In this time of rapid transformation of care delivery, financing and business models, successful project management is more critical than ever. Whether a major facility or IT project or operational projects such as new staffing models, population health initiatives or business process enhancements, projects of all types benefit from project and change management expertise. Well run projects have a far greater chance of coming in on time and on budget. Organizations with high-performing projects realize project success more than twice as often as do their counterparts with low-performing project management.

Successful projects share several key elements, including: committed, supportive leadership, a clear definition of success, trained project management professionals to drive change through each phase of the project and engaged and informed stakeholders who will support and adopt the changes associated with the project.

What do these critical factors mean for a typical healthcare organization?


The role of leadership cannot be under-estimated. Studies have shown a direct correlation between senior leadership engagement and project success. Senior leadership commissions the project and approves the project charter. In addition, senior leadership engagement is critical throughout the lifecycle of the project: as champion for the project, in active monitoring of its progress, taking decisive action when issues are escalated and removing roadblocks that are beyond the influence of the project team.

Project Charter

A well-crafted project charter provides the framework for the project: its scope, the strategic and business objectives to be achieved and timelines. It identifies the stakeholders to be considered and involved. A well-crafted charter provides the basis for the project plan. Equally important, the project charter establishes what is out of scope which provides focus for the project team, creates clear expectations of the project and prevents scope creep.

Professional Project Management

All managers are responsible for managing projects. But, not all projects are alike. Nor are all project managers. Some managers naturally bring the change, time and project management skills needed to lead a project. However, even the most naturally gifted can benefit from project management training. The more complex the project, the greater the need for trained, experienced project managers. The number of disciplines and departments involved, the degree of transformation required, the criticality of timing, the need for IT changes and the cost of the project are all considerations in determining the type of project manager best suited for the project.

Stakeholder Engagement and Change Management

Too often, projects are de-railed due to lack of key stakeholder engagement, understanding and adoption. The discipline of project management includes a thorough assessment of stakeholders impacted by the project, their needs and the best means of engagement. This assessment combined with time tested change management processes improves the level of stakeholder understanding, participation and adoption to ensure that project goals and outcomes are achieved. Stakeholder engagement is a critical investment in long term project success that cannot be over-looked.

Where to turn for assistance

There is an array of resources available to establish the discipline of project management throughout an organization, both internal and external. For organizations with an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO), internal project management experts can be tapped to provide training and resources for their non-EPMO project management colleagues. Training programs that offer project management certifications are a rich source of education. Local chapters of these organizations, colleges or other community organizations are also a good for source of training and networking. Independent project management consultants can offer an array of project management resources to support an organization’s needs, both educational and contract project management. Any combination of these resources can fill gaps while an organization builds the internal project management competency and infrastructure to ensure the success of projects throughout the organization.

These fundamental steps lead to a greater discipline in managing projects, minimize risk and create a culture that can effectively manage the innovation and change required for future success.

Theresa Lewis
Practice Management Consulting and
Interim Management

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Author: Theresa LewisSenior leader of physician enterprises in integrated delivery systems. Broad experience in: strategy, physician engagement, organizational structure, physician recruitment, compensation and contracting, practice operations, ambulatory quality, compliance, revenue cycle and ambulatory information technology for both employed and affiliated providers. Managed various projects resulting in enterprise system standards and strategic vendor partnerships.