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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Martin, MPH

The Four Professional Puzzle Pieces of Project Management

A practical breakdown of the four phases of project management when implementing health prevention and treatment programs

Published by: Daniel Martin, MPH

When managing a project, Healthcare Equity Solutions’ (HCES') primary goal is to execute the engagement with fidelity. Whether it’s an extensive, large-scale project or a one-time engagement, it is vital that businesses have an organized and methodical approach to managing their efforts. Efficiency from beginning to end overall improves delivery of intended project outcomes.

What are the Four Professional Puzzle Pieces of Project Management?

Project management consists of four sequential phases that provide a framework for moving a project from concept to conclusion, which can be transferred and utilized across multiple projects. The four phases are:

Phase 1: Initiation – Defining the Project

During the initiation phase, objectives are outlined, key players are determined, and expectations are clarified. This is considered the “drafting” step of the project.

Phase 1: Initiation – Defining the Project

Also known as the drafting process, in the initiation phase, HCES outlines objectives, determines key players, and clarifies expectations for both companies.

This phase may include:

  • Determining the goal

  • Creating a plan

  • Consulting with stakeholders to review plan

  • Producing a budget plan

  • Examine major areas for project to succeed

The initiation stage is vital for HCES. At this stage, we begin to create a plan for clients. This gives us the opportunity to develop the clients’ vision and scope of their project. This starts with a meeting with management to determine their needs and expectations required of HCES. When identifying the needs and wants, we determine exactly what the project is aiming to achieve, how much time we have to complete the project, and how many resources are allotted to each task. The initiation phase is needed to ensure that the entire project goes smoothly throughout the duration of the process. Our goal during the initial stage is to develop a seamless timeline and process for our client.

Real-time application

During Spring 2022, HCES was contracted by Florida A&M University (FAMU) to assist with

the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI), an effort established to educate brown and Black communities on the accessibility of medical marijuana. As a newer program for the HBCU, their mission was to educate and inform Florida’s minority communities about medical marijuana and the potential consequences to health and well-being from recreational use. Research has shown that there is a significant difference in the rates of arrests for possession of cannabis among minority communities compared to their white counterparts. That said, our job in the initiation phase was to consult with MMERI leadership on how they would like to convey the impact of medical marijuana and how it can positively impact minority communities related to cannabis use for medical purposes, as well as highlighting its unlawful use.

For the initiation phase of MMERI, HCES first needed to understand the scope and direction of the project. HCES met with FAMU to understand the goal, delineate deliverables, break down tasks, create cost estimates, and establish deadlines. HCES began to curate educational materials by designing information sessions that could be accessed both in-person and virtually. Attendees of these sessions would need to be recorded to assess the reach of the project to ensure we were meeting the needs of the target population. Once the deliverables were identified, the next step was to identify the steps needed to meet each deliverable and break the needs down into smaller tasks. After the preliminary needs and wants were recorded, HCES would begin to plan the course of action needed for this to be successful. This is when Phase 2 of the planning phase began.

Phase 2: Planning – The Road Map

During the planning phase, assemble the team, assess any risks, break down larger tasks into smaller milestones, and finalize schedules and budgets. This step provides us with a road map on how to complete the project. The planning phase is where commitments are made. Before any moves are executed, we must organize an effective plan of action and make official commitments. This is done by assembling the team and assigning tasks appropriately, assessing risks, and finalizing schedules and budgets. This step gives us the opportunity to assemble a road map for our client.

This phase includes:

  • Holding a kickoff meeting

  • Creating the client’s road map

  • Curating a timeline

  • Assembling a team

  • Creating a schedule

It is critical that we conduct a kickoff meeting with our team and the client’s before the road map is created. This meeting is not only where the final review of our project happens, but gives HCES the opportunity to ensure the plans and objectives of the clients are addressed. During this meeting, we clarify roles and responsibilities, obtain feedback, and discuss mitigation strategies for any potential risks.

Real-time application

HCES kicked off Phase 2 of MMERI by assembling a team that could meet the needs of the client. After the initial kick-off meeting with FAMU, HCES created a road map that would increase the number of MMERI educators for the project. We assembled a team of internal and contract workers to deliver the course and HCES staff were assembled to provide oversight and administrative support for the life of the project. Each employee who was vetted had an extensive experience in health education and each health educator was approved by the client before being permitted to work on the project.

