I have worked with hundreds of home care business owners and operators to transition to better ways of doing things, especially where business operations and technical systems are concerned. Over many years of helping agency owners and operators implement change, I’ve seen the process of changing to a new home care management system from close range many times.
As a business owner myself, I am constantly looking for ways to improve operations to drive toward better revenue, greater efficiency and more fun in operating my business. Helping my customers do the same things (increase revenue, improve operating efficiency and have more fun) is central to the business I am in.
Improving things means changing things. And change is a funny thing. We want it and need it, but we’re also fearful of it. For a lot of us change is a real obstacle that is to be avoided. Change might make things better, but changing course is often very hard work! Maybe better stay in your comfort zone than to rock the boat.
When implementing a new system or business practice of any kind, there is resistance to overcome. The resistance can come from a wide range of sources, but they tend to fall into a small number of categories: technical/data-related issues; resource issues and people-related issues. Each point of resistance adds friction to the process, slowing down or even halting progress toward the desired outcome. This “Friction Effect” can thwart your efforts to reach your goals, but understanding it can give you the tools you need to overcome it.
Technical and Data-related Friction
Picking a home care management system that doesn’t really fit well with your business goals or is simply so different than what you’ve used before that it’s a big technical hurdle just to embrace it is perhaps the most obvious hurdle. Is this new system or approach really going to work? Is it a good fit? It is often hard to know for sure.
Data issues can also bring along a load of headaches. Incompatibility between the old and the new can mean that you lose a lot of history in the transition, or that the cost of transition can go much higher than originally planned. A clear data roadmap is essential for transitioning business-critical systems. It is worth spending time on these questions before going too far with any software or hardware related project. The experience you have with the vendor during this phase can be very illuminating in terms of what it’s going to be like to work with them in the future, after the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship.
Business process improvement should be viewed as an investment, not an expense. Otherwise, it often comes down to the project being “starved” of the resources it needs to succeed. Not allocating sufficient personnel, equipment or cash is often a sign of ambivalence on the part of management or staff. Which leads us to the biggest source of hurdles…
Remember that resistance to change I mentioned before? Don’t underestimate it! Having even one key staff member not on board with the changes can torpedo the project. Personal insecurities, office politics and turf battles may be hidden in many companies, but can be sources of tremendous friction when it comes to implementing positive change.
The best thing you can do is to truly involve the staff in the process. They don’t get to make the decisions, but they should have lots of input. Otherwise, they may end up feeling quite threatened by the changes. After all, if you get too efficient, you might not need them!
To combat that impression, stress the positive effects the changes will have on their work lives and careers. Good personnel are always going to be needed, but what they actually do may change as a result of the improvements. Rather than doing mind-numbing, repetitive tasks, they may be able to switch to work that is more engaging, creative and fun, and which can help advance their own professional development. If you can get them to be invested in the transition, they will become allies rather than obstacles in achieving your goals and dreams.
Smoothing It Out
Understanding the ins and outs of your office operations is key to the success of the implementation of any major changes in your home care business. Having a home care management system backed by a company of helpful, knowledgeable people who understand the challenges and who can be at your side at every turn can make the effort worthwhile. Diminishing or eliminating those long term frictions can insure smooth sailing as you move your agency forward.