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Building and Leading Great Health IT Teams

Synopsis: There is no magic wand for building and leading great HIT teams

HIT teams are comprised of staff from various departments and organizations within a healthcare institution. While there is no magic wand to create cohesiveness and synergy, strong leadership can ensure teams fire on all cylinders, leverage complementary strengths, and remain focused on their common goal – the success of the project.

Leading and managing effective teams is an ongoing effort that must be sustained for the life of any project.  In health IT this can be quite a challenge – unlike marketing campaigns, military battles or football games, HIT projects may span several years.  In order to continually instill a sense of purpose and accomplishment, HIT team leaders need to manage their team utilizing short-term milestones, while never letting them lose sight of the ultimate objective.  The successful leader will imbue a healthy mindset that appreciates the journey as much as it values reaching the destination.

One potential hazard leadership must avoid is overfamiliarity. When teams have been working together for any length of time, it is important for leaders to prevent them becoming like families, with their associated dysfunctional roles and relationships.  Whereas family members are expected to tolerate or accept each other’s faults and failings, team members need to be reminded that they are all dependent on each other for success.  Unlike family situations, where personal problems can be compensated for by relatives stepping in, teams are only as strong as their weakest link.  Team leaders have to let staff know they are expected to perform to the best of their ability at all times.

Because of the often lengthy duration of HIT projects, continuing education of the staff must not be neglected.  Over time, members may come and go and team dynamics will morph.  It’s important not to expect new staff to figure things out as they go, understanding both the big picture and how their role meshes with other team members. A solid continuing education structure and budget, especially a role succession plan, ensures that everyone has the necessary tools and information to allow teams to stay strong and highly effective.

Not least, HIT education and training sustains enthusiasm and morale, because it’s an overt, public and direct investment in staff competency and professionalism.