Change Management: Why Change Is Good for Your Team and Practice

If you want to stress out your team, announce a change initiative — it doesn't even have to be major to elicit a big response. For most practices, change management is difficult, as even the smallest change can cause turmoil.

Why are practices so change resistant? The mindset of most veterinary teams is: "We've always done it this way, so why should we change?" If you expect your practice to grow and your team to be successful, you must be willing to do things differently.

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Change Moves Your Practice Forward

Stagnancy is not going to move your team or practice forward; change will. Here's why:

It helps employees stretch their skills: For your team, staying current in the field and learning new skills is essential. Being open to doing things a different way is part of that. For example, embracing and mastering new technology and learning new techniques leads to improved patient care and higher employee job satisfaction. Enhancing skills and knowledge also leads to advancement opportunities.

It helps practice managers grow: Continuing education doesn't stop with your team members. Constant learning is crucial when it comes to leading a team, especially when you're handling change management. Change pushes practice managers to think on their feet, flex their leadership skills, and become more adaptive — all skills that are necessary in today's constantly shifting veterinary field.

It helps to attract and retain clients: In a changing veterinary climate, clients expect their practice to have all the bells and whistles. They want modern medical technology and a practice that is up to date in how it functions, how it looks, and the services it offers. You will attract and retain more clients if you provide the level of care and service they're looking for.

Clients have more choices now than ever. Give them a reason to choose you and refer their friends and family. Satisfied clients and a healthy, growing client base lead to annual financial growth for the practice.

How to Address the Challenges of Change

Change is necessary for improving your practice, but it's not simple. It's easy to fall back into that "we've always done it that way" mode.

Communication with your team is key when addressing the challenges that change brings. Change can be uncomfortable, so encourage your team to keep an open mind when doing things differently:

  • Whether you're implementing a new protocol or modifying current protocols, focus on the end result. Explain the "why" and what the change initiative will accomplish.
  • Communicate the expectations you have for your team.
  • Solicit ideas from your team on how best to achieve a change initiative. You will see much less resistance to change if you involve your employees in the process.
  • Share the positive results, and maintain an encouraging attitude.

When you set expectations and ask for help from your team, you can hold them accountable. Team and individual performance evaluations are part of that process. Employees will achieve growth in all positions, seize the opportunity for advancement, and experience higher levels of job satisfaction as a result.

Embrace the Change You're Already Experiencing

A recent change initiative for most practices has been the implementation of preventive care protocols and wellness plans. These initiatives are heavy on change because teams now have a constant role to play in client communication and setting client expectations education — you don't wait for a pet to get sick to recommend necessary services, diagnostics, or products.

Practices have taken a more proactive approach and created patient care models that are comprehensive in their emphasis on best medicine. The benefits are many: Better patient care, stronger client communication, and increased annual revenue. Changes in preventive care protocols show that a little change goes a long way.

We've all heard the saying: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results." If you want different results, you have to embrace change within yourself and within your practice. Change is inevitable, growth is optional.

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Sandy Walsh
RVT, CVPM

Sandy Walsh is a practice management consultant, instructor, speaker, and advisor for the veterinary medical profession. With over 35 years of experience in the veterinary field, she brings her “in the trenches” experience directly to you. She is dedicated to improving companion-animal health through coaching and sharing appropriate practice management techniques to the whole veterinary team. Sandy still works in a small-animal practice, is an active member of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, an instructor for Patterson Veterinary University, and a columnist for Today's Veterinary Business.

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