QUERI – Quality Enhancement Research Initiative

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Quality Improvement Methods

37. Project Management

a. Definition: A project is a one-time occurrence with starting and end time. Project management is a discipline to assure that a successful project occurs. This involves planning the project and controlling it as it occurs. Project management also involves getting the project started, completing it according to the intended goals. The challenge is to balance the three conflicting objectives of performance (results), time and cost. Improvement regarding one objective often has an undesirable effect on the others. Improving performance may increase the time necessary, for example. Certification in project management and a published body of knowledge are available from the Project Management Institute.

A project consists of a set of tasks, each of which requires time to complete. Other than the initial tasks, tasks are generally dependent on prior tasks and the entire set of tasks can be viewed as a network. The longest path through the network determines the duration of the entire project. This longest path, or critical path, can be calculated by an algorithm or Critical Path Method (CPM).

Achievement of a QI change nearly always involves a project. Thus, QI requires project leadership and an understanding of the challenges of project management. Various tools and software exist to assist the project manager such as the Gantt Chart (see 17) and the critical path determination.

b. Literature:

  • A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Project Management Institute, 5th edition (2013). This book (PMBOK) provides a comprehensive set of project management methods and is widely recognized the basis for a certification as a project manager.
  • Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold R. Kerzner, 11th edition (2013). This book aligns with PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).
  • Shirley, David. Project Management for Healthcare. CRC Press, 2011.
  • Belson, David, Chapter 21, Project Management, in Patient Flow: Reducing Delay in Healthcare Delivery, Springer, International Series in Operations Research & Management Science, Hall, Randolph (Ed.), 2nd ed. 2013.

c. Example: A research proposal may envision a large or small endeavor but in either case success will generally depend on having the necessary plan in place at the start and throughout. This means setting a well-defined objective, a scope limiting the range of things the project plans to address, tasks, responsibilities and a timeline. The project should have a way to control changes to the scope, which often result in cost overruns or late completion. Project management's methods provide ways to track progress in comparison to the plan. Software is available to develop the project plan, to monitor progress and communicate responsibilities.