Three Sure-Fire Steps Leaders Must Take to Start a Project
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Skip these important leadership steps and your new improvement project becomes a three-legged race you can’t win. (Read to the end for help if you missed one of these three steps in your project kick-off.)
You are ready to launch a new initiative to improve the performance of your organization--what’s the best way to get started?
Based on my experience helping over 225 organizations successfully begin their change initiatives, here’s an effective formula to ensure success:
One. Choose the department for your initiative that you think will have the greatest chance of success. Notice I said “department”--not “departments.” Go “deep” before you go “wide.” In other words, the more narrow your focus when you begin a project, the more likely you are to be successful. The greatest chance of success generally means you have:
Physician support. You must have at least one physician champion. Three is better.
The support of the department leader--the Medical Director, Chair, or Chief of Service, etc.
The support of the nursing manager for the department.
The opportunity for a quick win--something that can be improved quickly when the right people put their efforts and energy into it. Success breeds success.
No other major change initiatives on-going. Change fatigue is a killer for successful initiatives
Two. Approach the physicians and key leadership for this department, and for the institution, and convince them to invest an hour in being educated about the methodology and potential results. At a minimum this group will include:
Someone from C-suite (president, COO, or CEO, and perhaps a board member).
CMO • CNO • Chief of Service for the selected department
All of the physicians from that department--be sure to include the physician champions
Director or manager from that department
Reps from QA, and/or Performance Improvement, and/or Risk Management
Three. Conduct an hour-long educational session--led by the change champion and one or more physician champions. If one of these champions is from another institution that has already successfully completed their change journey, that is even better. This session should cover these four things:
The data that makes the case for the initiative. This doesn’t always have to be only peer-reviewed data. Data and results from a peer institution as well as the stories from their journey can make a compelling case.
A clear description of the methodology to be followed to make the change happen
A succinct and accurate listing of the action steps you need the physicians to take to support the change. Be prepared to discuss the time requirements.
WIIFY. If you can’t make a compelling case for what’s in it for the practicing physician, you have no chance of convincing them to support the initiative. While the data is important, most human beings make an emotional decision, then find the data (or lack of data) that supports their decision. Ignore the discussion of WIIFY at your peril.
In 20 years of teaching leaders how to kick off their improvement projects, this is the most effective "launch sequence" I have found. Don’t worry about convincing everyone during these three steps. You won’t. But with the support of the critical few, you do have what you need for a successful kick-off. Whatever your initiative, be totally committed to it. It’s in the commitment of boldly jumping into the deep end of the pool that the magic happens.