Most laboratory standardization initiatives wouldn't stand a chance without a strong project manager (PM). The standardization process depends on so many people—and so many pieces coming together just right—that the individual responsible for leading the way has a job that's among the most challenging in healthcare.
So how can you ensure you pick a PM with the skills that are necessary to guide the project to completion? We asked a number of respected laboratory leaders for their thoughts on standardization and project management, and they all agreed the answer ultimately depends on the goals and needs of your particular organization. Still, they said, the best PMs have at least five characteristics that clearly set them apart from the competition.
Because standardization affects so many people—physicians, administrators, and laboratorians alike—the PM must communicate continuously with them all. From meetings with the C-suite to interdepartmental conference calls to face-to-face check-ins with clinicians and staff, standardization involves nonstop conversation with a range of disparate stakeholders. If the PM can facilitate these conversations effectively, the rest of the process should fall into place.
While the PM won't necessarily be rolling up her sleeves to deal with the technical aspects of standardization, she must have experience as a laboratory leader to navigate the process efficiently and effectively. When challenges arise—as they inevitably do—your PM should understand how the decisions she makes will impact the lab and those who work within it.
Most PMs approach standardization with strong ideas around how the work should proceed. The best, however, know how to deal with the unexpected, and how to adjust their priorities accordingly.
Your PM, notes Donna Beasley, MT(ASCP)DLM, a consultant with Huron Healthcare and an expert in laboratory management, should be highly interested in the intricacies of standardization, but also able to keep the big picture in mind. “Keeping the project plan on task is what a PM should do. So you want to hire someone that's highly organized."
Last but not least, says Myra Wilkerson, MD, FCAP, Chair of the Division of Laboratory Medicine with the Geisinger Health System, the PM you choose to bring onboard should be ready to make the tough calls that are required to see the project through. “You have to be brutally honest when you do your assessments," she says.
A great project manager, Wilkerson adds, should “understand what success will look like for you," and be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that you hit your standardization goals. The process, she notes, can be fraught with potential difficulties, but if you take the time to put the right leadership in place, it's one that often proves rewarding in the end.
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