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Sherry Campanelli and Laura Newhall on Facilitation Not Dictation: How a QI Team Succeeds

Hi.  We’re  Sherry Campanelli, Program Compliance Manager and Laura Newhall, Clinical Training Coordinator, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Disability Evaluation Services (DES). Although DES conducts evaluations regarding whether an applicant for public benefits can be found disabled, evaluation as a research endeavor is not our primary focus. Nevertheless, as an organization, we are committed to ongoing quality improvement efforts to enhance our services for people with disabilities. We use a team-based iterative approach to define and address problem functions and processes.

For example, we used the process described herein to develop Quality Assurance systems for our clinical, clerical and technical support processes. We have also used this method to tackle caseload backlogs, and effective processing of incomplete applications.

We’ve discovered over time, regardless of the issue or problem involved, that there are common techniques that help a quality improvement (QI) team be successful. We would like to share some of these lessons learned with you.

Lesson Learned: 

  • Determine and clearly state the issues to be solved and team goals.
  • Involve key staff (line staff doing the work and managers supervising the work) in the development of any QI initiative. They are in “the know” about areas that may be problematic.
  • Incorporate non-judgmental facilitation to keep up the momentum. Key components include:

o   Involving all participants in decision making/discussion;

o   Keeping meeting minutes and agendas;

o   Keeping track and sharing “to do” lists, “next steps” and progress towards goals;

o   Meeting on a regular and ongoing basis (don’t cancel meetings unless absolutely necessary);

o   Seeking management decisions and input as needed; and

o   Making sure you hear from the quiet folks in the room – they may need a little encouragement to speak up, but often offer great insights.

  • Utilize team members/subcommittees to perform specific tasks between meetings.
  • Utilize available qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Collect specific data, as necessary, to help define the problem and suggest solutions.
  • Do fact finding to support decision-making.
  • Maintain a “living” working document(s) as decisions are made to be incorporated into a final product.

Utilize pilot testing to determine feasibility and make changes (i.e., “fix bugs”) prior to full implementation.

  • Provide periodic communication to the rest of the department or organization during the project and at its conclusion.
  • Train all impacted staff on process improvements.
  • Conduct periodic assessments after implementation to assess success of the project.
  • Refine processes as new issues and changes occur.

Hot Tips:

  • Sometimes QI processes take longer than expected. “Keep going even when the going is slow and uncertain.”  G.G. Renee Hill
  • “To discover new ways of doing something – look at a process as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.” Mitchel Martin

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


3 thoughts on “Sherry Campanelli and Laura Newhall on Facilitation Not Dictation: How a QI Team Succeeds”

  1. Pingback: Sherry Campanelli and Laura Newhall on The Best Laid Plans: Navigating the Potholes and Pitfalls of Group Facilitation · AEA365

  2. Sherry and Laura,

    Thank you for sharing some great tips and suggestions regarding program evaluation. I enrolled in an introductory course in program evaluation at my university for personal interest; I am pursuing my Master of Science in Human Resource Management. Some of the tips that you mentioned have come in very handy for me as I work on my assigned project.

    My assigned project is a needs assessment, which will be used to determine the feasibility of service expansion for a local private school whose specialty is serving students with exceptional needs. I have completed meeting minutes and agenda for my project for various meetings. I found it very helpful to refer back to the notes and agenda, which ensured that I was meeting the goals of the project.

    On another note, I also enjoy reading your post as well as others on this forum, which is geared toward providing services for those with disabilities. As an undergraduate, I used to volunteer for my university’s Office of Disability Services, where I took notes for students, read textbooks onto tape, and served as a guide for visually impaired students (making sure that they arrived at the correct classroom on time). I enjoyed serving my fellow students in this manner. Progress with assisting persons with disabilities has definitely come a long way from my undergraduate days in the late nineties.

    Please pardon me for digressing. Your post is very helpful and lets me know that I am moving in the right direction! Thank you!

    1. Laura Newhall and Sherry Campanelli

      Hi Tiffany,

      Thank you for your feedback. We’re thrilled that someone else who has had the experience of working with people with disabilities has found our blog useful. We share your belief that keeping written records of the progress of a team and decisions made is key to advancing a project. Even though it is sometimes tedious, it acts as a written reference point to refresh the team on the status and direction of a project. A team review of minutes and documentation is invaluable because it highlights missing steps, next steps, and unresolved issues. We’ve found that this is motivating to the team and helps highlight what’s been accomplished and facilitates the mission.

      We would love to hear how your needs assessment, once it’s completed, impacts service expansion at the private school. Do you have any suggestions or tips that you’ve found that would help us with monitoring and evaluation work?

      Thanks again!

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