How to Create Buy in for Change? Think Like an Alien

by Jenny Buckley, Senior Improvement Lead | 20 Sep, 2018

Effective communication is key to healthcare improvement. If we want our ideas to make a difference and create change, we need to co-create ownership with stakeholders. Clear, consistent communication that considers the context of our audience can help ensure our ideas resonate. For many healthcare leaders, this means changing the way we communicate.

Many communication breakdowns result from people starting at different points of understanding. Healthcare professionals, like many highly-specialized fields, are notorious for using jargon and acronyms that can create barriers to engaging others.

CFHI recently held a webinar on effective change management with teams participating in the INSPIRED COPD Scale Collaborative. Part of the session was devoted to helping teams leverage communication to influence stakeholders and build awareness for their programs. We encouraged teams to think outside the box about how they communicate their improvement projects to others. They were forced to think differently. How different? We asked teams to imagine themselves as aliens!

The Activity:

This activity was adapted from the ‘alien at dinner’ change management exercise. Teams were provided with the following instructions:

You are an alien who is observing the INSPIRED program in your jurisdiction for the first time. You are to report back to people on your home planet about what you witnessed, telling the story from your perspective as an alien (outside observer) who knows nothing about the program or its context. Avoid using any acronyms or slang as it needs to resonate and be understood by those who have no experience in our healthcare system.

Think about how you would describe the different activities, as well as the goals of care and outcomes. You have no more than 1-2 minutes to tell your story.

The Result:

By requiring teams to understand their programs as outsiders, this activity forced them to remove their own perceptions and consider an audience who knows nothing about their project or its context - an exercise that teams found had real value. Even as members of the INSPIRED project team, we gained greater clarity about the improvement projects based on their use of ‘alien-friendly’ language and descriptions. It allowed teams to identify items that might not make sense to those with an outside perspective and helped them determine areas for change. But, the most impressive result of all were the compelling and impactful stories teams created about their projects, like the one the team from Health PEI told to explain how they spread the INSPIRED program across the province.

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