The Pathway to Internal Buy-In: Disciplined Project Management

By: Betsy Finkelmeier, RN, MBA

[box]“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” — Aristotle[/box]

If there is one prerequisite to success in all professional roles, it’s the need to manage projects effectively. Whether participating in complex, organization-wide initiatives or ones that are more focused and of a smaller scale, projects are ubiquitous to all our jobs. Effectively managing these projects with a disciplined and data-driven focus paves the way to needed buy-in and successful project execution.

During the past decade, the guiding principles associated with DMAIC, Six-Sigma and Lean Improvement have been transferred from industrial engineering into healthcare and have become established methodologies for process improvement.  Many of us have participated in multidisciplinary, organization-wide initiatives using these formal techniques.  Large, complex multifactorial problems absolutely require this type of sophisticated methodology along with diverse content expertise, rigorous data analysis and organizational tracking of key performance indicators.  More common, however, are the myriad of opportunities for process improvement on a smaller scale within our individual areas of responsibility.  How do we secure the needed buy-in from organizational leaders and other stakeholders to move these projects forward?  The answer is to act as the project manager and apply the guiding principles of effective project management.

As you consider your next improvement opportunity, ask yourself some key questions: What is not meeting your customers’ needs?  What do you need to change and how will you measure success?  Who are the customers and how will they be impacted?  Ask for customers’ perspectives and identify their expectations.  Spend time considering how the project aligns with the needs of the various stakeholders, such as physician customers, coworkers and managers. Explain to each group how they will benefit when the project is successfully executed, as well as the return on investment from each of their points of view.  If the goal is to improve referral access, physician customers may be most interested in increasing the percentage of referrals within 24 hours; hospital leaders may be more interested in decreasing the average wait time for all referral appointments.

Next, define clear, measurable deliverables that will demonstrate success and establish a realistic timeline for achieving these outcomes.  Consider how much oversight will be required to maintain new processes, as you want to be sure implemented changes are sustainable.  Determine milestones to demonstrate incremental improvement and solid metrics that provide evidence of success.  Once your project is underway, provide regular updates to the stakeholders.

We all have opportunities to improve processes in our work environments and better meet the needs of our customers.  If we approach these opportunities from the perspective of a project manager, with a disciplined, data-driven approach and sustainable, measurable project goals, we can clearly pave the way for obtaining buy-in from both customers and organizational leaders.