This week’s episode is the third in a three-part series about getting projects back on track. No matter the size of a project, it’s the culmination of ideas that have come along the way. It’s important to know how to execute ideas and celebrate the people behind them. In this episode, learn how to manage milestones, deadlines, and people on large projects, all while avoiding the dreaded scope creep.
Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone, and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans. And many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell.
Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together and hear some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.
Michael: Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts here today with my co-hosts, Scott Zeitzer, and Jared Johnson. Today’s episode is the third in the three-part series about getting projects back on track. As we’ve talked about everything from getting projects on track to workflows, to all sorts of things, but the bigger a project is, the more likely it is to get derailed along the way for lots and lots of reasons, and delays come with big price tags.
So, how do we exceed expectations and overcome some of these common obstacles, and that’s what we’re talking about in this series. If you haven’t checked out parts one and two, we encourage you to listen to them. That’s episodes 82 and 83. Today, we’re discussing idea execution. And it can get a bit tricky because it’s part human resources-based, and it’s part industry-based, you know, part job type, all of that fun stuff.
So, guys, this is our third episode to solve workflow, solve all these things. So, guys, we got it, right? Everybody feel confident about that?
Scott: Well done. No big deal. No big deal.
Michael: Perfect. You know, no matter the size of a project, it’s really about ideas coming together along the way that make that project succeed. You know, probably the project started out as something that was a quick solution to something, and then the further you get into that process, the more and more kind of ideas contribute into that.
So, let’s talk about the idea process, because I think that there’s…if anyone has been involved in a meeting ever, or you’re trying to solve a project, there’s definitely that process of everybody just kind of throwing ideas out there. So, let’s start off with some of these kinds of questions like, what slows down team members today? And what kind of bottlenecks are we seeing around idea implementation, idea contribution?
Jared: Michael, I think the process here you’re referring to is a result of the things we’ve been talking about in the last couple of episodes, the first couple parts of the series, which is where you’ve established your workflow, you’ve established the goal, the milestones, and you’ve brought art and science to the table. We’ve talked last episode about data versus, you know, the desired goals, everything you need to bring to the table.
And then what happens? There’s a good chance at that point that you get what you want, which is a lot of ideas to improve and to get you there. And sometimes that’s a problem, because then how do you pick and choose? A lot of us, we’re human beings, and so we do associate the idea that we came up with. We take it personally if it’s not implemented, if it’s just not taken seriously. And so there’s just some navigating that has to happen to keep that, and in my mind, that’s one of the things that can slow things down.
Scott: I agree. Being the head cheerleader for a lot of different projects, making sure that everybody’s voice is heard is critical to success. And making sure that everybody’s ideas are heard, I go back to the previous episode where we were talking about having some data points to talk about what ideas make sense and don’t make sense and why so that it becomes more of an analytical thing rather than a personal thing.
There’s a lot of times where, again, you talk about people who are extroverted, like myself, versus people who are introverted, who have some strong opinions but just don’t feel comfortable with it. We did talk about in a previous episode about, you know, the fact that we use something like SurveyMonkey even for internal conversation so we can get those good ideas from some of our key players out there. And it’s always going to be this balanced conversation.
I’d still go back to like, “Hey, what are the major goals of this project? Then how do we get to that endpoint?” I think when you have some assumptions that are made, and you test those assumptions, you’ll fine-tune it and move forward. I’ll tell you something else that happens. Sometimes you’re completely wrong and you’ve got to have a whole new direction because the assumptions you made were incorrect. That’s a big part of Agile development versus waterfall development, for those IT people out there, and having to update.
I think, Jared and Michael, we’ve all been in a room with ourselves and with our customers where we deal with something called scope creep, where, you know, new ideas come up, and we, “It’s not that big a deal. We can just add this in, man.” And it’s like, “Well, sure, it’s possible, but it’s going to take more time, or it’s going to take more money, and how do you deal with that, right? And how significant is it in this particular phase?” Those are all things that come into play that need to be balanced out correctly. And it’s a lot about balance.
