It's a Process, Not a Program

December 17, 2012
Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative

As a society, we love our programs.  Move around in any professional sub-culture and you will hear the word “program” thrown about repeatedly.  We love methodically following their pre-determined steps and adding them to a list of other programs that we are already implementing.  I have been to meetings and professional events where lists of programs pursued and pulled off are shared like a shelf of trophies.  Done that, been there, next program please.  Do programs add value?  Sure they do, likely some more than others. When it comes to creating deep and lasting culture change, however, programmatic approaches and thinking won’t get you very far.

A program typically becomes the focus and responsibility of a few designated individuals, who, alone, attend to each articulated, predictable step that defines it.  While 2 folks are working on Program A, you may see 2 more managing Program B.  No one else has to worry about the success of Program A or Program B, because, hey, its success is “not their job.”  The result is a series of little separate silos within the organization, which may not account for developing a shared sense of ownership or the possibility of benefiting from and building on collective strengths.

When it comes to person-directed care, step-wise approaches simply don’t deliver, as they don’t take into consideration how different and unique every individual is.  Person-directed care is a process.  This is why The Eden Alternative recognizes that promoting person-directed care means offering a philosophy based on guiding principles. Principle-based approaches offer both a shared language and direction, while also providing the flexibility to respond to the unique needs and circumstances of all involved.

As a process, culture change is dynamic, always growing and becoming, and woven into how we move through every moment of our day.  People often share that they don’t have time to “add” person-directed practices to all they already do.  This, again, is programmatic thinking.  We don’t embellish daily operations with culture change ideals; they become the very filter through which those daily operations unfold.  It’s not about “what else” you are doing; it’s about how you are doing what you already do.  It’s about creating a way of life, a way of being; and it begins with leadership modeling what it means to live and breathe these ideals each day.  It also involves engaging everyone on the care partner team in discussions about how this process is different, and infinitely richer, than just another program.  No matter where you land on the continuum of care, consider the following for conversations with employees, the people you serve, and their family members:

  • Distinguish the difference between a program and a process.  What does this mean to different members of the care partner team?
  • Discuss why all members of the care partner team play a vital part in the process of integrating person-directed care practices.  What feelings do they have about this important new role?
  • Explore examples of how this process is shaped and framed by the unique needs and preferences of the Elders you serve and all of their different care partners.  Solicit additional stories from different members of the care partner team.

The more that all involved understand this important distinction, the more successful and solid your change efforts will be!

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