Building Momentum for Your Process Improvement Project: Three Questions to Ask

It's been less than two months and, already, many of us have forgotten our New Year's resolutions. That's how it goes sometimes. Good intentions and then no follow-through. The same applies many times to process improvement projects implemented within a hospital setting.

At Purdue Healthcare Advisors, we have witnessed firsthand how projects can become sidelined as team members struggle to keep momentum going. So how do you successfully plan and complete a process improvement initiative? Projects by their nature require resources, planning, and effort to complete. More and more demands on placed on organizations each day, stretching thin the resources and people needed to complete projects. Over the years as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt guiding many teams in process improvement, I've noticed that I routinely pull these three questions out of my toolkit. They always do wonders starting a project off right and moving it forward.

Who's on the job?

I always ask this question upfront: Do we have the right people on the team and is this project a priority for the team members? Often we have the people that "get things done" on our teams, but they are pulled many directions while working on multiple initiatives competing for their time and attention.

Why are we here?

It is critical that the team members have an understanding of the end result of the project and what steps they need to accomplish to get there. Why the project was started, and is its objectives still relevant? Are the goals measureable and are they tied to the strategic goals of the organization? How goals were established and are they realistic? Before any works gets started, the team must review the project objectives as well as how those objectives were set in order to determine if they are achievable in the given timeframe. Honestly, I get nervous when I see goals set as "achieve 100%…" or "have zero…" when the organization is operating far from that level.

Scope creep - Is there a shot for this?

Once the project gets underway, it's time to stay vigilant against scope creep. Team members should always ask whether the project scope is appropriate. Perhaps the objectives need to be broken into smaller sub-projects that can be distributed to other people or done in succession? Scope creep can be particularly difficult to keep contained, as anyone who has ever undertaken a home-remodeling project will attest. We often see projects start out with a reasonable scope and then veer off target and shift to another direction entirely, leaving many to question the actual objectives of the team.


Brian Hudson, MS, SSBB, serves as Senior Advisor of Lean Six Sigma at PHA, where he leads program development, Lean Six Sigma training, systems analysis, and project coaching/facilitation engagements for healthcare organizations.