The Importance of Cheerleaders

by | Sep 2, 2011

Football is back on the horizon again, and I’m looking forward to having my Saturday’s absorbed with the drama and pageantry that is college football. There’s much I’m anticipating, including another run at a national championship by my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide! And this year, I’m hoping to take my son to his first college football game where he can see the game itself in person, and also experience the noise, and the emotions, and the electricity that ripples through the crowd in the special way that can be experienced in few places outside SEC football stadiums in the fall.

As we continue our Healthcare Scheduling Implementation Roadmap Series, you might be wondering what football has to do with anything healthcare! Well, besides the hint you got in the title of this post, there are a few parallels between a college football game and a hospital scheduling rollout.

Besides the game being played, whether that be on the gridiron or in the form of a rollout, there is a lot of noise, emotion, and electricity in a hospital when it comes to scheduling, just like in football. And there are similar roles – the coaches, the players on the field, the trainers, and, of course, the cheerleaders.

If you ever have the privilege of being in Bryant-Denny Stadium for an Alabama home game, you might notice that the cheerleaders separate into two groups. One group is one side of the field, by the student section, and other on the opposite corner of the stadium. During the course of the game, the cheerleaders entice the crowd into cheers and attempt to keep the energy up. The cheerleader group by the student section taps into the students’ enthusiasm and coordinates with their counterparts on the other side of the field to start stadium-wide cheers that creates a unique form of synergy, with each side of the stadium feeding off of the energy of the other side. When the stadium because deafeningly loud with shouts of “ALA” and “BAMA” rebounding from one half of the stadium to the other, you start to understand what the term “home field advantage” really means!

This energy that is generated by the crowd is not just for the sake of having something to do. It truly impacts the players playing the game on the field. When I mentioned the electricity that you can feel in the stands, that emotion is something the players can feel and react to as well. The nebulous concept of “momentum” in sports is a function of this transference. And in college football, unlike the NFL, home field advantage is a significant factor in the likelihood of a team to win a close, tough match. It’s a well strategized plan the cheerleaders have for their part to help the team win the game.

Now, let’s draw the analogy to a healthcare scheduling implementation. The game is the rollout in a hospital. Your rollout team are the football players and the opposition is the natural cultural resistance to change. The strength of the opponent may vary game to game, depending on the culture of the hospital, but your team must execute the game plan in order to win the game. And just like in college football, cheerleaders are there to create energy and get the crowd excited about what is going on, to get some momentum going for the rollout and motivate your team to carry out the plan.

Who are the cheerleaders for an implementation? Your change management team, for the most part. They are the ones who are engaging the crowd through communications training efforts to weaken the resistance to change. Just like at a football game, the change management team looks to create energy and get the crowd excited so that there is a spark of electricity about the rollout, emotions that trigger acceptance and embracing of the change.

And the players themselves (the rollout team) are also cheerleaders at times. Just like football players on the sidelines will waive their towels and encourage the crowd to get excited, the rollout team has regular opportunities to share their enthusiasm about the project as they interact with hospital staff one-on-one. Emotions about the project are contagious and the informal opportunities that the project team has to convey their energy are just as important as the structured change management plan.

When it comes down to it, cheerleaders are important in healthcare scheduling implementation, much more than they are at a football game. For an implementation, the crowd isn’t necessarily naturally excited to be there. There are other distractions and when they are paying attention, it is hard for some of them who are change adverse to not root for the opposition. Emotion and momentum are just as significant to a rollout and it takes a strategic change management plan, with real effort and positive communications from top to bottom, to generate the sparks of electricity that can galvanize the rollout to a win.

And unfortunately, the problem is sometimes not with your cheerleading plan but with your cheerleaders themselves. It’s hard, as we’ve talked about before, to accept that the solution is not a perfect one and still be excited about it. Your implementation team must be prepared to suppress any negativity they have about the rollout or solution, as that negative emotion will also impact the momentum of the rollout. Good strategic planning is critical because your cheerleaders must have a plan to execute, but having cheerleaders who project a positive attitude about the solution being delivered is just as critical to success.

It’s this last part that makes this such an important topic and part of our roadmap series. Understanding how important cheerleaders are and what kind of effect emotion and energy can have on a rollout gives context to the significance of positive attitudes and the vital nature of a solid change management strategy. When your team can understand that up front, before beginning the rollout it, they can deal with any negativity they have before it has chance to become contagious in a bad way and the team as a whole can strategize about how to generate energy and get the crowd engaged and excited, knowing that it will help them achieve success in field!

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