By: Christina Olivarria
According to the Project Management Institute, the healthcare industry is expected to see a 17% growth in project-oriented jobs between now and 2027. Combine that with the already high demand for project management in construction and BAM! – you have encountered the perfect opportunity to enter the field of Transition and Activation Planning project management. Blending facility planning and clinical operations, healthcare Transition and Activation Planning project managers work in a niche market. If you are considering a career in this exciting field but are unsure where to begin, then let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: there is not a clear path to a career in healthcare Transition and Activation Planning. I can confidently state that none of the talented team members I work with initially sought a Transition and Activation Planning job. Each of us comes from a unique background, ranging from bedside nursing, engineering, finance, and media design, which provided core skills but were not traditional project management roles. There are necessary soft skills and beneficial hard skills and certifications that provide a solid foundation for a career in Transition and Activation Planning project management. These skills, combined with experience and a can-do attitude, will make you an unstoppable candidate.
Soft Skills are Harder to Achieve than the Hard Ones
“Soft skills get little respect, but they will make or break your career” – Peggy Klaus
Despite being labeled as “soft skills,” in my experience, these skills are perhaps the most challenging to master. Any tenured project manager can tell you that the key to successful project delivery is how well you can manage people. Soft skills are the key to maintaining relationships with your project teams. We work with various stakeholders on Transition and Activation Planning projects including c-suite executives, frontline staff, and third-party vendors. Our ability to develop rapport and garner commitment from these teams largely rests on soft skills. Below are three soft skills that are baseline requirements for any Transition and Activation Planning project manager.
It’s a proven fact that highly-effective communicators have a higher likelihood of delivering their projects on time and within budget. If you are not a natural orator, don’t stress just yet. Communication involves a lot more than presentation skills. In fact, more often than not, successful communication requires multiple methods to keep stakeholders apprised of the project’s status, upcoming tasks, and risks and gaps that may get in the way of reaching project goals. Remember that active listening is part of the communication process. The ability to receive information, assess its impact on the project, and provide appropriate messaging to your teams will lead to your success as a project manager.
So, what can you do to refine these communication skills?
First, find your voice and become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. Our responsibility as Transition and Activation Planning project managers is to ensure teams have the most up-to-date information so that they can make informed decisions and complete assignments. If you identify a project risk or gap, it is your job to escalate it to your project sponsor or internal team it to be mitigated or resolved.
Second, practice your professional writing skills. A fair amount of project communication occurs via email, dashboards, and executive summaries. For many of us, writing is hard, so if you struggle with it, I recommend using an online grammar checker, such as Grammarly. I also suggest drafting deliverables and sending them out to your team for review and feedback prior to final submittal or distribution. This will require a little more planning on your part, but it will ensure that your end product is something of which you and your team can be proud.
Lastly, work on those presentation skills. Your ability to deliver a succinct and confident presentation inspires trust in the teams you are leading. If you are just starting out in your career, I recommend starting off by presenting to your internal team in a safe space. This will enable you to practice and receive constructive feedback before delivering your presentation to clients.
As a Transition and Activation Planning project manager, you will spend a lot of time forming, norming, and storming with the various organizational project teams. Your role on each team may include different responsibilities. Still, one thing will remain the same – you are the coach, and your team’s success is dependent on your ability to recognize team members’ strengths and ensure they have the required tools to perform their assigned tasks. The ability to collaborate with various personalities will determine the outcome of your projects. I recommend taking the time to create a stakeholder matrix. Document each stakeholder’s role, level of influence, and interest in the project. Since it can be more difficult to make personal connections in the era of remote meetings, make notes about individual team members’ interests, like pet’s names or sports teams. As the project progresses, take the time to refresh the document with new names and influence/interest levels so that you can always correctly manage expectations and groups effectively.
