Posted September 26, 2017

Quality Impact Teams: Accelerating Cultural Transformation from the Frontlines

By Kris Ann Piazza

An organization’s greatest asset is an engaged workforce, and that asset becomes even more valuable when the employee is passionately engaged at work. The difference between the two is significant. Engaged employees are personally connected to their profession on an emotional level because they love what they do. They consistently put forth the discretionary effort needed to execute their roles and responsibilities effectively. Passionately engaged employees take that personal connection to even greater heights. They tend to invest additional time and energy, outside of their normal responsibilities, to participate in work that drives the organization’s overall mission, vision and values.

Quality Impact Teams To help employees take the important leap from being engaged to becoming passionately engaged, Studer Group recommends Quality Impact Teams (QITs). These leader-led, staff-populated change agent teams empower and excite engaged employees to interact with a diverse group of other highly engaged coworkers. Together, they accomplish meaningful work that is aligned to organizational priorities for improvement, accelerate professional development and establish feelings of inclusiveness to drive change that positively influences their peers. Participation on these teams is considered a privilege, and only the most highly respected employees should be invited to join.

There are 11 QITs we recommend when creating teams. Standards of Behavior, Measurement, Communication and Reward and Recognition are the foundational teams we have found are most successful in accelerating cultural transformation. Remaining QITs are also important, but establishing additional teams requires thoughtful assessment about the right sequencing and pace.

The Standards of Behavior QIT develops and implements mandatory behaviors for employees that exemplify organizational values in daily interactions to establish a values-driven culture.

The Measurement QIT  provides evidence through data that helps to connect employees’ delivery of service and care with their impact on patient experience results. This helps to establish a culture of appreciation for improvements or urgency around underperforming metrics to drive a more accountable culture.

The Communication QIT connects the dots about why change is necessary, how it will impact employees and patients overall, when it will occur and what employees can do to help the organization stay resilient during change by creating a culture of transparency and timely, consistent messaging.

The Reward and Recognition QIT develops and implements tools and processes to celebrate employees or departments that are achieving results or consistently demonstrating values-driven behaviors. Recognizing engaged employees establishes a culture of appreciation and accelerates positive cultural transformation.

The remaining seven QITs provide additional opportunities for employees to participate in mission-driven work, but there is no cookie-cutter recipe for which additional teams should be launched first. It all depends on the organization’s priority improvement areas. For example, an organization with high turnover may consider the Workplace of Choice QIT; those struggling with patient experience results would benefit from the Inpatient QIT; and, those with underperforming physician engagement results may consider the Physician Collaboration QIT.

Whether you’re a large academic healthcare system or a small rural community hospital, the following four success factors can help you establish the most effective QIT structure in your organization:

  1. Be Strategic about QIT Selection and Pacing. Identify the right number of teams to implement for your organization based on employee capacity and urgency for improvement; then prioritize the teams. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Evaluate existing teams, tools or other systems that are currently responsible for similar work. Should you keep these resources and elevate them, or replace them?
  2. Establish a QIT leader and member recruitment process based on talent vs. volunteers. Populating teams with relevant talent leads to a positive, results-driven experience. Employees become more engaged when they can see their contributions are making a difference to the team. Ask leaders to nominate other leaders and staff members to serve on the QIT where their talents will be most beneficial.
  3. Align QIT work to organizational priorities. To maximize the effectiveness of QITs, develop charters and 90-day plans for each team to define purpose and expected results that align with current improvement priority areas in your organization. Update charters annually, and have them approved by senior leadership to ensure continued alignment.
  4. Establish a QIT leadership structure. Identifying one or two initiative owners (champions/co-chairs) to manage the initial implementation and continued actions of QITs establishes the important element of accountability. These individuals spearhead the QIT Steering Committee that all individual QIT leaders must attend for the most effective alignment of work. They also serve as the liaison to the executive team.

As the Quality Impact Teams coach specialist at Studer Group, I have been privileged to witness several noteworthy contributions these teams have made to their organizations

TriHealth, which has 12,000 employees in Ohio, implemented nine QITs in 2016. The Quality Impact Steering Team chose to rename the project SOAR Councils (Serving Others, Achieving Results) to create greater ownership among team leaders, and the results have been extraordinary.

“Our SOAR Councils have brought expertise and heart to the work they are doing, and it’s showing in our results for patient experience, as well as team member and physician engagement,” said Steve Mombach, QIT co-chair and SVP Ambulatory Services/Network Development. “That kind of passion is what truly transforms an organization, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Baraga County Memorial Hospital (Michigan), a 25-bed critical access facility, implemented Measurement, Communication and Standards of Behavior QITs with great success.

“These teams have been phenomenal,” said QIT Champion Nathan Lahti, RN, BSN. “They not only affect quality; they also help front line staff grow and are a great sounding board for new ideas. The extra work in the beginning was well worth the effort."

In our work with healthcare organizations across the U.S. and Canada, Studer Group has found that strategically implemented Quality Impact Teams are a common characteristic of high performing organizations. If QITs are not part of your organization today, I highly recommend making them part of your plan for tomorrow.

Partner Only Resource:
The Quality Impact Teams (QIT) Manual provides the framework for successful implementation of Quality Impact Teams, and equips the leader of each team with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Kris Ann Piazza is a Studer Group coach and national speaker with more than 25 years of experience in healthcare communications.


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