Psychology & Happiness (in Project Delivery), Part II

Posted on November 15, 2012

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[See previous post for Part I]

So what contributes to a happy project? Psychologists suggest that when asked about our most happy times, people tend to recall “an intense, hive-like group experience”. This hypothesis fits my own life. I clearly remember two summer camps in particular, the soccer teams I played on in my youth, and the close-knit architecture schools in college, where we were not all best friends, but respected each other and helped each other learn and achieve greater things. Others may fondly remember military service, a club or band, a fraternity or sorority, or religious group.

This has parallels to a successful healthcare project. The most successful projects I can remember were composed of clients and consultants—teams—that were personable as well as professionally qualified. Everyone trusted that each person brought deep expertise to the project. Communication was always open and problem solving was collaborative.

Individuals who seek a happier life may be guided, with the support of experts, toward three things: exercise, reduced daily stress, and nurtured relationships. These are easily translated to components of your next successful project:

  1. Exercise. This has nothing to do with target heart rates. It takes practice executing healthcare projects, and it is hard to do something once or twice and be very good—and happy—doing it. This is relevant for both healthcare administrators, and technical professionals on the project team.
  2. Reduce Daily Stress. Yoga or a masseuse would be nice, but teams should lay out expectations that prevent ‘the little things’ from growing into real problems later. Communication—methods, frequency, tone—should be spelled out. Client goals should be clear so everyone knows what they are aiming at and how they, and the project, will be judged for success.
  3. Nurture Relationships. We can try to be successful and happy individually, but projects especially healthcare, are impossible to complete individually. Yet not everyone is looking for a drinking buddy when they want a project built. When a hospital finds a team with integrity that works well together and reduces stress for them and their employees, keep them! And if that is still missing, keep looking!

Happiness can be a hollow goal if it is the primary project aim. However, all hospitals and healthcare systems owe it to themselves to have a highly competent and effective project process. Some of this involves improvements internal to the hospital, some involves external improvements—in selecting who or how a project is executed, for instance. Think about the value of a happy healthcare project on your team, and have the courage to change for the sake of improvement.

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