In two recent blogs, we wrote about some of the key matters that practice leadership should consider in advance of engaging a consultant and the factors that influence the outcome of an active project. In our final blog in this series, we address how organizations can ensure the successful adoption of recommendations once the consulting engagement has concluded.
Debrief by the Internal Engagement Team
The period following an active consulting project is critical to maintain momentum, harness the energy and enthusiasm from collective work and translate it into action. The executive or senior team within the organization who sponsored the consultation will want to convene a session of the project team to debrief on the engagement. Participants in the debrief can share their experience, discuss their understanding of the findings and recommendations, and define plans for implementing initiatives to fulfill the objectives of the project. A valuable exercise during the debrief meeting is to conduct an after-action review. The method can be useful not only when there has been a failure, but also when there has been a success, so as to hopefully repeat the success and apply lessons learned to other situations. In its most basic form, an after-action review seeks to find answers to four key sets of questions:
1. What was supposed to happen? What was planned?
2. What actually did happen? What were the results?
3. there a difference between what was planned and the actual results? Why or why not?
4. What can we learn from this? What do we want to continue/sustain? What should we do differently next time?
Reflecting on the project through an after-action review allows the team to organize their experience with the consultation and to share meaningful feedback with the consultant.
Additionally, any unresolved questions or issues related to the project should be identified at the debrief meeting so the team can consider related issues and get additional detail or interpretation from the consultant as the team prepares for the implementation stage.
Activating a Change Management Plan for Implementation
Consistent with the depth and breadth of the project, multiple implementation work streams may be needed to undertake change management efforts aligned to the project’s recommendations. Using the example from our prior blog in this series, an engagement seeking to align provider compensation models with the shift to value-based care may require implementation work focused on provider communication, finalizing key measures around utilization or cost-saving calculations, and developing a dashboard to track and share key measures associated with the new model.
Accountability for each implementation initiative, roles and responsibilities, timelines, required resources, budget and dependencies are all aspects to be detailed in defining a change management plan.
Dissemination of Findings and Recommendations
Communication throughout the engagement is critical to keeping stakeholders up to date, creating transparency and trust in the process, and identifying potential roadblocks or challenges. With the conclusion of a project comes the opportunity to build momentum and engagement in the implementation phase through targeted and nuanced dissemination of the project’s output.
Specific attention should be paid to the audience(s) who will receive details on the findings and recommendations. How much information to share, what data is needed to provide context to the conclusions, and what format or forum should be used to disseminate the output are among the key matters to be decided upon. Finally, key contacts, work stream owners and the cadence of execution should be clearly articulated to all stakeholders, especially those whose roles and responsibilities are directly impacted by implementation initiatives.
The particulars of consulting engagement have many moving parts. Bringing a structured approach to framing the issues, managing work efforts, setting up credible decision-making processes, proactively communicating change management initiatives and actively overseeing implementation efforts will help organizations get the most out of a healthcare consulting engagement.
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