Medical Procedures and Project Management: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Medical Procedures and Project Management: Two Sides of the Same Coin


A Medical procedure has several definitions, 2 of which are pertinent here:

  • A series of steps by which a desired result is accomplished.1
  • The sequence of steps to be followed in establishing some course of action.2

While Project Management can be defined as:

  • The application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives3

Not all that dissimilar are they?

Well, imagine a group of surgeons standing around the operating table about to perform an operation and saying, “Look let’s just get stuck in and see how we go”.

Imagine the resultant medical negligence litigation!

It sounds like a ridiculous concept doesn’t it and, of course, it would never happen. Yet many projects are started off just like this. There aren’t any ‘best practice’ policies and procedures in project management and even the proven and world recognised ‘Bodies of Knowledge’ (such as the project management body of knowledge i.e. PMBoK) are often ignored.


Let’s take a look at how these two processes align.

A study of the Victorian Department of Health Redesigning Hospital Care Program would suggest that medical procedures and processes have an enormous amount in common with the project management body of knowledge or PMBoK as we know it.

Take for example ‘Defining the scope or work’ from the Health Dept. report4.  It says that:

“Developing a shared understanding as to where the journey to be redesigned begins and ends is a practical way to begin a program of process redesign.  This understanding has to be shared between the redesign team, the relevant managers, and the key frontline staff.”5

In Project Management terms, this would read:

“Developing a shared understanding of the project scope and its inclusions and exclusions is a practical way to begin a project implementation plan.  This understanding has to be shared between the project initiators, the project implementation team and other key stakeholders”.

Sound similar? Let’s move on.

How about the next heading from the Health Dept. publication “What structured approach can be used to undertake redesign?6 Where it notes that:

“Principles and philosophies provide the foundation of effective process design”.

In Project Management terms, that would read:

“PMBoK Principles, philosophies and processes  provide the foundation for effective project management.”

Are the dots starting to join up?


Well, let’s continue on…

The underlying methodologies are implemented via a structured program that moves through well-defined phases.

The phases are:

  • Defining the scope of work (Initiation)
  • Diagnosing the issues (Planning)
  • Developing appropriate interventions (Planning and Implementation)
  • Evaluating the outcomes (Reporting, monitoring and Control together with Implementation Review/Finalisation)
  • Sustaining the improvement (Lessons Learned)

So where does this take us?

Just as constant evaluation of medical procedures result in better outcomes and process redesign leads to reduced errors, improved patient access to services, lower costs and makes better use of resources7. The application of project management principles, philosophies and processes to projects can deliver better outcomes.

Medical procedures and project management? Definitely two sides of the same coin.

By the way, if you haven’t read the Health Dept. Publication, it is worth doing so.  It provides a concise yet comprehensive introduction to process redesign

More Course Information

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  1. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 28th ed. Page 1353. ISBN 0-7216-2859-1 []
  2. Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary, Page 1278. ISBN 0-8016-7225-2 []
  3. []
  4. See pp. 5 Victorian Department of Health (2013) Redesigning Hospital Care Program: An Introduction to Process Redesign. []
  5. Ibid []
  6. Ibid pp 5 []
  7. Ibid pp 3 []