How to avoid Change-mageddon by Gareth Baxendale

Photocredit: TechniKarl

Delivering change is almost an art-form, and done well, can see the difference between a successful anti-climax that delivers real business value and one of abject chaos striking fear and confusion into the hearts of those who are just not prepared for it.

A ‘Sacred Cow’ is an idea, custom, or institution held to be above criticism (with reference to the Hindus’ respect for the cow as a holy animal).

In the world of change, the ‘Sacred Cow’ can often be the one where most resistance occurs. Often met with plaintiff cries of “But why change it if it’s not broken?” or “But we’ve always done it that way!”.

“How do you spot a Sacred Cow? It’s easy. Sneak up on one while she’s sleeping and carefully paint a spot on her side…” — David Bernstein — Death to all Sacred Cows

Take the fabled ‘form in triplicate’ where a there are three separately coloured but identical versions of the same document… If you were to ask why a form is needed in triplicate would anyone really know the answer? Is it more likely that Form 1 is actioned, Form 2 is filed for reference (but never checked as Form 1 was also filed) and Form 3 is sent to the paranoia department who like to ensure they know what is going on… finally, the form is scanned by each department and held digitally in their local system just waiting to be printed off on paper should the need arise…

“Vogons are not actually evil but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters” — Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Removing blockers to change requires careful thought and planning. In many respects, you may be required to change a deeply ingrained, and perhaps cherished, custom. No one will thank you for trumpeting your planned change without consultation or some acknowledgement that change may be difficult for the recipients. Winning hearts and minds takes time and effort, there are few short-cuts to this and while you can’t please everyone, every effort should be made to demonstrate you at least tried…


Gareth Baxendale FBCS CITP is Head of Technology for the National Institute for Health Research - Clinical Research Network. Gareth is a chartered fellow of BCS The Chartered Institute for IT and vice chair of the BCS Health and Care Executive who promote good-practice in Health IT. Gareth is also a published author and regularly writes on topics spanning Health IT on leadership and adoption as well as technical good-practice. In addition, Gareth is also a Chartered and FED-IP assessor and SFIAplus reviewer.

Twitter: @BaxendaleGareth