Monday, 16 November 2009

Improvement Projects: Do no harm

A common issue raised by project managers who are trying to implement existing good practice with individuals and teams is one of resistance to change. I am constantly seeking ways to reframe the term "resistance" as a means of moving away from a potentially obstructive and destructive frame of reference.

I've been wondering whether one of the reasons people appear to "resist" adopting even what is well evidenced as good practice is because of a natural and at times perfectly reasonable conservative attitude towards risk. The medical profession has the theme of "do no harm". My feeling is often we are asking professionals to take on the solutions designed by others and in different contexts without providing the potential adopters with the evidence that the results are both relaible and generalisable. Reliable in the sense they can be repeated int he same context with the same results. Generalisability is what is proved when the intervention (improvement process) can be done in a different context and obtain similar results.

Without this evidence of generalisability in our improvement work I feel professionals will continue to be suspicious of changes.

In additon, do we ever publish the knock on consequences and the adverse effects of improvement work? A quick trawl of improvement projects published in high impact journals in the last 2 months demonstrates the attitude that improvement work is all good. None fo 12 papers that I looked at provided (or even hinted) at any negative consequences. Without honesty abotu improevemnt work and results I suspect we will continue to encounter "resistance" to change - and I will consider this an appropriate response to any solution being touted for implementation where there is no demonstartion of generalisability and no discussion about identified adverse consequences.

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