Quality improvement projects have traditionally been 18 months long - at least that's my experience in the healthcare in the NHS in England. I expect they are that length of time because it is about the right length of time to second someone into the role of project leader. After 15 years of experience, I believe this is far too long for a QI project.
The problems with 18 month projects
- they take 18 months...
- over-work the process; carry out redundant tasks to fill the time (every project leader wants to look good)
- too much emphasis on innovation and clever solutions, that are difficult for others to adopt
- difficult to maintain focus over so many months
- many clinical staff are unwilling to commit to the project
- the context changes reforms, new organisations, new care methods - all come into play during the period of the project
Instead, I advocate the 90 day project. This is enough time for the average team to implement the average type of changes; and average matters. Most teams can imagine 90 days and are more likely to commit to making the effort to improve a targeted area. They will know within 90 days whether their efforts were worth it. 90 day projects need lots of planning by the project leader, though this can be done with minimal intervention with the clinical team, leaving them to spend more time with patients. They are best done with known best practices that are known to work in a similar context.
For more info on 90 day projects from this blog:
Or hang in there for my new book on 90 day projects which will be out in January 2013.