Michael: Scott, one of the things that we’ve definitely talked about before is competing ideas that don’t have a final point of decision. So what I mean by that is, like, hey, this person is feeling this way, and this is the idea that they’re pushing really hard. This other person is really pushing this idea. Maybe depending on the size of the room, there’s more and more ideas. At some points, there has to be some sort of process that says, “This is the one that we’re going with,” right?
Scott: Oh, yeah, yeah. We deal with that quite a bit when we work with larger companies, where, again, look, man, we’re the vendor, right? So, we’re sitting in a room. We’ve developed applications for over 20-some odd years. We know how to develop an application, not an issue. But to your point, Michael, this isn’t about the ability to get it done. It’s person A from a particular department really believes that this is one way to go. Person B from another department says, “This is another way to go.” They’re arguing with each other.
We’re just sitting on this call waiting to see what happens. And either the vendor or somebody higher up needs to finally just make a decision, right? Somebody needs to make a decision and definitely go one way or the other, or you will cause…by not having somebody “win,” so to speak, you’ll basically just keep losing because you’re not willing to pick a particular direction. And that causes quite a bit of problem and commotion.
Michael: You know, I’ve balanced that out with, like, right now we’re talking about all of these ideas that keep coming in and that there’s the surplus of ideas and somebody has to choose something. But, you know, I think all of us have been in the scenario where there’s not enough ideas coming in.
Michael: And so you’re trying to, you know, in terms of other bottlenecks and other kinds of things that can slow project development down or slow, like, solutions down, sometimes it’s too many ideas and sometimes it’s not enough. And so one of the things that I’ve seen create some real momentum sometimes is blocking off time for just new idea generation. And this is something that I have to block out some time for myself to make sure that I actually am getting to somewhere where I’m actually creating something instead of just responding to slack or responding to email, or responding to whatever other system is trying to ping me at the moment.
So, I think that there is this other side there where we do have to make sure that enough ideas are coming in because that project’s going to stall out pretty quickly if not.
Scott: Yeah, you know, Michael, that is a really interesting point you bring out because everybody talks about too many ideas, scope creep, bloat and ultimately just comes down to, honestly, someone’s going to have to make some decisions about what stays, what goes. And I think that if you’ve got too much, those are, frankly, a little bit easier to deal with. You know, when you’ve got writer’s block, or idea block, that’s a harder one, man. And I agree with you that you’ve got to be able to wall yourself off so that you can be creative.
You know, one of the things that I am adamant about for my own company is that I make people take vacation. I make people only work X amount of hours a day. We don’t allow people to do those… Like, I am not looking for someone to work 12 hours every day. The value of those 12 hours, like what they’re pushing out every hour, is not that great, man. It’s just how we’re wired as human beings. And we are, at our core, whether you’re an application developer, or a marketer, or a designer, we are creative people coming up with creative solutions, and that requires some thought, some time, some rest, or you’re just not going to get there.
Anybody who reads “Harvard Business Review” on a regular basis will know that anybody reads the MIT version of it, and I’m blanking on it, and I apologize to the folks at MIT. But there’s nobody out there who says like, “You know what, just make your people work 20 hours a day.” You know, Michael, you’ve heard me talk about it, like, “Guys, take your vacation time.”
Michael: Yeah, sure.
Scott: No doubt about it. And I’m going on vacation next week, everybody, and I’m going to enjoy it very much. I tell my beautiful bride that I’m going to look at my email for about a half-hour in the morning. I’m going to look at my email, etc. for about a half-hour in the evening, and you got me for the other 23 hours because I can be that much more relaxed, and that’s what works for me.
Everything works for somebody different. And, Michael, I think it’s a bigger problem when there’s a vacuum rather than when there’s too much. I never worry about too much. We’ll figure it out. We’ll hire more people. We’ll discuss version 2, right? But, man, if you got no answers, that’s a real problem.
Michael: There are so many ways that people come at idea generation. One of the things that I like to see and that I enjoy quite a bit is really seeing what other industries are doing, how they’re coming up. You know, everything that we talk about on this show and a lot within the company itself is so healthcare-focused.
