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Organizational Culture Eats Processes Everyday for Breakfast

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Al Cordoba imageTechnology adoption is one big challenge. You may have experienced situations where executives think that “if we buy the technology, they will use it.” That executive misconception has created the “shelf-ware” issue where expensive software remains unused or marginally used for years because a comprehensive adoption plan was never considered.

When we speak about technology adoption, we’re essentially talking about process change. New technologies bring about change in current processes. We know there is a natural resistance to change. We could ask ourselves questions, such as:
  • How do we deal with this resistance?
  • Have we developed a positive strategy for coping with the process change?
Not everybody has the same attitude regarding a particular change, and some people dislike change because they perceive the change as a loss of control. They look at change as “what have I lost,” and they may like the old process better. Perhaps the old process gave them certain functionality and a comfort level that they are missing now. Can we help them assess what they have left and move into a new better attitude such as “what can I do now?”

In some situations, lack of time gets in the way of process change and neither the implementation team nor the user team has time to adopt the new process. We refer to that situation as “paint the train as we go.” The user team responds with “we don’t have time for this,” and the implementation team is too busy fixing technology defects to address customer needs properly. In this situation, can we add additional resources to cope with this lack of time? When the implementation has technology defects, new users may misunderstand the situation and conclude: “this process does not make sense.” Could we fix the existing technical problems, and then check if the users are simply trying to use their old ways to work in a new system? Is it the new system designed to work differently, but nobody has bothered to tell them how? Education goes a long way to diminish these issues.

Process change happens amidst two cultures: the implementing team culture and the customer culture. And what is organizational culture? According to Wikipedia, organizational culture includes organizational values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits. I would suggest that organizational culture is built into the processes or lack of processes to conduct a particular task.
  • Have you focused on the interwoven processes used for analytics?
  • Do you have a process to onboard a new SAS user or a new SAS administrator?
  • Can you excel at supporting all the mundane, but concrete processes associated with a sophisticated analytic technology like SAS?
  • Can we improve those SAS processes, making the new system easy to use and capable of answering critical questions as well as facilitating the discovery of new questions?
  • What is the cultural reaction to new processes in both the implementation team as well as the customer team?
Culture can also get in the way of process performance by attacking the change agents. A process that functions poorly may be a result of misunderstandings. The documentation language may have conveyed a wrong meaning, but it could also be the result of a culture such as: “Not invented here.”  “We just don’t do that.” “That’s not desirable.”  “That’s wrong.” Since culture eats processes everyday for breakfast, leaders should understand the culture needed to make an effective process change. Creating a list of the processes required and discussing it with the involved culture or subcultures will help address adoption issues effectively. 

Effective process change requires a three prong strategy: process review, technical review and user support. It needs thoughtful intervention to avoid creating user mistrust. Consider a technology change that has failed. What happened? How did people resist the process change? What did you do to help the change? Which critical process was most affected? Where did the technical failures happen? Did the lack of knowledge of the new technology severely handicap the user to transition to a new process? Was there an effective training plan to deliver critical knowledge?

In summary, I would suggest that change leaders should:

  1. Identify and describe the old process and compare with the new process that will help users perform efficiently their analytical SAS tasks to the point of perfection
  2. Include all cultures and subcultures in a process redesign
  3. Create a comprehensive knowledge transfer plan.
This focus should help create an effective adoption plan for predictive analytics.

Read more about the Truven Health SAS Center of Excellence.

Al Cordoba, M.S.
Director, SAS Center of Excellence