I love the turning of the calendar. It signifies a fresh start, a new beginning, and, in some cases, a reboot.

I do this personally and professionally. Personally, I take some time and try to answer two questions:

  1. Who do I want to become by the end of this year?
  2. What do I want to accomplish by the end of this year?

I then just write a bunch of stuff down, cross off some silly stuff, and then end up with a list that I'm happy with. I don't fixate on the list much after that. I just come up with a list of habits that I have to do daily in order to get closer to the person I want to become, and get nearer to my goals.

Professionally, the exercise is similar. I put all major initiatives through a framework to see if I'm really serious about success. None of this is original with me; I've taken elements from many articles over the years. I've done this as CIO for a health system and as a leader of multiple consulting organizations. It seems to work quite well for me, so I thought I would share the framework with you.

The Framework

Are you looking for an answer to whether you're ready to move forward with an initiative? Here are some basic, framework questions to ask first:

  1. Are we organized?
  2. Are we resourced (bandwidth)?
  3. Are we aligned (within the department)?
  4. Are we capable? (Do we have the skills?)
  5. Are we connected? (Are we aligned with the business?)
  6. Are we motivated? (How is morale?)
  7. Are we doing the right thing (priorities, mission, values)?
  8. Are we prepared to succeed (metrics that define success)?

It's important to go through each of these and really think about the answer before moving along.

Are We Organized?

Every project needs a project leader who owns the business outcome. This is not to be confused with a project manager. The difference is that a project leader owns the result of the project while the project manager owns the success of the project implementation.

A good project management office will have a framework for organizing a project. Some of the common elements are an executive sponsor, project leader, project management, governance, communication plan, risk register, budget, and a clear business case. There's no need to be exhaustive here; you just need to answer the question, "Are we organized for success?"

Are We Resourced?

If you are not ready to resource a project correctly, you may want to consider delaying or even eliminating the project.

Too many projects are underfunded and/or understaffed. This is different from projects that are poorly implemented and, as a result, run out of money. (That's a different problem altogether.) If you can't fund, manage, or staff a project from the jump, simply due to a lack of resources, you aren't ready to press Start.

Are We Aligned?

I find IT departments to be the home of many pictures of how something can be done. That's great. This creativity will lead to innovation and breakthrough.

However, once a path has been chosen, it is time to get aligned to deliver on a project. Make sure your entire team is on the same page.

Are We Capable?

Most projects require special skills. Look around and ask yourself if you truly have the skills at-hand to pull off the project.

If the answer is no, you have two choices: train your staff or bring on a contractor. Either way, you want to make sure you have the skills available to operationalize the project.

Are We Connected?

This has been written about enough. By this point, all good CIOs understand the importance.

Business and clinical sponsors are critical to the success of a project. Without them, you end up with a failed project, at best. At worst, you will find yourself on the island of misfit projects.

Are We Motivated?

How is the morale of your organization?

At the end of the day, people deliver projects. There are right times to do projects and wrong times to do projects. You may need to take some time to strengthen the team before you kick off a certain project.

I've seen organizations stack challenging project after challenging project with the same team on the front line.  Motivated teams deliver better results.

Are We Doing the Right Thing?

You need to ask the simple (but hard) question: "Should we be doing this project?"

Does the project align with the mission, vision, and values of the organization? How closely is the project aligned with the overall strategy of the organization? If you have questions, be sure to take the time to get clarity. Projects that are aligned with the priorities of the organization have a much higher rate of success.

Are We Prepared to Succeed?

We will know that we have succeeded when __________________ .

Fill in the blank with at least one statement before you start any project. There are process metrics and outcome metrics. Make sure you have both.

For an EHR project, a process metric is going live, while an outcome metric is when you've improved some aspect of care or experience in the health system. Projects with only process metrics tend to leave the organization and users wanting.

You may have your own framework for determining project implementation and success. The power isn't in the framework as much as it is in the exercise.

Ask the questions. It takes courage to ask the questions, and you have to be honest with yourself about the answers. It may reveal both personal and organizational strengths and weaknesses.

The exercise itself is a habit. An IT organization that evaluates their projects in this way increases the likelihood of success... and that's what we want from 2018. An IT organization that develops this habit will have ongoing success.

Hope this helps. Please follow me on Twitter @ThePatientsCIO, connect with me on LinkedIn, or reach out at [email protected] if you wish to discuss further. Thanks for reading.

For more reading on this topic, check out this recent article as well.

About the author

The mission is too important not to be ahead of the curve for Health IT

Exchange the dread of another meeting with the anticipation of delivering a better experience for your clinicians and the members of your community