The Forum

Slay "zombie projects" to make space for COVID-19 efforts

by Rebecca Richmond

Covid-19 is making it crucial for the health care industry to clear the decks of 'zombie' projects that we know aren't delivering but just haven't stopped. Though health care has never been great at this, the Covid-19 outbreak makes it necessary—now more than ever. Right now, we need every resource possible focused on confronting Covid-19.

3 ways to meet the essential needs of your frontline staff during Covid-19

Use a "quick and dirty" audit to stop ineffective projects

To start, try a 'quick and dirty' audit built around three questions:

  1. If we weren't already doing this today, would we start it tomorrow?
  2. If we want to start doing something new, what will we stop doing?
  3. What is the 'stop trigger' we'll use if the new approach doesn't work? (see some sample 'stop triggers' in the graphic below)

I know time is at a premium right now. We just need to get stuff DONE! But taking a moment to ask these questions might stop pain later when we find that people  (with best intentions) have been working on things that won't help us tackle the current situation or—worse—following protocols that are out-of-date and actively setting us back. 

Use a scorecard to de-prioritise projects

If you want to go a few steps further with something a bit more robust to validate your decision not to execute, here's a model from the world of IT that's deeply  applicable in care delivery right now.

The graphic below shows Cheyenne Regional Medical Center's Decision Tool to assess requests relating to their EMR roll-out. Most of the scorecard criteria can be applied to much of what we're being asked to 'prioritise' (and I use the term loosely given everything coming our way!) in a Covid-19 world.

First, do the rough scoring, and then map the projects or priorities on the 2x2 grid to figure out where to focus resources. If the scorecard takes too much time, just use the 2x2 grid to help place the right bets on what needs to get done right now versus what can wait versus what should NOT happen!

What to keep doing after pandemic is over

One final thought: I've had many conversations in the past few weeks about virtual channels or provider data sharing. Some of those conversations have focused on where risk barriers are dropping given the urgency to get things done. And I've heard epic arguments about whether a digital channel is safe or high-quality enough be resolved just because we need to move!

It's likely this slimmed-down decision-making is going to lead to some real innovation that will change the way we work for the better. So, in addition to stopping stuff that doesn't matter right now, how can we make sure we're also capturing stuff that does matter, so that we can learn from it, implement it long-term, and ensure we don't lose the magic once this is all over?

I'll leave you with this simple tool that suggests what you need to capture now when you identify new processes that ARE working, so that you have a story to tell (and some proof-points) that will mean the new approach becomes the permanent approach.

Covid-19: What you need to know in 30 minutes

Every week Advisory Board's Vidal Seegobin will lay out in 30 minutes the most important COVID-19 developments for global health care executives, based on what's happening around the world. If you make time for only one call each week to stay up to date on the pandemic, this is the one. We're hosting the first session on 14 April, with two times to accommodate members around the world.

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