Michael: It’s so medical device or so medical practice, or you know, whatever, but, you know, looking into other organizations. What are car manufacturers doing? What are… You know, all of these kinds of different organizations, and the ideas have to change when you move them from space to space. But it is possible to learn from other places and to bring that kind of information into where we’re at as well.
Scott: Definitely true. Creative people need different things to look at, read about, think about, etc. so they can come back. You know, I’ll never forget we had Reed from Doctor.com on…wow, from a very previous podcast. Guys, I do not remember what episode number it was, but he once said to me, and it really stuck with me. It was a few years back, and he…I think it was back in 2020, a couple years back. And he said something like, “I keep wanting to think about 2023, but they keep pulling me back to 2020. I got to get away, man.” I was like, “That’s a really valid point.”
Michael: I think a lot of us wanted to get out of 2020. So, yeah, I think that was valid.
Scott: Right. Please give me my vaccine. And I’m glad I have it. I think that idea generation, and we’ve kind of gone down this pathway about idea generation and about different ways to attack that problem of idea generation. We all have our different ways of doing it, but as the owner of a business, I can tell you, having done this for a long time, giving your team time to rest and think is so critical to your success. I cannot think of anything more important than that.
Michael: I like being an ideas person, right? I like keeping my head in the clouds whenever I can, you know, really thinking up these big ideas. But at some point, those ideas have to turn into something real. They have to turn into milestones, tasks, deadlines, all that fun kind of stuff, because if it never turns into that, then you have no progress as a business. You have no opportunity to really start, you know, generating something.
So, what does it look like for various, I guess, types of personalities? And this is something where like the HR part of it can kind of come in, like, how do you get team members to kind of move from generating ideas to actually moving towards these tasks? And then what does that process look like?
Scott: Yeah, and isn’t that different for each individual person? You know, at our company, everybody takes StrengthsFinder, that kind of mini Gallup poll, I guess. And there are a lot of different companies that employ similar types of things, and understanding the strengths of the individual performers on the team are very critical so that you can ask them what they’re good at rather than trying to get them something they’re not good at because that’s just not going to help you anyway.
I think the other thing I did want to bring up is the word “team.” You know, I was talking about this with you guys previously about we throw that word around very easily like, “Hey, we’re all on the team.” But if you’re not actually acting like a team where you’re helping each other out and really trying to get to a goal together, that word “team” really loses meaning very quickly and will hurt you ultimately.
Jared: Right, and, Scott, I think that comes back to this thought of we’re still dealing with people, you know, human beings all along the way.
Michael: And there have been points where you’re going through a project, and you hear people refer to it as, you know, “Hey, that’s my baby.” You know, wording like that that is hard to get around in my mind because you don’t want to diminish the…it tends to refer to the amount of work that’s been put into something.
And that part you don’t want to diminish, but at the same time, you can’t think of it in the same way because unless you all are like a one person, everything sharp, and you’re doing all…I mean, this is just not how projects are done these days, you know. You get a lot of input. You have a lot of team members collaborating to create something amazing that any single one of them couldn’t create on their own.
It’s this synergy effect. And if we just start thinking about, like, one part of it as, you know, like we feel it’s kind of our possession, then it’s really hard to navigate around that, at least from what I’ve found, if people really take it personally, and, again, it doesn’t diminish the work that’s been done. It’s the fact that at the end of the day there might be other data and other ways to make decisions to realize that for one part to be changed, the end result is going to be better.
And everyone, if they can get on board with that, they can realize that, yeah, they made this important contribution, and because they were willing to see the value of changing, tweaking, whatever it is, you know, some idea that either did or didn’t end up being part of the final product, it’s a very different conversation, and it’s a different way of looking at it, but it is something that happens a lot.
Scott: At our company, we have a…we call it our Monday morning meeting, and every week we talk about, “Hey, here’s what happened last week. Here’s what we plan on working this week, and then from a big picture, do you guys remember that we’re, you know, trying to get this accomplished, you know, for the month, the year or whatever,” and we all talk about it. And sometimes it’s a half-hour, sometimes it’s five minutes. It really just depends, but we always get together to go over that.
