Can projects kill someone?

I read the article listed below the other day.  I really agree with what Mark Rafalski is saying, because he is supporting everything I believe in.  In this article he writes that a large portion of short-term acute care hospitals today are experiencing operating losses.  He recommends three ways in which these organizations can improve and reduce the bleeding (pun intended).

I agree that organizations must have a strategy to succeed.  Especially when market conditions are changing significantly, if you stand still you will fail.  

I agree that organizations, not just hospitals, have challenges in the execution of strategy.  Statistics say that nearly 45% of all strategic initiatives fail and a large portion of those are due to execution and communication deficiencies, which is where strong project management can certainly help.

I also agree that accountability is key.  For any of you that have read Patrick Lencione's book -- The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, you know that high performing teams hold themselves accountable; however, you can't become high performing until trust is established.

So how do projects actually kill someone?  The article states that over 35% of short-term acute care hospitals are experiencing operating losses. What causes these losses and what are the unintended consequences of these losses?  

Based on my experiences working 15 years in the workers' compensation managed care arena, and an additional 10 years with organizations of all types around the country, EVERY organization has "improvement" projects they are working on.  When these projects are delayed, thru mismanagement of scope or resources, organizations cannot achieve the strategic initiatives they have defined.  When organizations don't achieve these initiatives, they will overspend to the budget that was planned based on the initiatives being achieved.  When budgets overrun, the money has to come from somewhere.  Tightening the belt usually results in organizations reducing spending on equipment and training, and reducing staff and particularly the nursing budget. 

Now let's look at an acute care hospital.  The failure of projects to deliver on strategic initiatives CAN have an impact on patient care.  Maybe the new equipment that could help better diagnose specific diseases doesn't get purchased because of lack of funds, or maybe minimizing staff per shift causes tired employees to miss some underlying symptoms, causing a delay in treatment.

So next time you are working on a project and you think it is ok to move the delivery date out, you might want to think twice about how NOT delivering your project on time could have an impact on your ultimate customer.