FROM IDEA TO IMPACT
Tips for building and implementing an innovative project
By David LaCombe, BS, CPLP
By the nature of their work, EMS providers are problem solvers. They see opportunities to improve care to
patients or to simplify operations, and they
want to help make things better.
So why is it that good ideas often fail to
materialize into projects? Many of us ask these
questions when we come home from conferences—and then we hit a wall of resistance.
Using some of the suggestions outlined in this
article may help you gain senior management’s
consideration of your next big idea, and help
you successfully implement projects.
CASE STUDY: RESUSCITATING
A LIFELESS PROJECT
When she boarded the plane to attend a conference, Captain Jenny Shatz understood the
history of her department’s stalled resuscitation
project. Organizational changes and competing projects had slowed progress to a crawl.
She considered her boss’s approval for her to
attend a resuscitation leadership workshop as a
positive sign. She also knew she’d have a small
window of opportunity to convince leadership
to prioritize the project.
When she returned home from the workshop, Captain Shatz began to formalize her
proposal. She organized her approach into
two phases: influencing and implementing.
The plan to influence key decision makers
required research. Captain Shatz envisioned
her community being able to realistically
improve survival via training programs
for 9-1-1 telecommunicators and law enforce-
She learned that a compelling proposal
should resonate with the minds and hearts
of leaders. With this in mind, she enlisted the
help from the department’s quality improvement manager to get historical data on cardiac
arrests in the community.
Even with her proposal containing abundant facts, Shatz knew that it would be tough
to convince leadership to take on a new project. She referenced the department’s goal to
improve inter-agency cooperation as a project
objective. She also outlined how achieving this
objective would benefit both her department
as well as the community.
Captain Shatz also developed a timeline
that included several short trials, including
an initial Proof of Concept phase, knowing that leaders in her department would be
receptive to a small commitment with clearly
Lastly, Shatz included details about how
she would manage implementation—a topic
that would resonate with her leadership
as they recalled other projects lacking this
The department’s leadership were impressed
GETTING THINGS DONE
with Captain Shatz’s proposal. While they
made small edits to the project plan, they
complimented Shatz for her objectivity and
attention to detail. The evidence supporting
change and the linkage to an existing organi-
zational goal were the deciding factors in the
Part of getting things done is knowing how to
negotiate for resources when those resources
are in high demand. Organizations being asked
to do more with less likely aren’t fertile ground
for implementing new ideas.
The keys to gaining support are 1) aligning
your idea with existing organizational goals;
and 2) asking for temporary access to resources.
Aligning an innovation or improvement
activity to existing goals avoids friction. 1 In
fact, it may improve the velocity of your idea.
Study your organization’s strategic plan—if
one exists. Be creative when describing how
your idea fits.
Goals and initiatives contained in strategic plans are usually funded and the results
are expected at a high level. Bringing ideas
that conflict with established goals may not
be well received.
Asking for temporary resources is the second key to getting things done. Start by identifying the specific help you need. Then, make an
estimate of how long you’ll need the resource.
The typical approach for budgeting temporary
human resources is to estimate the number of
hours it will take to complete the task.
Asking for 40 hours of work time from
two people is perceived very differently than
simply asking your manager for two people.
The latter approach implies that you’ll need
two people indefinitely—a costly, unplanned
expense that is asking for a denial.
BUILDING A COMPELLING CASE
1. Define the problem. Describe the stakeholder’s
pain and get data to support your assumption.
Where does the problem occur? How often?
>> Leaders must walk the walk. Be visible. Roll up your sleeves. Help teams and individuals understand how their efforts will contribute to achieving the vision.
>> A cadence of ongoing and diverse communication (e.g., in-person meetings, blogs, social
media, website, etc.) is necessary to build and sustain an alliance. Create opportunities for team
members to participate.
>> Ask teams what stands in their way. Remove or help them navigate barriers. Once barriers are
addressed, assume a coach role to help teams achieve their full potential. Sometimes, the greatest
help a leader can provide to their team is the permission to stop doing things that don’t matter.
>> Create a communication plan to drive messages through the organization. Enlist senior leaders, middle managers and even informal leaders to drive messaging through the organization.