Project planning and management

Project management describes the methods and tools that can be used to support an individual or a team to effectively manage projects. The core principles set out below ensure the three key elements of quality, cost and time are addressed.

  • Clear vision & purpose
  • Project sponsor
  • Clear objectives and outcomes
  • Clear communication
  • Effective planning
  • Facilitating effective meetings
  • Tracking, reporting and risk management
  • Learning lessons and adapting as you go

This section focusses on some practical elements that will help you to manage your improvement journey in a timely and efficient manner.

Project start-up or initiation is the first phase of project management. This is where a business case/project charter is developed to establish why the work is important, the problem the work will address and how this links to your organisation’s objectives.


Project start up

Before you begin, it is important to note that work of this nature cannot be achieved by one person. A team made up of different roles, skills and views will be essential to effective service improvement.

Key roles who should be part of the project team are:

  • a lead to co-ordinate the project and facilitate the team
  • service leads (clinical and non-clinical) who have the authority to change processes
  • representatives impacted by the intervention, this could be other departments, GPs, patients, etc.
  • a quality improvement practitioner to provide advice
  • a data analyst to provide support accessing and interpreting data, and
  • a sponsor to provide executive level support.

A project charter is the statement of scope, objectives and people who are participating in a project and supports the team to document what they want to achieve, why it is important and how they will measure success.


Identifying the right people

An improvement meeting should be a multidisciplinary meeting where staff from each step of a patient's journey come together to assess, diagnose and iteratively test changes to improve patient flow.

Here are some factors that can help keep momentum in your improvement meetings:

  1. Agreed meeting cycle – how often, how long?
  2. Agreed meeting purpose.
  3. Clear roles.
  4. Regular attendance.
  5. Agreed actions.
  6. Actions followed up on.

A stakeholder analysis can help identify the full range of individuals who need to be engaged and to understand what role they can play. 

Developing a communication and engagement plan will help to ensure that staff across your service are kept informed and updated as make changes to your pathway. Do you have mechanisms in place that will support this? for example mailing lists, internal webpages and/or newsletters.


Improvement meetings

An improvement meeting should be a multidisciplinary meeting where staff from each step of a patient's journey come together to assess, diagnose and iteratively test changes to improve patient flow.

When engaging with and establishing an improvement meeting it is important to ensure that expectations are set out. Expectations in relation to:

  • commitment
  • deliverables and objectives
  • timelines
  • how much time per week/month will be required, and
  • how progress will be monitored.

A number of case studies have been developed to share learning and show the impact improvement meetings can have and can be seen in the sidebar menu.

We often use meetings to communicate, make key decisions and review progress of projects with project teams or key stakeholders. To help you make meetings focused and productive use the 7 Step Meeting Process.

It was such a good meeting […] we had a GP, we had physios from the city and the shire and the acute sector. We had admin, we had consultants, we had nurses […] the whole MDT plus wider. It was really, really good. From a clinical point of view they [the service] focused on this is the journey we want our patients to take, and what are the issues, why do we have so many referral routes in, how can we have one referral route, and how can we have it that all patients have physiotherapy before they come to the acute sector unless there is a clinical reason not to. That was their driving force." Improvement Advisor, NHS Grampian

Team development

Improvement will always require a team approach. When a team is initially formed, building mutual understanding and trust is key to ensuring good working relationships.  Teams can achieve this by using Kahler’s Drivers, a tool designed to help teams understand individual’s behaviour and build relationships more effectively.

The questionnaire tool helps people to identify which driver(s) they exhibit most. The results are then used to facilitate conversations about team relationships and ways of working.


Project planning

Project planning comes after project start-up and should be informed by your project charter, stakeholder analysis and communication and engagement plan.

At this stage it’s essential to develop detailed key milestones of activity and tasks that need to be completed, so that the project team are all aware of expectations.

An action plan is a robust plan detailing all the actions required to achieve project goals. It includes necessary tasks, prioritises them, details who is responsible for leading these at the project level and describes progress.

A Gantt chart is a visual timeline of tasks that will help a team to identify what should be done by when. The Gantt chart can breakdown specific tasks in line with the action plan and in conjunction with the project charter.

The RACI matrix is a responsibility assignment chart that maps out every task, milestone or key decision involved in completing a project throughout the different phases. It assigns which roles are responsible for each action item, which personnel are accountable, and, where appropriate, who needs to be consulted or informed on tasks.