Adapt or die. So Charles Darwin wrote, and any shrewd businessperson knows it applies to companies as surely as it does to plants and animals. This is most evident in Silicon Valley, where a company’s ability to embrace change can be the difference between an astronomical market cap and being a cautionary tale. For industries such as High Tech, change is written into their DNA; it is a part of their culture and thus can be managed effectively.

For companies in more established industries such as Healthcare, the approach to managing change looks very different. The Healthcare industry, like any other established industry, experiences a steady pace of change, but the periods of extraordinary transformation are not constant or even common. These companies often develop an internal change management capability and then create a dedicated infrastructure for each major change initiative. This provides a dramatic improvement over treating each major change as a one-off event.

However, in the wake of the sour economy and sweeping healthcare reforms, change is coming faster and faster, and there will be a steady diet of it for the foreseeable future; the more measured pace of change is, well, changing. Those companies that are just now experiencing a heightened, sustained rate of business change may not have the luxury of emulating the progressive change culture of Silicon Valley. They are accustomed to a slow, incremental pace, a pace that is ill-equipped to handle the turbulence of the sea change that is just beginning. There is no time to adapt the company's culture, as it can take years to alter a corporate culture - years of excessive costs, effort and risks.

Faced with this dilemma, of accommodating a torrent of change in a corporate culture not built to do so, how will Healthcare companies adapt? The most pragmatic, and ultimately successful, approach is to set up a framework that can handle whatever change is coming. With the proper framework in place, it won't take heroic efforts to manage transformations; it becomes a matter of course. Such a framework should itself be flexible. If it is overly defined or standardized, that would defy the purpose and the spirit. The target framework will be different in each instance, but the solution should adhere to four basic principles.

Process Integrity. Establish a methodology and governance for accommodating change in your organization. It should be economical, intuitive and simple to implement and maintain. It should include focus on defining the level of business process maturity needed for each obstacle - those areas of business that remain steady require less attention than those undergoing a significant change.

Process Curation. Policies & Procedures address the challenge of keeping documentation updated and available. Tools, whether enterprise-level or point solutions, help keep business process information consistent and accessible.

Change Governance. A good project can go bad with poor management. This stage ensures the ramifications of the change requirements are fully understood within the organization, that business updates are designed appropriately and that those updates are converted into operational capabilities.

Implementation Strategy. Once an organization understands the changes needed and how to react in order to incorporate them, how can the organization actually make it work? This stage oversees the integration of additional or refined practices into the organization.

If your change enablement strategy is going to deliver benefits, it should be able to be developed and deployed in a relatively short amount of time. Having the right model in place enhances an organization's capacity to sustain a program of change across time and throughout an ever-shifting number of operational changes. Not only will this approach deliver solid benefits, it will also keep the company in the game ... and not just another cautionary tale.