As hospital leaders, you are often asked to do more with less in the ever-changing landscape of our healthcare system. Your responsibilities are often compounded with a handful (or more) of special projects you manage be it by choice or via delegation from leadership. It can be challenging to walk the tight rope of tackling such projects while ensuring the everyday expectations of your role don’t fall by the wayside. In this article, we’ll take a look at common project management pitfalls and 5 helpful tips to help you avoid them.
Tip #1: Understand the project requirements and metrics
Ensuring stakeholder buy-in is crucial to getting your project off the ground. A key part of managing communication and keeping your project on track is to first understand your stakeholders’ performance measurements. These KPIs (key performance indicators) will help you understand how your work will contribute to their goals. They will also guide you as you begin planning your project timeline and choosing your team members.
Remember: If your stakeholders don’t see the value in your project, it’s over before it started.
Tip #2: Gear up the right project team
Have a clear project leader defined. Effective project leaders come from a myriad of backgrounds. They don’t necessarily need to have previous specific project management experience, but it’s a good idea for them to carry certain qualities and characteristics. One of these qualities is the ability to be a coach/mentor. Choose a leader who is willing and able to navigate team dynamics and culture to ensure she understands how to motivate her team effectively.
In addition, a good coach needs to be a steady force who inspires the team to ride out the ups and downs. There will undoubtedly be challenges, but they’re much easier to overcome with a firm hand on the wheel.
Bonus: Choose a project leader who actively and consistently communicates progress and expectations. Your project leader will help you assign tasks as well as set expectations for roles and responsibilities. Poor communication can lead to far more than a few hiccups if the team isn’t on the same page.
Tip #3: Keep scope creep at bay
Changing the scope is one of many common pitfalls, and unfortunately it’s often unavoidable. Ensure your scope is clearly defined from the get-go. Take steps to actively discourage unnecessary deviations, and ask your team to do the same.
If the project progresses to the point where you are tasked with deviating from your initial path, talk openly with your team and stakeholders about elements such as budget, schedule, and resource availability. Lean toward maintaining your original scope when possible. If rescoping is a must, make sure you have buy-in from all stakeholders before taking the next steps.
Bonus: Having helpful project management software in place can be a lifesaver here. Your goals, tasks, timelines, resources, and other critical considerations should be a well-documented part of your action plan.
Tip #4: Document your project status
Document everything. Make sure your team actively uses an effective project management tool to track key milestones. Also, document progress as defined in your project scope.
Take the time to document appropriately, as many projects tend not to always meet timelines and budget limitations. It’s crucial to have information about such revisions ready for stakeholders. Avoid complicating the project with documentation that doesn’t add value to the project.
Tip #5: Evaluate your project plan and approach
Proper evaluation is one of the most overlooked aspects of a project. You complete the project and achieve the goals set out. Great! However, you neglect to take a deeper dive into what contributed to project completion. That’s a disservice to yourself, your team, and your stakeholders.
Next time around, evaluate the project by asking questions such as these:
- Did you and your team learn any lessons?
- What steps were the most successful?
- What steps did not work?
- Where did you successfully pivot?
- What were the most exciting highlights and victories?
- Were there any unforeseen challenges and how did you overcome them?
It’s easy to gauge your work by simply looking at the ROI (return on investment). While this is indeed a valuable measurement, considering the lessons learned can help to make you and your team more efficient. It also can contribute to maximizing future project successes and minimizing future project failures.
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