Once our team was approved by our client, a schedule had to be put in place to ensure that trainings, education courses, and community outreach were being executed efficiently. Over a span of six months, health education courses would take place in-person, virtually, and via a recorded, self-paced option. Health educators were responsible for recruiting in-person sessions. For virtual sessions, each health educator would utilize Zoom to conduct the health education sessions and track participation. Self-paced sessions consisted of providing a link with a pre-recorded presentation created by HCES staff using Zoom. Our schedule included deadlines for deliverable completion, and each week, staff were expected to contact a certain number of organizations (i.e., schools, churches, community-based organizations, etc.) to try and recruit participants to the health education sessions.

Knowing that setbacks will happen on any project, we created a contingency plan in our schedule to account for any mishaps. To ensure that minimal mistakes or oversights took place, HCES planned weekly meetings to discuss the status of the project, successes seen, and areas for improvement. These updates provided on a weekly basis would help to mitigate long-term setbacks and meet deliverable deadlines for our clients.

Phase 3: Execution – Implementation and Monitoring

The execution phase is where plans are put into action. The key steps here are to track and measure progress, manage timelines, and budget.

This phase may include the following:

  • Working towards deliverables

  • Tracking progress on tasks

  • Proactively watching for risks

  • Managing costs

  • Communicating progress regularly with the team and stakeholders

We utilize the project management software to track the deadlines of projects and their progression. We have also worked on engagements that follow progress via an assigned Quality Assurance / Quality Control (QAQC) team. Monitoring progress in this way allows us to use real-time data to make informed decisions when the project course must pivot. Knowing that issues could potentially arise, keeping all key players abreast of the project status is imperative.

Real-time application

During the Fall of 2021, HCES worked with Indelible Business Solutions and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 Case Investigations (CCI) project with the goal of lessening the burden of case investigation on the state and local health departments. The state and local county health departments were overwhelmed with the influx of COVID-19 cases and the workload on the state agency became taxing, as every individual who tested positive for COVID-19, or was presumed positive, required a case investigation. Assistance with conducting case investigations was needed to relinquish this burden. To meet this goal, HCES created training documents regarding processes and procedures for conducting a formal COVID-19 case investigation. Investigators were tasked to contact 100% of all cases within 24 hours after being added to their queue. Within 48 hours of case assignment, 80% of those cases needed to be closed out to be considered complete.

HCES tasked staff with developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when working towards these deliverables. The SOP would provide an in-depth review of all roles and procedures related to this engagement, how cases are assigned and prioritized, and delineate quality control/quality assurance processes for case investigations. Each function of this engagement had a designated leader who would track progress on tasks and promptly ensure that daily deliverables were met. Daily meetings were held to communicate with all members of the team the status and management of the queue to avoid overburdening the case investigators. Additional training was provided as needed. This engagement lasted roughly 5 to 6 months.

Phase 4: Close Out – Ending the project

During the closeout phase, the project manager can present final deliverables and evaluate project performance to the team. Once the project is successfully concluded, the team may assess successes and setbacks and identify opportunities for improvement. Once reviewing areas of success and opportunities are completed, the final step in finishing this project is celebrating with the team!

This phase may include the following:

  • Presenting the project result to the team and stakeholders

  • Generating a project closeout report

  • Conducting a performance analysis

  • Celebrating

In this phase, we are focused on how we presented our services to the project. This final step allows HCES to retrieve feedback from employees on areas we succeed in and areas we may improve for our next engagement. A closeout report of the project’s accomplishments and key takeaways is archived as a reference for future engagements.

Real-time application

HCES closed the DOH CCI project after being on-boarded for around 5-6 months. During the final phase of this project, the client and project manager would discuss the final deliverables needed for their deadline. Before this deadline passed, HCES submitted all final reports to the project manager so they could be handed off to the client promptly. The information was submitted via PowerPoint Presentation discussing key takeaways, including system issues, best practices, barriers to success, and overall opportunities for improvement. All internal tracking logs, reports, time-keeping logs, etc., were handed over to Indelible after the project.

Closing Remarks

Here at HCES, we understand that not all projects are created equal and may vary in scale, scope, difficulty, time, budget, and type. Having a standard way of executing our projects allows us to undertake various engagements while remaining flexible to what services a client may request. Regardless of the task, The Four Professional Puzzle Pieces of Project Management provide a streamlined process for commencing and completing a project.

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