Projects are ever-evolving, and Transition and Activation Planning involves many changes. Given the complex nature and scale of healthcare projects, encountering a shift in the construction schedule, new technology, or welcoming new high-influence stakeholders is more of a reality than a rarity. Possessing the ability to be nimble and adaptive to change will enable you to respond more quickly and effectively. Although unforeseen challenges, like the pandemic, can occur, most changes can be planned for through proactive risk management. Even the best strategies will have to be updated at least once as more concrete information reveals itself. What’s important is to anticipate where that change will come from and already be prepared with a solution. That way, you minimize the overall impact on you, your team, and, most importantly, your project.
Hard Skills – A Blank Slate Can Become a Masterpiece (But Not Overnight)
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Pele
After spending so much time on the soft skills, I am sure you may have been expecting me to advocate that hard skills are not needed for a career in Transition and Activation Planning project management. Well, I am sorry to break it to you, but hard skills are also required. Despite some of the more traditional hard skills requiring time and commitment, they all can be learned if you put in the effort. Below are the general qualifications necessary for a Transition and Activation Planning project manager.
A college degree is recommended for anyone pursuing a career in Transition and Activation Planning. What college provides is twofold. One, it demonstrates your commitment to learning and the application of knowledge. Second, higher education offers the opportunity to refine many of the soft skills mentioned above. Students constantly adapt to new classes and professors’ teaching styles in the college environment. Students learn to work with different personality types on group projects to achieve a common goal. Term papers refine our written communication skills, and presentations enable us to practice capturing an audience. The great thing about Transition and Activation Planning is that it is a natural complement to many different college majors, so don’t count yourself out just because you majored in something other than healthcare.
Project managers rely heavily on leveraging software, tools, and systems to drive projects. Thus, starting your career with a working knowledge of the following programs will enable you to adapt to how teams utilize them in the field.
- Microsoft Office Suite – Outlook, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are essential software programs project managers use daily. Additional programs include Access, Visio, and OneNote. Familiarizing yourself with the general application and basic shortcuts will enable you to keep up with the pace of the work.
- Web-Based Conferencing Platforms – Zoom, Teams, WebEx, and other web-based conferencing platforms are now a part of project managers’ everyday lives. Understanding how to navigate the various platforms, schedule meetings, and utilize widgets will allow you to keep up with the meeting marathons to which seasoned project managers have grown accustomed.
- Web-Based Collaboration Tools – Smartsheet, Sharepoint, Dropbox, Box, and other collaboration tools enable teams to manage documents and make updates in real-time. Familiarity with the layout and purpose of each collaboration tool, including limitations, will allow you to work seamlessly with your teams.
Practical application of key skills can be demonstrated through the certification process. Two highly beneficial and desirable certifications for Transition and Activation Planning project managers are the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. Below is a summary of each certification’s unique purpose and project application.
- PMP – The PMP is the most recognized project management certification in North America. Those who have earned this prestigious title can attest that the knowledge gained through studying the Project Management Body of Knowledge provided a solid understanding of the project lifecycle and processes required to manage projects successfully. If you are an experienced project manager, you may already have the minimum qualifications to register for the exam. If you are new to project management, you may consider earning your Certified Associate in Project Management to provide an introduction to key concepts and demonstrate your commitment to the field.
- Lean Six Sigma Black Belt – The incorporation of lean principles into the overall project management approach has become a requirement for most Transition and Activation Planning projects. Given the significant impact of operations and workflow planning on the overall project, earning your Lean Black Belt provides an understanding of process improvement strategies. Focused on the removal of waste and efficiency of processes, Lean methodologies can be applied to any project.
“Ultimately, education is more than the information we accumulate in our heads. It’s the habits we develop as we keep revising our drafts and the skills we build to keep learning.” – Adam Grant
The combination of soft and hard skills discussed in this article will prepare you for a Transition and Activation Planning career. It is important to note that experience, specifically related to clinical and construction lexicons and regulatory compliance, is gained through time. As a non-clinical project manager, it has taken me many years of continued education and inquisitive dialogue to better understand more complex subjects and scopes of work. If I can leave you with a single piece of advice, it is to seek out experiential information from those with experience and continue to collect information to strengthen your ability. Best of luck on your Transition and Activation Planning career journey!