Tips from a researcher for successful implementation
Lots of things are implemented in organisations: new ways of working, knowledge and processes. New technologies and administrative systems. Both large and small initiatives that affect everything and nothing, everyone or just a few people. New research shows that the similarities are many, regardless of what has to be implemented in an organisation.
Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, Certified Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at MDU, has researched the subject of implementation processes and has just published a book ”Implementeringsboken” (The Implementation Book) together with Henna Hasson, Professor of Implementation at the Karolinska Institute and Head of Operations of the Centrum för epidemiologi och samhällsmedicin, (The Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine), Region Stockholm. Ulrica says:
“Implementation is the process by which something new is introduced, disseminated, implemented and integrated into an organisation. The intention is to achieve some type of benefit.”
How does one achieve good results during implementation, how does the new create most benefit?
“By carefully considering whether what is to be implemented is really the best solution to an important problem, so that right from the start you actively decide that it is worth the hard work that is often required for the implementation to be successful. It is essential to translate abstract fluff into descriptions of what people should actually do differently and to work systematically but gradually to remove any obstacles in using it. Implementation is often laborious and the risk of failure is great. It requires a management system and knowledge to iron out any question marks,” says Ulrica.
How do you know if the new approach is really beneficial?
“By formulating what is meant by benefit at an early stage, finding out what the usage should look like in order for it to lead to the intended results and then carefully investigating whether it will be as intended or if adjustments are required.”
How does one get rid of the old - that which is no longer needed?
“The first step is that you must ask yourself what should be removed – this is often forgotten. Sometimes it can be easy to get rid of the old if it is replaced by something that makes life easier, more pleasant and a little better. At other times, it’s the de-implementation, i.e. the phasing out that causes a headache. Such as when the old is so dear, ingrained and safe," says Ulrica.
How can the new be integrated into that which is already happening?
“Again, the first step is to be really concrete with the new that it is possible to chisel out what is new or is partly new, and what may already exist and where an adjustment may be enough.”
How do you get those people on board who don't want to take on yet another change?
“First of all, it may be worth double-checking if there really is a lack of motivation and not another type of obstacle such as the users not knowing what to do, or if it is too complicated or cumbersome to do what is required. Then it is wise to remind yourself that not all changes are improvements – at least not for everyone – and then it’s too much to ask people that they should be overjoyed. It may also be comforting that not everyone has to work at same pace all the time. Let those who are curious run ahead and let the Ferdinand bulls peek around the corner, to eventually be convinced by what they see.”
What similarities are there between the implementation process of, for example, a leadership model in the process industry and a new medical innovation in healthcare?
“Actually there are loads. Through our research, we have been struck by the similarities, no matter what is going to be implemented. The challenges, pitfalls and necessary measures are all very much the same. After all, implementation is basically about people. For organisations that want to bring in something new, it is important to find a balance between things being done equally and that there is room for variation and room for manoeuvre,” says Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz.
The researcher’s three pieces of advice for those who are going to conduct an improvement task which includes implementation:
- Create a team to focus on this. One person can’t conduct an entire implementation.
- People are logical. If they don't use the innovation, then they have good reasons for doing so. Find out what's causing the obstacle and think of it as your job to remove the obstacle.
- Plan just enough to then be able to test and learn.
The researcher's three pieces of advice to an organisation that is going to implement something:
- Carefully consider whether that which is to be implemented is really the best solution to an important problem – and if not, refrain from implementation.
- Be prepared to wait and persevere – implementation is a process, not an event.
- Base the implementation on the users’ perspective in all the planning.