Seven rules for successful veterinary change management

By Marketing

6 October 2020 5 min read


What should you consider when navigating change at your practice?

Change is a constant presence in any business environment. That was true before the global pandemic, and change will surely continue to drive social and economic conditions in unexpected and positive ways, too. For veterinary practices, managing any change initiative, be it planned or in response to external forces is especially difficult to orchestrate as teams are already in high demand and under significant pressure and time constraints.

To improve your outcomes and results, it’s important to understand and recognise the risk factors that can jeopardize your efforts to drive change in the practice. Whether you need to quickly implement new distancing procedures to comply with local ordinances or if you’re switching practice management software, knowing what to watch out for and how the risks associated with any change can influence the process will help ensure your success. Below we discuss seven rules to consider on your change journey to ensure your team and practice stay on course:

Recognise the need for change

While change often comes all on its own, you must be able to identify the need to adapt and take steps to proactively manage your practice through transition. And even if you can’t spot it coming, you can be confident it’s all around you. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) change expert, Jim Hemerling, we are in an era of “always on transformation.”

Common signals that indicate the need for change include falling profits, products that aren’t selling, requests for new services you might not offer, or unusually high client and staff turnover. Also, if you’re experiencing declining business while new competitors are thriving, that’s another indicator that the market is shifting and you may need to make some changes to keep pace.

Communication is key

Change is a process, and even the smallest departure from normal routines (workflows, systems, etc.) requires lots of reminders – and patience. Having a communications plan to help guide your change initiatives will ensure you are setting expectations and bringing everyone along the journey; too little communication and you’ll likely see frustration and confusion from your partners, team or clients. It’s important to think through who is affected by the change and needs to be in the know, how much information you need to share, how frequently, and how it should be delivered.

Tune into technology

Change and innovation are often ushered in by technological transformation. Yet many businesses, veterinary practices included, fall into a familiar way of doing things that can be a barrier to accessing the productivity and efficiency tools that new technology offers.

Be sure to keep your finger on the pulse of the hardware and software that are impacting your veterinary practice. You don’t have to jump on every trend that comes along. However, staying informed can help you find the right technology from patient care to client marketing, to online appointment scheduling and pet owner tools. Not only will your practice get a boost, your staff and customers will also love the additional features and benefits.

Keep up with the pace

Another pitfall of practice change management is losing touch with changing consumer expectations and falling behind competitors; those who are offering the latest services and conveniences to meet demand. Sometimes you might recognise a growing gap in knowledge around pet breeds or health issues, such as dietary trends. You may also find yourself stumped by questions about products, services or technologies you’re not familiar with, like the growing trend toward consumer pet tech. Keep an eye on the competition and pay close attention to customer behavior and trends to anticipate when it might be time to pivot.

Provide additional support

People deal with change differently, and it can be hard to know how your staff will react until you’re in the middle of a transition with them. There are four recognisable stages that team members will go through during planned or unplanned change: denial of the need for change, frustration with the process, acceptance of the change process, and commitment to the new way of working. When change is underway you need to be ready to help staff cope and successfully move through the process, including making sure you have strategies in place to overcome objection and challenges no matter how big or seemingly small the change may be.

Understand resistance

You can’t force people to change, and you also don’t want to take resistance personally or write off reluctant staff members as difficult or set in their ways. Resistance to change is normal and it doesn’t necessarily stem from a lack of understanding. Rather, it stems from the fear of the unknown. To take your team on a transformation journey you’ll need to relate to them, understand and address their fears individually and as a group, and guide them through the change together.

Pre-empt and prepare

It’s important to understand that change can be managed in a controlled way, whether it’s planned or even when it comes without warning. Change in your practice could impact processes, systems, the structure of your practice, even job roles – all of which may have been in place for years. But you can minimise the risk of disruption to your patients and clients and ensure a positive outcome by applying the discipline of change management and adapting the process to work best for you.

Also, no matter how strong the will to change, success just doesn’t happen by accident. Every plan needs a capable leader and change manager to own it, to rally the team and bring the vision to life. Your practice change manager also needs to be empowered to lead the team with all the responsibility and authority to address roadblocks and make it happen.

Tackling change at your practice?

Covetrus has created an infographic identifying seven rules to follow when navigating change to help you and your team stay on track. You can also download our ebook, Navigating what’s next: How to manage change in your veterinary practice, a new free resource to help you better understand the nature of change, how to recognise when change is needed, and how to best support your team through the process with tips and techniques for getting through it all successfully.

Get in touch with our team to discuss how our veterinary solutions can support and advance your business. We’re here to help.