|CHANGE KILLERS: ORGANIZATIONAL ANTIBODIES!|
|Bob Benwick, MSc. OD, MCC, PCC, CPCC|
|“You’ve got to watch out for those organizational antibodies!” said the former Head of Pathology for the Vancouver General Hospital and the British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, Dr. David Hardwick, who I was sitting down with at the time. Dave had been instrumental in leading the establishment of the BC Children’s Hospital and we had built a strong relationship in furthering the organization’s mandate as the leading pediatric tertiary care facility on Canada’s west coast. I was then the Vice President – Human Resources and Strategic Management and Dave was a key internal organization client. Whenever possible we tried to get together and have one of those rare but powerful conversations over a cup of coffee about ‘life and times’. This was one of those get togethers that I’ll never forget.|
Dave had made the ‘organizational antibody’ comment in a discussion around a number of joint-venture innovative initiatives in support of the physician community within the facility, and in particular the pathologists. In our discussion, we had come to a blinding glimpse of the obvious that innovation in fact was a particularly powerful form of change. Dave, who was the Head of Pathology and the President of a world-wide organization of pathologists at the time, felt that not only were we being highly innovative with a number of initiatives we were leading, but it also had a unique dark side. Innovation also creates a considerable threat to some groups within the organization. Many of these groups simply felt they never received enough care, attention and resources to support their medical practice areas. Not an unusual disposition. For innovation to effectively take hold and to be sustained requires additional resources. Where do these resources (funding, people, space, capital equipment, etc) come from? Yes, from others within the organization. Thus the threat innovation unexpectedly creates even though it is so often promoted. Dave felt strongly (directly reflecting his professional background) that ‘organizational antibodies’ can always be expected to surface when something new is interjected into the system and ‘organizational antibodies’ will, not if, attempt to ‘remove or extricate’ anyone leading or anything related to the innovation itself – the foreign intervention – that are perceived as direct threats to their own existence and sustainability. This is what’s often referred to as a ‘blinding glimpse of the obvious’.
It was clear from our discussion that if you are attempting to create and lead innovation (pro-active change), not only do you need to address managing normal resistance to change, one needs to thoughtfully and planfully address ‘organizational antibodies’ that will (again, not if) surface. Thank you Dave for co-creating this very powerful leadership and organizational change concept.
Of course the foregoing is not unique to Health Care organizations. I’ve seen it in every private and public sector organization operating domestically and globally that we have had the pleasure to coach within. So, where do ‘organizational antibodies’ show up in your organization? What change are you currently leading within your organization (small or big) and where are ‘organizational antibodies’ surfacing? What are the possibilities for turning this into an opportunity in disguise and creating a successful win-win approach? We would enjoy hearing your insights and observations.