And as you were telling me that about this team approach, about how people tend to take some things personally, it’s all going to be a balance between the people, you know, as a human being, as an individual, versus the team. And I really do go back to that balance that’s found when there is a shared purpose. And if there’s a shared purpose for that team, then the ideas flow a little bit better.
So, rather than it being about a particular individual, there is a shared set of goals. You go back to this very first episode we had two episodes ago about, you know, trying to define what the big picture is, why are we here in this room kind of a conversation. Going back to that can help with that me versus them, that team approach versus the individual approach, and ultimately getting to the goal that everybody wants to get to, which is the completion of the project, shall we say?
Michael: Everybody, I always appreciate that you tune in, that you’re listening to the show here. I wanted to let you know that we have set up a new newsletter that you can get to at paradigmshift.health, that’s paradigmshift.health. You can go there, and the reason that we’ve got this newsletter is that we like to send out a few extra pieces of information with the show.
We also have a full transcript for every single episode that we do, and we can let you know that through email. We can let you know also if we have, like, a good quote card to be able to show for every episode. So, check that out if you’d like, paradigmshift.health. Thanks so much.
There seems like there’s some real needs for leadership to provide a certain kind of environment for that to work.
Michael: So, like, I know from my experience, like, I’ve definitely been in spaces where it was not safe to really contribute. It was not safe to come up with something that was going to be anything other than what already existed, right? Like, let’s just keep the status quo going, and let’s just keep this going. So, you know, we’ve talked some about, at some point, somebody has to be able to make a decision. But there also has to be someone or just the entire culture of the team that has to be sort of, like, reinforced to where it’s naturally a part of it, but where it is okay to come up with new ideas. Even if the idea is just flat out terrible, it’s okay in that room to try that idea, to throw it out there.
I mean, I’ve… When I look back, you know, sometimes at different projects where I tried some things, it’s like, “Jeez, I just didn’t know this.” And, man, what a failure this was. But, again, it’s not brain surgery. It’s okay. Nobody got it. Nobody got hurt, you know, for it.
Michael: So having, I think, like, a sense of perspective and having a culture that reinforces that sense of perspective that not every idea is going to be great. When you talk about… I was reading somebody that was talking about approaching this like a laboratory. Not every experiment works. That’s why you experiment.
Michael: You try new things and you fail at things so that you can reveal what’s going to work. So, in terms of being able to get ideas out there, to be able to turn those ideas into real tasks, to turn this into business objectives, there has to be some room to fail, and to be okay with that, and to keep moving.
Scott: Yeah. You know, there is a show called “The West Wing.” I’m sure everybody’s heard of it. It’s quite old. And for whatever reason, I was watching an episode. I think I was channel surfing and got stuck, and there was an episode where a figment, remember, this is a make-believe, this is fiction, but Galileo was lost going to Mars. Okay, and they were very upset because the President was supposed to give a talk about it.
And one of the characters said, “Isn’t it okay that we talk about that it failed?” I mean, how many people are in the back of the room afraid to raise their hand because he was going to talk to a lot of kids that were in, I think, you know, kindergarten or first grade? It’s young, young children. And how many people are afraid of going to the blackboard because they’re afraid to add up the numbers correctly? And here are these people at NASA who have made a mistake, and I remember watching that episode thinking, “Man, that’s a very valid point,” and it actually happened in real life.
People don’t realize this, but the lunar lander, when you wanted to go to the moon, you needed to land on the moon and you needed the lunar lander, and there were a lot of different ideas that came into play about how the heck do you get a space module and a lunar lander, all the way to the moon? And there were a lot of crazy ideas, and NASA’s ability to actually listen to all the different ideas actually led to a real, I hate to say it, out-of-the-box solution. It allowed for an idea. They had a type of culture that allowed for different ideas and an openness to it.
They give that project to a small company out in Long Island, and they have like eight years for them to build a lander. It’s a really good episode on HBO. I think it’s called “From the Earth to the Moon.” I don’t remember which episode it was, and in real…and this happened actually. But somebody made a bad calculation, and they lost weeks of time on that bad calculation. And the guy goes in, and he’s talking to his boss, and he says, “This mistake happened. I’m going to clear out my desk, and I’m so sorry I did this.”
