HIMSS: Project management teams that maximize benefits together
ATLANTA--Make sure you clarify and quantify your project management objectives as early as possible to avoid misinterpretation, said Dan Furlong, MBA, project management officer at the Charleston, S.C.,-based Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Health Professions during a pre-conference workshop at HIMSS10 today.

The session, facilitated by Furlong, was a day-long workshop focused on the effectiveness of project management through multiple teambuilding initiatives. In a demonstration project, he had five teams of healthcare professionals attempt to reconstruct a 24-piece puzzle with varying degrees of difficulty as some of the pieces and puzzle boxes were painted over white. The puzzle pieces were meant to represent organization’s resources, stated Furlong.

“How many times has your organization not fully understood their project’s outcomes,” posed Furlong. "A clear objective has everybody working towards the same objectives, said Furlong. Once objectives are clarified, the organization gains buy-in and are easier to accomplish."

He used SMART to demonstrate how an acronym can be a helpful tool in identifying objectives, such as::
  • S-pecific – The organization should have a specific outcome;
  • M-easurable – The outcome should be able to be measurable to quantify outcomes;
  • A-ttainable: The objectives should be realistic to add to buy-in;
  • R-elevent: The objective needs to have a purpose at the organization or else it’s a waste of resources; and
  • T-ime based: The objective should have an intended schedule of roll out and implementation.

Citing an analogy of a family meeting with a building contractor to build a new deck, Furlong stated that the objectives’ scope is defined by the organization’s constraints and assumptions, including self-imposed constraints. “It teaches the point that you don’t want to jump into work before you have the scope.” For example, there could be building codes where building a deck would violate local legislature meaning that an organization has to always keep an eye outside of the organization to preemptively prepare for such a situation, Furlong stated.

“A Work Breakdown Structure team keeps a team focused, sharing the same vision,” said Furlong, adding that the structure should be deliverable-oriented in nature that prioritizes and “decomposes into tiny deliverables” within the organization.

Although interacting with people can be difficult, Furlong acknowledged: “The assumption can be that every group is only protecting their turf and not aligning as a team." Departments can put on “filters” and think differently of people depending on title and the organizational culture, he said.

“You’d do well to have an objective nonbiased person facilitating sessions when you can,” stated Furlong. "They could ask the lateral questions that drive to better team take-aways. People often learn more through their failures than their successes."

Keeping objectives clear and quantifiable can help align your organization's team to work through the objective's failures and successes, concluded Furlong.