Culture eats strategy for breakfast?

“This quote from Peter Drucker is characteristic of most change processes. Change is not a temporary quick fix but must become embedded in the DNA of an organisation. After a pilot with Accezz to increase productivity and quality within our teams, we therefore decided to invest in an improvement programme for all areas of our five regions.”

 

“I don’t believe in ‘oil slicks’, where in the most positive scenario one department adopts a limited portion of a philosophy from another department,” says Sam Schoch, Board Member at Middin, an organisation providing care for the disabled and elderly. “Employees are especially loyal to culture rather than strategy. It’s a matter of claiming ownership of the new strategy and making it part of our culture. In my view, that’s only possible with a 100 per cent focus.”

The danger is that it becomes all about money

Middin believes in the power of people. This belief applies not only to its 2,600 employees but also to its 4,400 clients, especially when it comes to them directing their own lives. “Due to changes in the care sector, we were compelled to have fewer people but needed to ensure quality was maintained. The danger is that it becomes all about money. Changes should, however, also benefit the client,” states Schoch.

He continues, “We give our clients as much control as possible over their own lives. It has long been acknowledged that this leads to a longer and, more important, a happier life.  Despite cutting average fixed personnel costs by the pre-determined 10 per cent at each location, we still had positive feedback from our clients, which I value as a positive sign. In short, our quality has remained constant and, in many cases, has even improved.

Small loads, great washes

There are many improvements that will certainly not have escaped the client. For example, there are certain locations where freshly cooked food is served again in place of ready-made meals.

In other locations, activities for clients have been extended: there is now more time available for walking or cycling, for instance. According to an enthusiastic manager, “Employees understand that proper organising contributes to good care, and they often know how to organise effectively. But it is sometimes necessary to bring in outside help to facilitate better communications. And it’s usually the little things that matter. For years, one employee had to carry out a frustrating search for the laundry cart every Monday morning. This has now been addressed and the laundry cart is in a fixed place. This makes a tremendous difference to how someone starts their day or week.”

The manager continues, “There has been an improvement in transfer arrangements, a reduction in unnecessary breaks and a better allocation of work tasks that accounts for peak and off-peak periods, which have improved efficiency substantially. Care supervisors are now aware that they should not be resigned to just hoping things will improve: they can actually do something about it themselves. Employees’ sense of ownership and an awareness of the need to take responsibility is seeping into the soul of our organisation.”

‘Ever better’ method

How does Middin ensure that it sticks to the chosen course? Sam Schoch says, “What I recommend to every organisation is to integrate change management and process improvement tools and techniques into its identity. For example, we have dubbed the Accezz programme the ‘ever better route’ to ensure it becomes part of our work procedures, our jargon, our DNA. But what has been even more important is that from the start Accezz coached five of our own people. Now employed as full-time ever-better coaches, they will continue to use the Accezz methodology within our organisation after completion of the programme. They will ensure that we continue working according to the management system implemented by Accezz and adopted by us, that people continue to engage with each other and that the client comes first. I think this commitment to such a long-term approach is the best part of the Accezz method.”