By Kevin Torf
Adaptability and flexibility are key in the ever-changing healthcare IT industry. Healthcare technology solutions are updated and approved at a rapid speed every day, causing IT specialists to frequently adjust strategies, prioritize professional development, gain new certifications, attend the latest conferences and more — all to keep up with the constantly changing landscape.
It is crucial for IT team leaders to maintain and continue to optimize their team’s focus and productivity on a continuing basis, especially during difficult and uncertain times. Maintaining focus and efficiency not only maximizes the impact of a healthcare organization’s IT budget, but it also ensures that an organization’s technologies are operating at the highest capacity so that doctors, nurses and other first responders can spend more time with their patients and less time troubleshooting tech issues.
Learn how your organization’s project management methodology can incorporate these five key practices to maintain your IT team’s productivity during challenging and unprecedented situations:
1. Ongoing Re-evaluation of Projects and Efforts
Due to the nature of navigating difficult times, IT teams must prioritize technologies and projects that are essential to supporting a healthcare organization’s core essential needs as they relate to the challenging situation at hand. As a best practice, develop a list of identifiable projects that your organization needs to accomplish in order to simplify approaches, magnify impact on crucial deliverables and avoid unnecessary complexities. When prioritizing, rank each project based on risk and exposure.
To ensure all projects are appropriately vetted, consider creating an executive IT steering committee to help identify low priority projects that can be deferred to maintain focus on essential activities until the difficult situation eases. These appointed decision makers should have authority to establish organizational efficiency initiatives such as patient throughput, staff/equipment scheduling and supply line management processes. Lastly, the committee should incorporate prioritized projects into the organization’s capital budget, aiming to maintain or expand business growth during times of crisis.
2. Continuous Engagement and Awareness of Your Team Needs
As an IT leader in the healthcare industry, prioritize keeping your team sharp and focused even during difficult times. When in doubt, overcommunicate when it comes to updating your team and monitoring project progress and workflow. Check in with your team members early and often; embrace understanding and patience when deadlines must be shifted due to unforeseeable roadblocks, and, most importantly acknowledge and appreciate your team’s hard work in order to be a supportive, reliable leader.
Keep in mind that your team may be going through unprecedented challenges in their personal lives as well. As a leader, it can be easy to have tunnel vision when working on fast-paced projects, especially during times of crisis. Make a point to check in with your IT team members each week, if not every day, and ask about their lives outside of work in order to reinforce their sense of belonging on the team and at the company. This is particularly important for any team leaders who may be managing remote IT teams, as team members can feel less supported when physically isolated from the rest of their colleagues.
3. Refine Delegation Strategies
Rather than continuing to blindly implement the same delegation and supervision strategies you employed before a difficult situation, take a step back to evaluate small shifts in your tactics that can benefit the entire IT team. For example, if you usually delegate deadlines for each of your team members, consider trusting them to assess their individual workloads in order to tell you their thoughts on a realistic project completion date. Then, work with each team member to come up with a feasible deadline that takes their feedback into account. This will teach your team a valuable lesson about managing their own workload while also reinforcing that you value their input. Deadlines are always more likely to fail if you force them on your team based on an incomplete understanding of what they have time to accomplish on the day-to-day.
4. Incentivize Efficiency and Reward Productive Workers
Successful managers know how to motivate employees to perform their jobs at the highest level no matter the circumstances. During difficult times and beyond, unity will always play a huge role in keeping your team moving forward with productivity top of mind. After all, no team member succeeds or fails alone — either way, it’s a team effort. Remind them that teamwork always leads to the best results, and never underestimate the importance of team bonding when it comes to building a supportive, efficient culture. Even if you feel bogged down by the difficulties your organization is going through, refrain from dwelling on negativity and celebrate both the small and large wins in order to keep productivity and morale high.
When it comes to rewarding your productive team, be creative and focus on incentives that are valuable to your employees on a different level rather than defaulting to the typical raise or promotion. Instead, consider benefits that like giving high achievers the opportunity to mentor or coach someone within the company. In return, you’ll be amazed as your team’s confidence, growth, skills and efficiency skyrocket.
5. Utilize Technology to Your Team’s Advantage
It’s natural for our team members to feel more distracted when challenges arise that require a shift from traditional office environments to at-home virtual workplaces. At-home work environments require us to balance our personal and work lives in real-time, as roommates, pets, children and more distractions attempt to stifle focus and productivity. To overcome these challenges, employers should explore new ways to manage and collaborate with teams to bridge any gaps between communication and time management. Consider investing in an intra- or interfacility instant messaging platform for streamlined, quick communication. Research and encourage project management tools to help both you and your team stay on top of critical deadlines. The possibilities are endless for your team and organization if you leverage technological advancements to increase productivity.
These five practices are also key components in the emerging Agile project management methodology. When properly integrated with the key foundational tenets of the PMI – Waterfall methodology they provide your IT organization the tools and capability to maintain their focus and productivity in even the most challenging circumstances.
Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years, specializing in large-scale IT strategic planning, project design and implementation. Kevin brings decades of experience in complex application deployment, IT architecture, electrical engineering and data center construction, infrastructure and consolidation, particularly within the healthcare space.