At its core, effective health care centers around human health and life—so, working in a health care field means making life-changing decisions. Unfortunately, the industry is unique not just for the higher stakes, but also for its unpredictability and complexity. Different industries, professionals, and project management styles conjoin, often inefficiently, and professionals must fight for the limited resources available.
At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Health Care Project Management: The Intersection of Strategy, People, and Process program aims to provide concentrated, highly impactful training on this work. Effective health care leadership means bridging gaps not only on the technical side but also on the people side of project management—the conflict, negotiation, and resolution of messy, real-world projects.
Capturing the ‘How’ of Health Care Project Management
“Health care is great about capturing professionals in terms of why. It’s a pretty easy sell: why do we need to prevent disease? The part that gets difficult is the how. This kind of work allows people the space to be thinking more strategically—to be influencing a variety of different stakeholders and helping them execute the work in front of them,” says Health Care Project Management program director Karen Curley.
Usually someone who comes to the program isn’t a health care novice, but needs guidance on nuanced management challenges—the course applies to different industries, skill sets, levels of education and settings. The model has also evolved to become more fluid based on the needs of the participants.
Magdalena Pajewska, chief of the International Cooperation Unit at the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products in Poland, attended Health Care Project Management in July 2017.
“I hoped to come back to my country enriched with new knowledge and, thanks to that, more confident in making project management decisions, based on informative case studies and lecturers providing hints on how to deal with challenges. What I got was exactly what I expected,” she says.
Health Care Project Management provides you with a concentrated dose of usable project management essentials that you can apply right away in your organization.
The People Skills of Health Care Project Management
The course is only three days to maximize time, while minimizing cost and time away from work. In addition to technical project management skills, leading industry experts cover people skills like team-building, delegation, motivation, conflict resolution, and negotiation, to name a few. The program makes use of both faculty lectures and a panel of professionals.
Curley says, “One of the benefits is that the course is taught by a group of people who are not simply academic. Every single person has spent time both in the classroom and in the business world. Furthermore, the knowledge base we’ve been able to give people evolves every year, because it’s current with what’s happening in the health care space.”
Rashid S. Niaz, MD, who attended in April 2016, is a VP of Digital Strategy at Medeximus, Inc. “Health Care Project Management provides you with a concentrated dose of usable project management essentials that you can apply right away in your organization. For beginners or seasoned professionals, the program can give you a world class experience in understanding how to navigate project management nuances in a health care setting,” he explains.
In particular, participants often find negotiation to be a particularly useful and underrated skill that requires the extra training. The program explores how effective negotiation is not just simply necessary at the beginning of a project, but that it is also an important factor in seeing that project through to the end, advocating for it along the way, and helping stakeholders understand how the work is coming.
Pajewska says, “I became knowledgeable in the secrets of successful negotiation: what made me a more self-confident manager but at the same time highly respectful of the emotions of others. I learned that ‘winning’ the negotiation doesn’t necessarily have to do with anger and offending opponents—that, for example, we should avoid the ‘winner takes all’ scenario.”
Another useful people skill is that of time management. “In any health care organization, people are trying to do way too much, and they can’t possibly get it all done,” says Curley. Thus, the skills the program teaches also center around timing and pace of work to maximize efficiency.
Slowing down work on a project, or breaking it up into stages, can be hard for professionals. “This work is tied to someone’s passion,” Curley explains. Participants are thus able to use the skills they learn from Health Care Project Management to speak to the right people, understand the organization’s priorities, and ultimately get more done.
Effective health care leadership means bridging gaps not only on the technical side but also on the people side of project management—the conflict, negotiation, and resolution of messy, real-world projects.
A Focus on Practicality—And Impact
The whole program is designed for maximal impact like the examples above. In other words, participants are encouraged to take what they need from the program and then bring their newfound knowledge back into the field. And, based on both instructors and alumni, the results are indeed tangible and concrete.
Niaz remembers, “I was in the process of consulting on a new 400-bed tertiary care hospital project, so I used the group exercise methodology [from Health Care Project Management] to launch two different groups and start the conversations around construction vs. operational planning. This not only helped the infrastructure delivery side get a better understanding of the operational team needs, but also helped them gel.”
Curley remembers one student whose goal was nothing short of life-saving, and who helped other participants understand the importance of their work. “She came from Portugal. She explained, ‘My project is to get blood from one remote village to another, and right now we’re just carrying it. We’re trying to get a van that will keep the blood at the temperature we need and move it more effectively, so we don’t have to do it ourselves.’”
Curley remembers feeling stunned. “You know the project management piece helps, but thinking about something lifesaving like that: people are so committed to this work that they’re literally putting it on their backs. Learning these skills helped that person write a grant to potentially make a huge difference in the lives of her patients.”
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers Health Care Project Management: The Intersection of Strategy, People, and Process, which drives meaningful growth in project leadership abilities in health care settings.