Managing change on a burning platform

Laura-Copeland-300pxI believe that people must be engaged in change decisions to feel motivated to change. Which is why I surprised myself with my own words this week:

“Don’t ask them what they want, just hand them what they need.”

What came over me?

When life presents us with a burning platform, we must change the way we change. We do not have time or processing power to engage end users to make decisions. We must humbly serve the front lines by observing their lives, listening to the precious information they share with us and coming to the battle ground with a tool that might help immediately, in the moment. And if what we present is not helpful, we must not be offended if it is thrown back in our face. We must try again.


Imagine an actual burning platform. If you are trying to put out the fire, and you are equipped with a bucket of water, you might happily trade it for a high-pressure fire hose. But if you have a high-pressure fire hose, you are not likely to hand it over for a bucket. The quality of the solution is immediately evident and applicable.

As we face our current world pandemic, we have seen rapid uptake of virtual care tools to help us prevent infecting one another, development of screening tools and rapid assessment centers to assist with triage inside and outside of acute care centres, and vaccines and treatments on a fast track to the patient bedside. All of these are monumental leaps forward in care that would have taken us decades to achieve without a desperate need fueling our jets.

At the same time, we have seen a demand for delivery services and the coordination of supply chains leaving us aching for better solutions. We are agonizing over the complex orchestration of a rapidly changing human workforce trying to ensure that the right skill sets are present for the right task and that all isolated and ill providers are covered by those well rested, healthy, and ready to work.

There is more work to do. As informaticists, we need to put on our masks and protective gear and dive into the situation prepared to assist. It is not a time for perfection or permanent beautifully architected solutions. It is a time to truly focus on making the combination of human and technology more than the sum of the parts. To be agile, deliver quickly, quietly, and without disruption.

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Dr. Laura Copeland is the Chief Medical Information Officer for Healthtech Consultants, a partner of Nordic Consulting Group. She is a physician and medical informatics specialist with 15 years of experience planning and implementing electronic health records while advocating for and supporting the adoption of technology in healthcare. Dr. Copeland has held key leadership roles in many complex hospital-based health information systems, including the Cleveland Clinic Emergency Department and Humber River Hospital, North America’s first fully digital hospital.

Topics: change management, COVID-19

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