High Stakes

How to Sell a Partnership Without a Burning Platform: Smart Change Management Communications

It’s relatively easy to win support to fix an organization that is clearly broken. When every observer knows the business is losing money, the customers are going elsewhere, and the staff is leaving to join competition, the company’s leadership has broad permission to make dramatic changes to ensure the organization’s ongoing viability and prosperity.

In business slang it’s called a “burning platform.” It’s the idea that radical change can only occur when instincts of survival trump those of comfort.

But what should leaders do when the platform isn’t burning yet, and they know the fire is coming? How can visionary healthcare leaders transform their successful systems today so they can be successful tomorrow, too? In short, how can you enact radical change without the threat of imminent failure?

It’s a question on the minds of hospital and health system leaders as they ponder the consolidation and collaboration that are reshaping our nation’s care delivery system and preparing them to compete in a population health management future.

pcaThe answer: you run a smart political campaign. Your organization’s future is the candidate. Your vision—which must be clear and powerful—is your message platform. The votes you need are the stakeholders of your organization—some more than others. There will be opposition. There will be advocates. You need a campaign plan to win.

An effective campaign plan is rooted in the following guidelines for smart change management communications:

  1. Build a powerful story.
  2. Engage early and often with context for change.
  3. Be transparent.
  4. The messenger is the message.
  5. Start internal, always.
  6. Think like the opposition.
  7. Appreciate the “seven times” rule and press the flesh.

Learn more about these guidelines in my recent article for The Governance Institute.


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