Who wants change and who wants to change? Getting an upbeat response to the first question is usually not so hard. But what about the second one? Change is, however, sometimes inevitable. This was certainly the case for Zorggroep Oude en Nieuwe Land, a care group operating in Steenwijkerland, Urk and Noordoostpolder and offering a comprehensive range of services, from elderly and youth care to social care. As it turned out, 2014 was an eventful year for the organisation.
Aside from having to take measures to balance its books, the group was dealing with the impact of major reforms in the health care system and needed to avoid jeopardising the continuity of care it provided. It was also aware that to cope successfully with future challenges, it was necessary to restructure its operations and become smarter, leaner and more efficient. To be future-proof, the entire organisation – all employees on every level – had to adopt a different way of thinking, organising and acting. Accezz was therefore brought in to offer advice and guidance and to help implement appropriate measures that would bring about the desired behavioural and cultural changes.
Blind spots and fresh perspectives
“How do you respond to cutbacks effectively? You must do the same work with fewer people, maintain quality and do things smarter, cheaper and more efficiently. A fresh perspective allows you to overcome your blind spots,” says Director Frank Kodden. When asked how bringing in Accezz has benefitted the group, he replies, “In addition to improved efficiency and better results on the balance sheet, we are now aware of our actual change potential. And that’s huge!”
Investing while your are making cuts?
“During an initial meeting, Accezz had us, the management team, quickly convinced,” says Kodden. He continues, “Their view was that as each client has unique needs and requirements, work processes should be attuned accordingly. This was music to our ears. Accezz adopts the LEAN method in a way that aligns with procedures in health care. This means they don’t just rigidly implement changes to work processes, with the client taking second place.” After a meeting between Kodden and a director of a similar organisation, who already had experience with the Accezz programme, it was decided to formalise agreements and define concrete actions. Kodden says, “It was certainly a big investment, which has been more than recouped due to the changes that have been implemented. But at the time I wanted to be able to justify exactly why it was a good idea, especially as we were having to tighten our belt.
Why is holding each other to account so difficult?
“A first official kick-off meeting took place after Accezz had been on the work floor at Zorggroep Oude en Nieuwe Land for two weeks and had mapped out possible improvements. For some employees, the critical approach of the Accezz consultants was sometimes hard to swallow. But Kodden says, “Accezz has given us a lot. One of the biggest changes in behaviour that we have seen is that employees are now genuinely addressing each other’s actions and work-related matters in a positive and critical manner.”
Why is holding your colleagues to account so difficult? It doesn’t come natural. We are not accustomed to it or are afraid of the impact it can have on the atmosphere in the workplace. Through workshops and on-the-spot intervention, however, Accezz implements a system of ‘four steps in giving feedback’. And it works. After all, holding someone to account doesn’t have to be taken personally. Moreover, a good business relationship is one that allows for open debate. And that includes being positively critical. Kodden adds, “Employees empower each other precisely by sharing suggestions and improvements. The realisation that giving feedback has a beneficial impact on personal and professional growth and development is very valuable.”
Everything was better before
Frank Kodden reflects on an effective start to a huge change process: “The ‘everything was better before’ syndrome was something we had to address at every location to a certain extent. At some locations, we never hear this phrase anymore, while at others it still occasionally crops up. In any case, it is now not only much easier for everyone to enter in to a dialogue, but colleagues are also able to work things out together more quickly. Throughout what has been an extensive process, everyone has put their shoulders to the wheel across the entire organisation. We have all experienced the added value and have shared this time and again. Of course, certain things have helped along the way, such as structured team meetings, more efficient work transfers, quicker implementation of local solutions to problems and the so-called ‘improvement signs’. The main argument that always convinces colleagues is: ‘if a particular change or action results in the client getting what he or she needs, we can do it.’ Fortunately, 80 per cent of the time, this is the case.”