Guide to Launching a New, Cross-Disciplinary Initiative

Guide to Launching a New,

Cross-Disciplinary Initiative

Too often, laboratories are tucked away in the basement of hospitals. While they may perform well clinically, they keep a low profile and are easily overlooked.

In the past, this may have been acceptable. But in today’s new model, laboratories must extend their reach beyond the walls of the laboratory to be successful—and it’s up to a new breed of lab leaders to make this happen. When done effectively, lab leaders will gain recognition, value, and begin to earn their seats at the decision-making tables within their institutions.

"The lab is likened to the golden egg that has been put off to the side and practicing by itself. There are opportunities. We have specialists that are very intelligent. They are very highly trained. But essentially, they are operating in their own silos and we need to integrate those specialists into healthcare."

One of the primary ways to emerge as a lab leader is to launch a successful cross-disciplinary initiative. Our roundtable contributors identified the following best practices to help guide you through this important process.

Make yourself invaluable

Every stakeholder at an institution—administrators, physicians, etc.—must see you and your role as absolutely indispensable. One of the best ways to do that is to find a problem that you are in a unique position to solve with your expertise. Start by asking your supervisor or manager how you can make their job easier. Then have similar conversations with other colleagues across the care delivery system. You will soon discover multiple opportunities where you can add value.

Ask Yourself:

  • Who is my initiative benefiting?

  • If the initiative were successful, what would be the tangible, quantifiable benefits?

  • What service can I provide that would be a competitive advantage over a commercial lab?

be visible and build relationships

Often times, great ideas don’t get the widespread impact they deserve because they lack the necessary visibility and relationships. You can prevent this roadblock from happening by reaching out to colleagues in different departments and sharing the vision, objectives, and goals of your initiative. By doing so, you will be building political capital that works on behalf of yourself, your lab, and your initiative.

“What we can do better as laboratorians is, instead of waiting for other departments to see opportunity, seek that opportunity ourselves. One of the first things the lab has to do is be visible. You cannot just be doing a great CAP inspection—we have to reach out to other departments too.”


It may seem daunting at first, but you will find that other people share your same pain points and want to see change that will result in positive outcomes. They will want to collaborate with you and be a part of your success story. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Ask yourself:

  • What departments do I already interact with either directly or indirectly?

  • What departments will be affected by my initiative?

  • Who are the key stakeholders that can help my initiative?

  • How does my initiative positively impact physicians and the bottom line?

Remember, if people cannot see your progress in action, they can’t appreciate it. Give yourself, your laboratory, and your initiative the visibility needed to succeed by engaging and building relationships with key stakeholders.

set clear expectations and hold individuals accountable

Clear communication and delineation of roles and responsibilities are critical to success. It is equally important to hold individuals accountable for adhering to the process. As you get started, you can help inspire others by communicating the value this initiative will bring to the departments, administration, and patients.


Ask Yourself:

  • Have I clearly outlined and communicated the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the initiative?

  • How am I holding people accountable for their actions/non-actions?

  • What is my plan for measuring the results, sharing the information, and acknowledging adherence/addressing non adherence?

Jay Jones, Ph.D. Geisinger Health System


effectively manage resistance and embrace critics

Resistance is inevitable. Here are two ways to best manage it:

1. Conduct a stakeholder analysis. Charles Wilson, vice president of operations at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, likes to call it “voice of the customer” meetings. This is where you proactively get in touch with all the relative departments in the hospital and, in a formal setting, inquire about the issues that are inhibiting individuals from getting on board with the process.

Let your stakeholders know you want to hear their viewpoint. Many times, you will find that these stakeholders really aren’t resistant; they are just concerned and want to know that their concerns are being heard.

2. Communicate cooperative intent. Identify common goals and shared purposes to which both parties are contributing, and communicate them over and over. This simple technique can diffuse negative feelings and foster collaboration. It can also be particularly helpful in shifting historically adversarial relationships to positive, cooperative ones.

ask yourself:

  • What stakeholders are likely to be the most resistant?

  • How can I proactively communicate cooperative intent and engage stakeholders with a high likelihood of resistance early in the process?

  • How can I turn my greatest resistor into my greatest advocate?

Jerry Penso, M.D. American Medical Group Association

go ahead and take the lead

You have everything you need to get started. Now, it’s time to take action. In doing so, you will be well on your way to redefining the value of your laboratory.

The automated process is widely beneficial

  1. Make yourself invaluable: find a problem where you can apply your expertise and become part of the solution
  2. Be visible and build relationships: reach out to colleagues in different departments and share the vision, objectives, and goals of your initiative
  3. Set clear expectations and hold individuals accountable: document the new process, measure its results, acknowledge adherence, and address non adherence
  4. Effectively manage resistance and embrace critics: conduct a stakeholder analysis and communicate




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