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Monday, April 12, 2010

One Sick Project

A junior manager of a healthcare organization came across a no-brainer solution to a serious problem, and therein lies a depressing story. This is an illustration of the failure of goal coordination that fosters extensive effort -- extensive, fruitless effort.

In the healthcare facility, there traditionally has been a high rate of back and neck injury among staff members who have to lift and turn bedridden patients. Most of the patients are incapable of helping in the effort, and some are quite hefty. The patient also can suffer injury because of the clumsiness inevitable when two or more people are moving an inert body.

The junior manager attended a conference at which she learned about equipment that will do the heavy lifting while the attendants carry out simple, easy tasks and guide the process.

She put together a project proposal for installing the equipment in various patient care units of the facility, emphasizing the benefits to the workers’ health and the organization’s management of its costs. There also, not incidentally, would be the contribution to the comfort and welfare of the patients.

The decision to propose a change instantly transformed the junior manager into a project manager, which she didn’t realize. While she was somewhat familiar with project management, this was the first time a sizeable project had arisen in her worklife. Unfortunately, the project warning bell didn’t sound in the back of her mind.

In due course, senior management approved the plan, which was to begin with a pilot implementation in one department that had volunteered to go first. The equipment was installed, information was provided to senior professionals in the department, explanatory signs were made and posted.

It’s all been downhill since.

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