Balancing the Scales to Compensate for Inadequate Resources

June 2017

At some point in many business professionals’ careers, they have faced the prospect of undergoing a major project with resources that seem grossly inadequate to successfully complete the project on time.  This is especially true in the healthcare IT consulting realm when the assigned resources fall outside of the IS department and are taking on the project in addition to their day-to-day duties.  As daunting as this may be, there are a few strategies that can be employed to help keep the project team in a positive mindset and the work progressing towards a successful completion:

Break It Down:  Keep goals on a smaller scale and milestones on shorter timelines.  Doing so will help keep the project team focused on the current assignments and allow them to build a positive mindset as they continually check items off of the to-do list rather than looking at the totality of the project and becoming overwhelmed.  Additionally, by keeping the space between due dates to shorter periods, it helps prevent those tasks from getting lost in the shuffle of the resource’s everyday responsibilities. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once:  Anyone who has watched HGTV has probably heard this expression.  It refers to when contractors double check their measurements before they make a cut.  The premise behind this saying is that taking an extra few minutes to ensure accuracy on the front end will ultimately save time and effort over the course of the project.  The same holds true with HCIS implementations.  While the pressures of meeting deadlines might always make you want to go, go, go, one is usually best served taking extra time to make sure that they understand and can conceptualize the consequences of the decisions that are being made in the early stages of the project.  Rushing through those decisions can often lead to mistakes that will inevitably need to be corrected at a further stage in the project.  By acting more deliberately at the beginning of a project and making sure you get it right the first time, you can save the hours and days that it may take to undo the mistakes that were made in the haste to meet the early deadlines. 

Get Off the Grid:  One of the more difficult aspects of trying to complete a project on top of regular job responsibilities is that those responsibilities do not care that you are trying to work on the project.  Even though time is set aside to take on some of the project tasks, the phone keeps ringing, the emails keep coming and the door keeps knocking. 

To counter this, be diligent in setting specific blocks of time aside in advance to work on project activities, and then plan on spending that time in a designated space (classroom or conference room can work well), away from the distractions that always seem to crop up.  Treat this time the same you would any other meeting or obligation; do not be late or leave early, always come prepared, and do not attempt to multitask.  With attention focused solely on the project and the risk of interruption mitigated, work can be done both more efficiently and with the necessary focus the project demands.  

Spread the Wealth:  One of the best ways to get through an enormous amount of work is to have more resources assisting with it, so never be shy about appropriately delegating when possible.  Giving small pieces to others to work on can make big dents in the totality of work, and is also a great way to introduce other staff to the project and keep them invested.  Moreover, having additional staff involved in the build and design process allows for project decisions to be more thoroughly vetted. Delegation is not an abdication of responsibility, but rather an invaluable tool that should be available in every project. 

Hit the Reset Button:  At least once or twice during the course of a project, the totality of the work that still needs to be done will inevitably fall on you like a ton of bricks, and with it a sense of dread and panic on how everything is going to get done. When this happens, take a step back and engage in any activity not related to the project. 

When you are ready to re-engage, pull out the project plan and immediately go to work on the next unfinished item on the list.  Being able to check off tasks often times can displace some of that panic with accomplishment and assists in swinging you back to a more positive mindset.  Ultimately, you can only do what you can do, and something as simple as a change in mind frame can go a long way towards increasing productivity. 

About The Author: Jonathan Lipson is a healthcare IS consultant with 11 years of experience working with clients to implement and upgrade their HCIS.  He has worked with healthcare systems of every variety from rural community access hospitals to corporations owning multiple facilities throughout the country.  While Jonathan’s primary focus has been on HIM and Patient Access applications, he has also worked extensively with practice management, MIS and interfaces.