5 Key Traits of an Outstanding Project Manager

5 Key Traits of an Outstanding Project Manager

Most laboratory standardization initiatives wouldn't stand a chance without a strong project manager (PM). The standardization process depends on so many people—and so many pieces coming together just right—that the individual responsible for leading the way has a job that's among the most challenging in healthcare.

So how can you ensure you pick a PM with the skills that are necessary to guide the project to completion? We asked a number of respected laboratory leaders for their thoughts on standardization and project management, and they all agreed the answer ultimately depends on the goals and needs of your particular organization. Still, they said, the best PMs have at least five characteristics that clearly set them apart from the competition.

1. Great PMs are skillful communicators. Because standardization affects so many people—physicians, administrators, and laboratorians alike—the PM must communicate continuously with them all. From meetings with the C-suite to interdepartmental conference calls to face-to-face check-ins with clinicians and staff, standardization involves nonstop conversation with a range of disparate stakeholders. If the PM can facilitate these conversations effectively, the rest of the process should fall into place.

2. Great PMs have expertise in the laboratory space. While the PM won't necessarily be rolling up her sleeves to deal with the technical aspects of standardization, she must have experience as a laboratory leader to navigate the process efficiently and effectively. When challenges arise—as they inevitably do—your PM should understand how the decisions she makes will impact the lab and those who work within it.

Article highlights:

  • Effective project management is typically critical to laboratory standardization success.
  • It's important to hire a project manager with both leadership and laboratory experience.
  • Great communication skills and the ability to stay on task are among the most important traits every PM should have.


Contributing Lab Leaders

Donna Beasley

Donna Beasley, MT(ASCP) DLM

Huron Healthcare

Myra Wilkerson

Myra Wilkerson, MD, FCAP

Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, Cytopathology Chair, Division of Laboratory Medicine



3. Great PMs are flexible. Most PMs approach standardization with strong ideas around how the work should proceed. The best, however, know how to deal with the unexpected, and how to adjust their priorities accordingly.

4. Great PMs are organized and focused. Your PM, notes Donna Beasley, MT(ASCP)DLM, a consultant with Huron Healthcare and an expert in laboratory management, should be highly interested in the intricacies of standardization, but also able to keep the big picture in mind. “Keeping the project plan on task is what a PM should do. So you want to hire someone that's highly organized."

5. Great PMs are “brutally honest." Last but not least, says Myra Wilkerson, MD, FCAP, Chair of the Division of Laboratory Medicine with the Geisinger Health System, the PM you choose to bring onboard should be ready to make the tough calls that are required to see the project through. “You have to be brutally honest when you do your assessments," she says.

A great project manager, Wilkerson adds, should “understand what success will look like for you," and be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that you hit your standardization goals. The process, she notes, can be fraught with potential difficulties, but if you take the time to put the right leadership in place, it's one that often proves rewarding in the end.


Additional resources

  • Project management: importance for diagnostic laboratories
    By A.Croxatto and G.Greub
    The need for diagnostic laboratories to improve both quality and productivity alongside personnel shortages incite laboratory managers to constantly optimize laboratory workflows, organization, and technology.

  • Eight pitfalls of healthcare project management
    By Reda Chouffani
    Healthcare project management can be a long and involved process. To keep a project on course, learn how to communicate long and short-term goals and concerns properly.

  • All for one, one for all? Laboratory consolidation
    By Anne Paxton
    Consolidation among hospitals and laboratories can sometimes seem like too massive a tide for independent and hospital-based laboratories to effectively resist. What are the advantages that large size provides to a hospital system or national lab in a competitive marketplace? And will there be any space left in which smaller laboratories can survive?

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