How to Manage Complex Change in Recruiting Executive Leaders

The healthcare industry is fluid. Health system mergers, payor and provider convergence, and the entrance of completely new players throughout the value chain are near daily reminders of this turbulence. Recruiting, developing and retaining top talent are among a healthcare organization’s most important defenses against this uncertainty. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Health Care Outlook, clinical staff account for up to 70 percent of a system’s hospital costs. That is why it is important for health system leaders to not only understand, but to have the ability to navigate through complex change.

Managing Complex Change Model

Despite being created more than 30 years ago, Dr. Mary Lippitt’s Managing Complex Change Model remains relevant as executive leaders plan their recruitment strategies. “Executive search is tied to change management,” said Grant Cooper Managing Partner Ed Stout. “Healthcare leaders can use their recruitment strategy as an opportunity to create change, whether it is by looking at candidates with varying skill sets and experiences or by reworking the role and expectations.”

Source: The Managing Complex Change model was copyrighted by Dr. Mary Lippitt, founder and president of Enterprise Management, Ltd., in 1987.

Implications in the Hiring Process

The model serves as a useful organizing framework for organizations as they consider hiring a new executive, as each pillar has implications in the hiring process. “Healthcare executives must ensure they have a vision, understand the skills required, know how candidates will be rewarded, and have resources to attract top talent, or they will be left with a variety of preventable failures,” Stout said. “As an executive search firm, we probe at each of these aspects when we launch a search and continually work to ensure our clients have good answers for how much change they think is required and their ability to make those changes.” Finding candidates who encompass vital skills that complement the institution’s strategy will ensure a successful leadership addition or change.

Candidates also can use the model as they work through the interview process, asking questions of the hiring entity to understand its appetite for change and expectations for the future. “Candidates should assess for themselves the change readiness of an organization, approaching it from different angles to get the full picture,” Stout recommended. “For example, they could ask about large scale change efforts the system has worked through, whether they were successful, and for a diagnosis as to why the project is perceived a success or failure.”

Unlimited Use, Relevancy in Changing Environments

“It would be a shame if people limited the use of this model to big, strategic initiatives, because in reality, most change is complex,” Stout remarked. Change is difficult for most people, and often, initial reactions are negative. To help ease anxieties, frustration and resistance, it is worth revisiting Dr. Lippitt’s model, no matter which phase of change your organization is entering. “Even if you are in the midst of a change management effort, you can still use this as a diagnostic tool to ensure nothing is missing from your approach and strategy,” Stout shared. “If you are hitting roadblocks, it may help you figure out the cause.”

About Grant Cooper

Grant Cooper is a retained executive search firm working principally in healthcare to identify and recruit superior executive talent. Boutique in size, but not in scope, Grant Cooper’s collective partnership applies decades of hard-won executive search expertise to its search engagements.

About Ed Stout

Ed Stout, MBA, Managing Partner: Ed Stout’s healthcare client service spans more than a 15 years. As a consultant at McKinsey & Company, Ed led teams that served nationally recognized integrated delivery systems as well as large for profit and not-for-profit providers. In 2008, Ed co-founded the McKinsey Hospital Institute (now Objective Health), a technology-enabled consulting solution for hospitals within McKinsey. At Grant Cooper, Ed leads searches for his clients’ senior-most roles, with a focus on C-suite team members.