The guy picked up his head. The owner of the company said, “How long did you wait to tell me that you made an error?” and he said, “Well, I confirmed it last night at 5:00 in the morning, and it’s now 8:00. So, I guess around three hours because I had to change my clothes.”
And he said, “Why would I fire you because you made an error? You made an error. You told me about it. We’re going to go now fix it. Go home and get some sleep.” Remember, like, that’s valuable. I mean, having the type of culture that allows for failure and then… I’m not saying everybody should fail all the time. But if anybody listening to this conversation has never made a mistake, please call me immediately, I’ll hire you. But in reality, everybody makes mistakes. Having a culture that allows people to speak up, come up with different ideas, some of those ideas will be shut down, hopefully politely, by the way, but mistakes will happen, bad ideas will happen, but out of all that, good ideas come and successful solutions come.
Michael: For sure, for sure. I think one last way to kind of wrap this all up, and we mentioned it earlier in the episode about scope creep, features bloat, whatever we call it, some fun name, that every single project seems to experience in some degree or another. And the way to overcome that does come down to what we’ve kind of had as a theme throughout this entire series, which is communication.
But then also the question, that kind of leads to the question of, how do you lock in the core purpose of your workflow and of the app or whatever the project is you’re developing, like, how do you lock in on that? Because that does eliminate a lot of the questions about scope creep along the way, and I do think that’s worth mentioning more because it’s another one of those things that the longer the project goes on, the easier it is to just forget. And then when those questions get asked three-fourths of the way down the road, and you’re like, “Look, we already answered this one. That doesn’t make sense for this release.” You know, that’s something that we we’ve got a parking lot list of topics and features and whatnot, that just being able to reiterate that along the way, it’s one of those things that in my mind there’s a way to do it to keep the core purpose in front of your face at all times.
Jared: Help everyone realize, you know, without getting to… You know, I’ve seen it done poorly too, you know, to communicate well, that’s outside of scope. And, you know, we’re not even going to take it seriously, you know, versus more of like a yes/and, you know, in terms of, “Yes, that idea could solve these things. Here’s what we’ve talked about up until this point.” It’s just kind of reiterating the conversation that’s happened up until then, and just so we know, you know, there’s the reason why we have this core purpose locked down, is because now we’ve been communicating, you know, the go live date, you know, or whatever it is. Just reiterating the conversation along the way is kind of where I’m going with that and how much it helps.
Scott: Yeah, you’re right, Jared. You’re right, and communicating is going to be critical. Setting appropriate expectations is so important. Scope creep happens because you’re not communicating well what the original goals were and what was supposed to get done for the budget. And the budget is sometimes a cost issue. It’s sometimes a money issue. It’s sometimes both. It’s usually both, and getting back to what you just said, communicate, communicate.
So, if everybody knows, hey, we’ve got to build X, and X is supposed to be done by this particular date for this amount of money, this is a great idea. You know, this is one of those, like, basic bedrock principles of Agile development of, like, “Hey, that’s a great idea. What are we giving up in exchange to add this?” That’s how Agile handles it.
Waterfall would be like, “If you looked on page 71 of the contract, it specifically states…” and both are fine. Both work, but they all come down to communicating, like, what can get done, for how much money and how much time, right? And that’s basically the best way to handle scope creep, is communicate well. What were we trying to do and for how much? When did you guys need to get this done? Okay, let’s go back to that now and then talk about what we need to get done.
And there are a variety of ways to handle that, but communicating what you need to do will be the win there. It’s an expectation issue.
Michael: Guys, we’ve covered a lot in these past few episodes. You know, today, we’re really looking at not having enough ideas, having too many ideas, but really, this theme all the way through that we keep coming back to, you know, it’s definitely a core component of who we are. But this communication that you have with your team, with your client, with the stakeholders that are involved is going to really make or break how well your project succeeds.
So, we wish you the best with that process, everybody. If you have some thoughts on that, please feel free to share them with us, and we appreciate you listening. Have a great week.
Announcer: Thanks again for tuning into the Paradigm Shift of Healthcare. This program is brought to you by Health Connective, custom marketing solutions for medtech & pharma. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.