Transitioning to a new building or renovated workspace is both exciting and risky. Whether buildings come with new work patterns, new IT systems, or new space standards, planning the change can ensure success. We have been working with healthcare organizations across the U.S. to help them move into new facilities, ranging from an ED to a completely new hospital campus.
When it comes to transitioning to a new care setting, and all that it involves—physically, organizationally, financially, emotionally—it will probably be the most critical and strategic responsibility a hospital may ever undertake. It touches every corner of the organization and will affect every single employee and medical staff member. Much is at risk, including the hospital’s reputation and most of all, patient safety.
But, at the same time, it is a once in a life time opportunity to create a future setting that is better than what currently is, including organizational improvements and innovations to enhance the new environment. To pull off a transition successfully, it takes an extraordinary amount of effort, resources and talent. We’ve been partnering with our clients to make sure they can “go live” without a hitch. Here are seven insights to consider when planning a transition.
Insight #1: Mind the gap
In any significant transition—whether shifting to a new process, undergoing a renewal program, or building and moving to a new campus—gaps emerge between the original intent behind the change and the ensuing operational realities at occupancy. Time passes, memories fade, and the decision-makers often change. Transition planning bridges the gap between the initial planning and design phases and occupancy and operation. It’s important to transfer knowledge learned at the beginning of a project to the people who will eventually work in that new environment.
Insight #2: Don’t wait until the last minute
Transition planning can start as early as design development but at the very least should commence no later than 18-24 months prior to the anticipated occupancy. Time is the unyielding variable in a transition project and the building will “rise out of the ground” whether one is prepared to occupy it or not.
Insight #3: Know your challenges to mitigate your risk.
In any transition project, risks abound. First and foremost is the ability to provide safe quality of care in two locations during a very demanding time. The impact on patient and staff satisfaction ranks a close second. Similarly, a transition can also impact staff retention and recruitment. Maintaining revenue is also paramount. The challenge to maintain operational efficiency and continuity includes the need to collapse and constrict your demand for service in anticipation of the actual relocation and then ramp up quickly and safely to maximum productivity once you are in the new location.
Insight #4: Collaborate, communicate, coordinate
Let these hallmarks of a well-functioning enterprise be your guiding principles throughout your transition phase. Like no other time, it is vital to collaborate with all parties both internal and external; communicate with all your constituents utilizing established and ad –hoc communication vehicles; and finally, coordinate—use time-lines, Gantt charts, action lists, all tools available—to guard against things falling through the cracks or the duplication of effort.
Insight #5: Simulate before you operate
Immerse the staff in real work situations in the new setting before the space is opened to real patients. A strategy taken from other industries, most notably aviation, it provides a means to stress test the new environment, identify leaning opportunities, create a mechanism to instill familiarity, and enhance the chance for a smooth and uneventful relocation and occupancy. We’ve done this at several facilities where we had actors, both professional and volunteer, play out real life scenarios so clinicians and staff can work out the kinks and get to know their space, before it really matters.
Another way, which we did for a corporate headquarters, is to use immersive digital tools. For Norweigan telecom giant, Telenor, we created a virtual reality “visionarium.” Every employee participated in the 3D immersion so they could understand how they’d work differently in the new headquarters. Post-occupancy research showed that employees felt prepared and adapted easily due in great part to change management program.
Insight #6: Leverage the event
As it pertains to community perception, a hospital transition is a perfect example of a double edged sword—meaning that it can have both favorable (if done well) and unfavorable consequences (if not). The fact is, your building project is a once in a life time opportunity for free advertisement or conversely it can be a nightmare of bad press. It can be an employee magnet or a blight to your recruitment plan. It can attract new business or even drive loyal business away.
Insight #7: It takes a village
By the end of the project on move day, every last employee will be involved in the project. Build that engagement early in the transition by identifying your stakeholders, enlisting your champions, and organizing work teams to plan and do the associated transition tasks. Pace the assignments and develop a cadence that peaks during the final months of activity. Use the process to identify diamonds in the rough and up-and-comers. Welcome all interested parties and volunteers.