Auf Wiedersehen

Yesterday, I said auf wiedersehen, goodbye in German, to a tour group visiting from Germany since last week. This group of 15 long term care administrators, managers, and care staff reached out to me several months ago and asked me to assist them with a trip to the U.S. to learn more about culture change, particularly The Eden Alternative and The Green House Project. In fact, one of the organizations on the tour is in the process of becoming an Eden Registry Member in Germany.

 I am always eager to help our international comrades, so I proceeded to plan a weeklong itinerary that involved multiple visits to Eden Registry Members and Green Houses around New Jersey and New York. I also managed to arrange a two-hour meeting with Dr. Bill Thomas following his Second Wind Tour stop in Newark, NJ.

In spite of the language barrier, it was obvious that the concepts we were sharing in the Eden Principles were understood and appreciated. It was also obvious that they were soaking up as much information as they could. They wanted to know everything, even the smallest of details. I really appreciated their eagerness to learn and to take new ideas back to their communities in Germany to improve life for their elders.

They were all so grateful for the opportunity to see and hear about our approach to creating real home. I encourage all of us to look for similar opportunities to go exploring for new ideas and perspectives. There is huge value in breaking out of our everyday routines every now and then and to go exploring. This is how you grow! And you just never know what you might find unless you look.

An Organization Is Its Language

 leafytreemulticolorOrganizations are a living system of conversations.  Decisions, actions, and a sense of valid purpose grow out of conversations. There is no doubt organization’s language is critically important. Our conversations are more than simply a means for communication.  They are a means for action and a way of insuring the organization’s vision and mission statements thrive.

An organization’s ability to create and change its language is equal with its ability to grow and change.  This is why in the long-term care culture change movement there is so much conversation going on around language.  It determines the well-being of both the organization and all care partners.

Organizations have a set of internal conversations that actually drive the culture. These conversations take place in meetings, staff lounge, hallways, around the nursing station, dining rooms, staff offices, etc. Often these current internal conversations are no longer as productive as they once were. They can prevent us in understanding the ways customers and needs are evolving. They even block us from meeting the new demands of regulations and current care partners.

For example, typically, managers focus on improving their organization’s current performance and to realize efficiencies.  The more efficient we become our vocabulary increasingly narrows. This language serves to answer familiar questions and thus increases efficiencies.  The organization’s internal language is designed to help managers facilitate present-day business—not look beyond it.  This has become a trap in trying to bring about change.

Another example is how language affects, even establishes, the ways people see their duties. It is the medium in which decisions are made, relationships are built and business activities take place. Language helps us to recognizes, selects, and amplifies certain individuals, activities, and relationships.  It helps us identify what leadership sees as important and ignore the changes that need to happen.

The conversations necessary for creating fundamental change do not come naturally.  These conversations will pose questions that cannot be understood in the organization’s present language. Consequently,  these new questions can often be dismissed if leadership is not committed to creating new conversations within the organization.

For an organization to change and maybe even survive, it must be able to secure new, relevant language that reflects the change leaders are actively introducing into the current system. Leaders do this by generating new language care partners come to understand and embrace. This new language creates new opportunities and supportive relationships that promote change.

To be successful leaders must create the capacity to recognize the need to change, and be able to translate the change into new language that reflects the organization’s new direction. This is absolutely necessary if any new endeavor is to be successful. Leaders must provide adequate resources for the nurturing of systemic change—even though the specific changes may not easily be understood at first.

Throughout its 20 year exists The Eden Alternative has challenged the language of long-term care settings and continues to do so even today.  New ideas that have evolved in 2012/2013 are:

Care plans are now referred to as growth plans.  Staff evaluations plans are also referred to as growth plans.

Job Descriptions are now Care Partners Professionals Roles.  New education tools are considered Paradigm Busters.  The Eden Alternative Well-being Domains are used to help organization measure their success in creating a world where life is worth living.

It is hard to understand how the organization’s historical language, which has been responsible for its current success, would seem senseless for leaders today.  But to change, we must begin to expand our language to increase opportunities for success

What changes are you making?



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