October 14, 2022

Working with Change – Penguins and Cheese, Please!

Daisy Roberts

Some of you may already recognize what I’m about to reference (or wonder if I’m crazy) – but hang in there, as when it comes to working with change these two little artists performing in concert together make for a great show! (That is…these concepts when tandemly used make for great outcomes)

I am a full believer of the proverbial phrase “The Only Constant in Life Is Change.” (Thank you to Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.) Change is indeed all around us. Not to mention any world events of the past few years, I will focus on the constancy of change that we experience in our professional lives and workday worlds. I’ve spent my entire career in leadership positions – via management, project management, and consulting/advisory services within the space of Health Information Management (HIM) and Revenue Cycle Management (RCM). I’ve seen change! (30+ years…” Ouch” to admit!). I have both experienced and navigated change, and I have quite often even initiated and charted the change. Along the way, I’ve read many articles and books on change management, and I’ve tried various programs and techniques with my teams – however, these two little stories and their tips have really stuck with me.

A World of Change

Enough setting the stage – on with the show! Let me first introduce my artists – whom I refer to as Cheese & Penguins. Both come from great short story books that utilize a parable or fable to discuss and outline tips for the processes of implementing and dealing with change.

Who Moved My Cheese? – written by Spencer Johnson, MD and was first published in 1998. This follows two mice and two people living in a maze and their search for cheese as life circumstances change. (Fantastic character names by the way – Hem, Haw, Scurry and Sniff – gives you an idea of the natural reactions and emotions discussed in the face of change.) This is a great story on how to recognize and navigate the effects and emotions of change. It provides summary tips for doing so that are more individual in focus – to recognize, anticipate, respond, monitor, adapt, and embrace.

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions – written by John P. Kottler and Holger Rathgeber and was first published in 2006. This is a great relatable story about how a colony of penguins on a melting iceberg go about dealing with the crisis of finding a new home. It outlines strategy and tips for being a change agent…with eight steps to work through the process of change with team dynamics to achieve desired outcomes. It is more organizational in focus and outlines the importance of clarity in vision and communication, attention to action, and the empowerment of team members.

Effective Change Management

I love project management and change management – however, I’ve always advocated that ultimately change management is the most critical factor to the success of any project or initiative. So my greatest takeaway from these short stories, in concert with my own experiences, centers on the importance of communication.

For any project or initiative:

· Communications need to be performed frequently – with honesty, clarity & empathy.

(You really can’t start too early here, but you do need some pre-determination as “to whom” and “how” for proper delivery of the message and its likelihood to stick.)

· Communications must also be received and reviewed – with the same qualities of honesty, clarity, & empathy. (You do this through active listening and ensuring feedback loops exist though out the project. This is how we monitor and measure the progress and outcomes.)

I’m going to further drill down my comments and tips learned here in relation to an implementation project involving technology and operational workflow change. We continue to do so much of this in RCM and HIM today! (Say hello to AI/Machine Learning for example!). I am going to concentrate on the end user/receiver of the change here:


Tip 1 – Focus on the importance of communication:

Particularly when it comes to implementing new systems and workflows – a focus on the end users is key. Start early with communications aimed at both project and system understanding.

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What exactly is changing?
  • How do I individually need to work differently? · When is this change happening?
  • Who do I reach out to if I have questions/comments?

Next, mentor collaborative communication between end users involved, as well as any project team resources, to fully clarify project goals.

  • Understand the expected outcomes
  • Recognize any inter-dependencies
  • Reveal and manage potential resistance

To get there, and in the spirit of Penguins, start by developing the following with end users:

  • Develop a cross-functional team of peers –the goal setters and cheerleaders
  • Establish collaborative goals for project outcomes
  • Develop a cross-functional team of superusers – the helpers with system skills
  • Engage the informal staff “leaders,” as well as “Negative Nellies,” early in the project

Then, with both patience and ongoing reinforcement, focus end-user involvement with key project areas or activities:

  • Participating in product demonstrations of what is to be implemented
  • Identifying current workflows and understanding changes anticipated
  • Performing testing with the system or workflow and providing feedback
  • Training (of course) – and again providing feedback and issue reporting
  • Utilization of system reporting and monitoring metrics to both see and set goals

Throughout this all – communicate, communicate, and communicate some more!


Tip 2 – Share to prepare! Prep staff/teams with tools for undergoing substantial change:

The final note I want to express, and in the spirit of Cheese, is to share these short stories widely and in advance of a project. The nature of these two books, with concepts and actionable steps presented via a fable, lend themselves to be easily relatable and understood. They provide folks with tools for making necessary changes.

I encourage you to read these with your staff and project teams as it can create a powerful common language for communications during the implementation of a change. A common language that can be used for both communicating vision and progress overall of an initiative, as well as individual expressions on where folks are at in the process. (I’ve been known to even insert little pictures of cheese or penguins into my project materials! It works!)

In closing, I hope you read and enjoy these books. I know they will assist you and your staff/teams in your next major initiative – to sway to the changing music and enjoy the outcome of the show!

At The Wilshire Group we provide revenue cycle management expertise – through an optimal blend of technical expertise and operational experience – by a team polished in project management and change management skills. In partnering with a seasoned change-maker from The Wilshire Group’s strategic advising team, you can ensure a strong and successful finish to your next project or initiative. If you would like to learn more about our Advisory Services, contact us!

Daisy Roberts

Senior Strategic Advisor

Work with me