Mar 15, 2012 5:38:00 PM

Change is good. The Pharmacy Owner Guides the Way.

Posted by Kelley Babcock

change pharmacy industryChange” – That’s a loaded word…and, we’re not talking about nickels, dimes, and quarters, here. We’re talking significant change - transformational, personal, professional, environmental - the list goes on and on.

Heaps of research has been written about “change” - what to change, why you should change, and how to change. The truth is, change is not something most people sign up for willingly or enthusiastically. In order to engage in change, the desire to achieve a new state must exceed the desire to stay the same.

In their most recent book, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath, two brothers, researchers and professors, explore how to change when change is hard. It’s a great “how to” book for the pharmacy owner looking to engage in any type of change. We all talk about we desire change in general, but this particular book puts a spin on the subject many of us may not have considered before.

In the book, the Heath brothers state that, in order for things to change, someone has to start acting differently; each of us has an emotional “Elephant” side and a rational “Rider” side. This “Rider” and “Elephant” analogy is used throughout the book and makes it very easy to understand why so many of the changes we want to make in life turn out to be more challenging than we think. It’s because we have to appeal to BOTH the Rider AND the Elephant. You have to clear the way for them to succeed.

The premise, of course, is that the more instinctual a behavior becomes, the more sustainable it becomes, cementing long lasting change efforts. There may be a multitude of areas in your pharmacy that need attention and many of you may already be engaged in full-on organizational change effort with your PDS Business Coach or Implementation Specialist. Regardless, the following tips can provide insight on initiating change efforts in your pharmacy. It’s also applicable information to consider in any personal change effort.

According the Heath brothers, you must do three things:

  1. DIRECT the Rider –

    Follow the Bright Spots – find what’s working in your life or in your pharmacy, and replicate it. It’s important to identify existing success and dive into the details of what’s already working well. Acknowledging existing successes can also increase motivation to continue.

    Script the Critical Moves – Ambiguity can be the Enemy of Change – it can be exhausting to the Rider because the Rider is tugging on the reins of the Elephant, trying to direct the Elephant down a new path. When the road is uncertain, the Elephant will insist on taking the default path (or as we know it – the “status quo.”) Sometimes “choice” is so overwhelming to us that it renders us paralyzed. The most successful pharmacy change efforts set “behavioral” goals (for instance, team meetings or “huddles” once per week for 15 minutes) and then stick with the practice.

    Point to the Destination – Be clear about where you are headed with your team – create a “destination postcard” – A compelling vision is critical – but it’s not enough. According to Switch, “big picture, hands –off leadership isn’t likely to work in a change situation because the hardest part of change – the paralyzing part – is precisely in the details (scripting the critical moves!). “ Share specifically what your business goal(s) are for the next three months and discuss how your team can engage to achieve it.

  2. MOTIVATE the Elephant –

    Find the Feeling – for long lasting change, it’s important to connect to the emotion associated with the change effort. Provide opportunities for your pharmacy team to tap into the emotional side of the service you are providing to your customers and patients. Chances are, you know a customer you have “saved” and who credits you with their good health – share their story.

    Shrink the Change – chunk down the bigger goals into bite size, achievable pieces. According to the book, a business cliché commands us to “raise the bar.” But, when leading people to change, that’s exactly the wrong instinct if you want to motivate a reluctant Elephant. It’s important to set and recognize small achievements in your pharmacy along the way.

    Grow your People – Because identities are central to the way people make decisions, any change effort that violates someone’s identity is doomed to failure. How can you make change a matter of identity rather than a matter of consequences? Many independent pharmacies are extensions of the family unit - a work environment where co-workers care deeply about one another. The successful pharmacy change effort is one that taps into the opportunities for personal and professional development of its employees.

  3. SHAPE the Path

    Tweak the Environment – what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. Often, if the situation is changed, the behavior changes with it. If you’ve been frustrated by a lack of performance in particular are of the pharmacy, check in with the team to see if there are any system or process obstacles standing in the way of high performance.

    Build Habits - When behavior is habitual, it’s “free”—it doesn’t tax the Rider. Look for ways to encourage habits. Chunk down any pharmacy change effort into bite-size manageable bites. Tackle change initiatives one at time to give your team time to incorporate the change seamlessly so it becomes a standard procedure.

    Rally the Herd - Behavior is contagious. Help it spread. Provide opportunities for your team to get together informally to discuss the change. Be sure to identify those informal change “agents” on your team – those positive and supportive of the new order – and have them spread the good word among their other pharmacy teammates.

The greatest insight in any pharmacy change effort is that, as the owner, you must appeal to both the “Rider” – the rational mind, and the “Elephant” – the emotional heart. Tapping both can net you powerful results in the coming new year.

We all recognize the need for change…it takes courage. Are you ready? Let’s get started together.

Topics: independent pharmacy leadership independent pharmacy management pharmacy business books

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Meet Kelley Babcock

Kelley Babcock is the Chief Operating Officer at Pharmacy Development Services and a regular blog contributor. She can be found on LinkedIn.

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