The Opportunity in Failure

July 10, 2018

The Opportunity in Failure


Success is achieved only after many failures. Some days these failures never seem to leave our rear view mirror. The fact is, even the most skilled and qualified program/project manager makes bad decisions through the life of a HIT project.


Winston Churchill once said,

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”


This holds true in every aspect of life. From the time we’re born to the time we die, our natural instinct and desire is to succeed. While this is common to everyone, one thing that makes us different is the level of enthusiasm we have to succeed.


It’s easy to remember the failed attempts. However, it’s the paths carved by failures that bring value and lead us to big successes.


I’ve personally experienced these failures. I’ve witnessed the impact they’ve had on project teams. Technology teams, hospital operations, clinical staff, and physician teams alike have experienced major technological growth in the last 15 to 20 years, and through this growth came significant amounts of failure.


Never underestimate the impact of one bad decision on a project. Any large HIT project team that pulls off a successful project with minimal issues should be celebrated.


In fact, when I think about how healthcare technology, as a whole, has evolved in the past decade, from significant strides in medical research, advances and breakthroughs, to the advances in technology in healthcare, software & tools, regulatory changes, the innovations in medical devices, the financial perspective, and changes in how healthcare is administered in our communities it’s overwhelming all the opportunities that come along with these amazing advances. Opportunity to imagine, opportunity to learn, opportunities to save lives and help others. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


Hospital systems throughout the country and throughout the world, watch each other through projects for the outcomes, especially the large, big dollar enterprise wide projects. We hear about the good, the bad and the ugly in HIT online news and TV outlets. The latest news these days is all about data and security breaches, digital transformation, and the big healthcare IT acquisitions. While the standing questions being asked by hospital leadership teams working to transform care are:

  • Which hospital systems achieved a seamless outcome and which failed miserably?
  • How can we avoid making the same mistakes and improve our quality of care?
  • What helped, what hindered and how can we have a better outcome?
  • What are the main takeaways and lessons learned?


From selecting the best tools and applications to fit the needs of your facility, selecting the latest technology solutions, searching and identifying the right resources for your project that still fit your budget; every decision is important.


Today, unlike 10 or 15 years ago, there are so many helpful resources available that have relevant and valuable content. Published white papers and books with outstanding case studies help direct our steps along the way and answer the tough questions, and even provide us with those questions we don’t know to ask. New trending topics like digital transformation, robots, and AI tools create the latest buzz. Also, let’s not forget the breaches and threats to our personal healthcare data.



There is no question that 2018 brings with it a wide range of new topics within the HIT space. However, nothing can happen without the collaboration and enthusiasm of people. Below are 4 key areas that are critical success factors for any project, and working in tandem, will make the difference on whether your project succeeds or flops:


  • A Stakeholder Analysis, Leadership Engagement and Stakeholder Buy In – It is critical to a project that a thorough stakeholder analysis be conducted with a clear understanding of who the key players are on a project and what motivates them. Find out what their needs are, what concerns them, collaborate with them, and most of all listen to their requirements. You want to get them engaged and most of all you want them on your team! Getting stakeholders engaged is a critical success factor and one of the most important activities a project manager can spend their time doing.


  • Focused Goals & Measurable Objectives driven by a Clear Project Vision – While your overall vision, driven by the mission of the organization, is what we want to achieve, our goals and objectives need to be aligned with our vision. Our goals should be stated in unmeasurable terms and should be focused statements. Goals are the things that need to be accomplished in order to implement the strategy or overall vision. Our objectives are broken down to specific actions and timelines for achieving each goal, which are further broken down into tasks, durations and timelines. The final but important step here is follow-up and adjustments, ensuring that everything stays aligned with your overall vision.


  • A Communication Plan and Process – We all understand the importance of clear and concise communication on any project, yet communication breakdown can easily occur on any project. There are so many tools and templates available online today that can help us develop a strong communication plan for any size project. Use your goals and objectives as anchors to help pull the communication plan together. Here are 4 important communication goals that will help any project.
    • Get the right message to the people who need it, in a clear and timely manner. Follow ups ensure the message was correctly received and understood.
    • Reiterate your goals and objectives throughout the project to keep the team focused on the overall vision.
    • Assign an owner to the communication plan who will help develop a good communication process.
    • Monitor effective communication often and tweak when necessary.


  • A Lessons Learned Process, Tools & Library – One of the easiest things to do as a project manager is to develop lessons learned during a project, while you are actually experiencing the failure. However, we fail miserably when it comes to actually doing it. Trying to do it after the fact doesn’t count! You must establish a good process, keeping the information freely available to everyone on the team. Yes, it can be tedious and seem like a chore at times, but in the long run it saves time and money. If you’ve actually done it, then you know how valuable it is, especially for anyone preparing to walk down the same path. Again, there are so many tools and templates available online and it’s very easy to create a lessons learned library on Excel or SharePoint.


If you have anything along this topic that you’d like to share, we welcome your comments and suggestions!


Nina De Los Santos, PMP

VP Operation Delivery at Excite Health Partners