and around our business. We’d established a leadership confidence that we could deliver together. Data was at the heart of the change with multiple loops to test our assumptions and tweak along the way. Ultimately, we trusted each other and had faith that we could deliver.

After bedding in, the pressure came off the front desk with less abuse. We’d been experiencing verbal abuse and threats on a regular basis but this now shifted. The hour long waits to get through on the phones had vanished overnight. People were able to be seen. With the increased data, we could spot patterns in requests and offer access to different services in the community. Win-win-win (but definitely after a lot of hard work)

Whenever you look at news about transformation, so much glory is given to the individual projects. Remember that those projects succeed in a conducive environment with high trust, with strong data flows and governance. Remember that each level built up has a strong foundation. It’s an ongoing process, not a one off project.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear about a digital transformation in your area. What led to the change? What were your struggles?

Are you about to embark on a change and need some help navigating the times ahead?

If so, why not get in touch, let’s see how I can help!

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