Use The Project Charter For Your Quality Project


By:  DMKashmer, MD MBA MBB



The Project Charter Is The Most Frequently Used Tool

In earlier entries we talked about the DMAIC pathway and some of the different tollgates that make up DMAIC.  In any quality improvement project that you perform for your health care system, startup, or established business, one of the most useful tools that the Lean Six Sigma Black Belts use is the project charter.  There are many tools from which the black belt can select when they run a project.  One of the tools most frequently employed by black belts for each project is the project charter.  Whether you are a black belt or trying to run an ad hoc quality improvement project for your healthcare system, or working in a formal Six Sigma deployment, the project charter is a very useful tool.  Let’s take a moment and explore the project charter.


The Three Most Important Parts of The Project Charter

First, the project charter lays out the nature of your project.  The title clearly establishes what you are working on.  However, to my mind, the three most important elements of the project charter are 1: the stakeholders, 2: the project scope, and 3: the cost of poor quality.  We have previously discussed some of these elements.  For more information on the cost of poor quality you can look here.  The COPQ gives a bottom line expected return on the quality improvement project.  This is something that management and other administrators can rally around to get a sense of the impact your project will have on the bottom line.  Again, in healthcare, the cost of poor quality can be challenging to establish and is composed of the four buckets described here.


Scope Creep Is A Common Reason Projects Fail

Next, consider the stakeholders.  Although Lean and Six Sigma do have a substantial focus on math and statistics, it is important to realize that lean and six sigma are team sports.  Making it very clear up front who the involved parties are is key to overall improvement.  In the absence of a strong team, no improvement can be made.  One of the elements of the project charter that we have not described previously is the scope.  The scope is the defined interval to which the project applies.  By this I mean that we need to be very clear about the start and stop for a project.  If the project concerns admitting patients to the hospital we need to be clear that we intend to focus the project on the interval between when the patient arrives at the emergency department until the time at which the patient physically leaves the emergency department.  This is how we clearly scope the project.  The scope is very key to a projects success because one of the most common issues associated with project failure is called ‘scope creep’.  ‘Scope creep’ occurs when the project becomes too large with too many elements.  Therefore, defining the scope clearly and adequately at this point in the project is important.  There will be later opportunities to clarify this scope during the formation of a data collection plan.


Project Charter Is One Of the Most Important Elements In A Successful Project

In the end, the project charter is one of the most important elements of a successful quality improvement project.  It focuses us on the team members involve, the scope of the project, and the projects expected return.  For a sample project charter please click here:  charter for blog.  Questions, comments, or thoughts on the project charter?  Please let us know beneath.