How to assemble your team for a successful improvement project

Picture of Suzie Creighton

Published on 26 March 2021 at 11:45

by Suzie Creighton

Assemble your team - 01

In this article, we’ll look at how you go about forming your improvement project team. Your team will be crucial to the success of your project. So, it’s really important that you pick the right people from the start. Below you find some hints and tips to help guide you through this process.


The importance of a QI project team

Improvement projects are usually conducted as a team effort, so just like in any team effort, choosing the right team is crucial. A successful improvement team needs clear objectives to guide its activities, as well as support from its leadership and the right resources. If your team members are able to work well together, the project is more likely to be effective.



Who should be in an improvement team?

A successful QI team will draw on the experience, skills and knowledge of a wide range of people. In other words, we recommend a multidisciplinary approach to help support problem-solving and provide effective solutions. Teams tend to come up with better ideas when they have a broader range of people and expertise involved.

In its report: ‘Improvement Teams,’ the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration says that although there is no exact science as to how to choose a QI team, there are a number of principles you can use. They characterise their ideal QI team member below.

An ideal improvement team member:

    1. 1. Represents any discipline and ideally works directly with the system targeted for improvement;
    2. 2. Is willing to learn from other team members;
    3. 3. Maintain open communication with staff, leadership, and consumers;
    4. 4. Is willing to assume individual responsibility that contributes to the team’s success;
    5. 5. Commits to the success of the improvement project.


The HRSA advise studying the attributes and expertise of any potential colleague you have identified. They also recommend a list of attributes QI team members should possess, ranging from: team players to proven problem solvers and from excellent listeners to good communicators. They suggest to find people who are frustrated with the current situation and therefore ready to help effectuate change.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recommends that - as teams can vary in size and composition - each organisation should build teams to suit their own needs. In their piece ‘The Science of Improvement: Forming the Team’, the authors go into detail about the types of expertise needed when selecting a quality improvement team. This includes requiring that members represent three types of expertise: technical expertise, system leadership and day to day leadership. In addition to these, you would also need a project sponsor.

Similarly, ELFT have lots of QI supporters and teams and they provide specific advice to help you pick your team. The teams use a QI solution called Life QI to help submit, track and measure their projects.

ELFT looks in detail at the characteristics of QI team members, which can really help when picking a team. You can read more here.

That is to say, if you are able to include in your team people who will ‘get things done’ and who will be able to motivate others in your improvement mission - including getting buy in from senior leaders - you will be half-way to QI success!



Defining the roles and responsibilities of an improvement team’s members

You have selected your improvement project team, and you have the right people in place. The next step is to define your team’s roles and responsibilities.

Let’s take a look at the types of expertise required for a really effective project team:

Clinical Leader – Your team’s clinical leader will help with the understanding of proposed changes and will have enough authority and respect within the organisation to test these changes and solve any issues.

Technical Expert – Your technical expert will know the change subject very well and understand the processes involved in it. If they are experts in QI methods, even better, as they can help the team with what measurements they need to make and advise on how to interpret and display data.

Day-to-Day Leadership – This leader drives the project forward on a daily basis and makes sure that the tests are rolled out and that data are collected. Your day-to-day leader should understand the system and understand how the changes will affect others.

Project Sponsor – your project sponsor needs to be someone with authority who can liaise with others across the organisation and help provide support to overcome barriers. Your project sponsor will not need to attend day to day meetings, but should be available to test the progress of the team regularly.



The importance of regular meetings

You chose your team and so, you are ready to embark on your QI project! Now is the time to start setting up regular meetings in order to drive your project forward. These meetings will be used as a regular ‘temperature check’ and where you will get to review performance data and monitor improvement efforts.

Regular meetings will help you keep in touch with your team and monitor your efforts. Keeping on top of monitoring and reviewing performance is where technology can be a real enabler. An improvement platform such as Life QI can help you keep on top of your organisation’s improvement work. The solution helps you to link all of your projects to the right part of the organisation, so you can accurately track improvement and it helps you to monitor trends over time and easily identify the projects that are excelling and those that have stalled.



Examples for an effective QI project team

The report ‘Collaboration in Health Care’ states: ‘Qualitatively, collaborative teams demonstrate improved sharing of evidence-based practices between professions, improved decision-making, and increased innovation. Quantitatively, collaborative teamwork may lead to reduced length of hospital stay, improved compliance with standards of drug prescription, improved quality audit results, and improved symptom and psychosocial management.’

In its paper ‘The Science of Improvement: Forming the Team’ the IHI gives some great examples of specific projects and the tasks related to them.

Let’s take a look at this one:

Example 2: Improving Patient Safety

Aim: Reduce adverse drug events (ADEs) on all medical and surgical units by 75 percent within 11 months.


Clinical Leader: ___, MD, Chair, Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, Patient Safety Officer
Technical Expertise: ____, RPh, Director, Clinical Pharmacist
Day-to-Day Leadership: ____, RN, Manager, Medical/Surgical Nursing
Additional Team Members: Risk Manager, Quality Improvement Specialist, Staff Nurse, Staff Education, and Information Technology
Sponsor: ___, MD, Chief Medical Officer


This gives a very specific example of the mix of the QI team and the aims of the project.



How to foster teamwork

So, you have your project team and your regular meetings in place. Now it’s time to start working together and to kick off your project in a way that motivates your team.

For example, you can foster teamwork through good communication and recognition of success through good communication and recognition of success. Technology can also help support by bringing together people who may be physically far apart. In its report: ‘Embedding a culture of quality improvement,’ the Kings Fund states: ‘Quality improvement in health care is based on the principle of health care organisations and staff continuously trying to improve how they work and the quality of care and outcomes for patients.’ Meanwhile, other studies highlight the links between compassionate care, patient safety and positive leadership approach.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust uses digital resources to support their staff running improvement projects, which has helped them see a rapid rise in staff engagement. They use Life QI as their improvement platform, and it has enabled them to increase their capability to having over 250 active projects in two years. In addition, teamwork is given a boost by giving teams access to the tools they need, which enables them to share the impact of the work they have done and celebrate it across the organisation and beyond.

To conclude, let’s circle back to the excellent ‘Collaboration in Health Care’ piece which states: ‘Involvement of all [these] team members in a cooperative and coordinated way is essential to providing exceptional care'. Wise words indeed and worth bearing in mind when starting your improvement project.




Start improving with Life QI today

Full access to all Life QI features and a support team excited to help you. Quality improvement has never been easier.

Free 30 day trial