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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
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Improvement Teams

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Power of Teams

Part 3: Selecting Members for a Team

Part 4: Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Part 5: Stages of Team Growth

Part 6: Tips from Successful Teams

Part 7: Supporting Information

Part 3: Selecting Members for a Team 

Thoughtful attention toward selecting members for a QI team is critical to successful improvement. While there is not a specific "how-to" guide for QI team selection, there are some worthy guiding principles to consider. An ideal QI team member:

  1. Represents any discipline and ideally works directly with the system targeted for improvement
  2. Is willing to learn from other team members
  3. Is willing to maintain open communication with staff, leadership, and consumers
  4. Is willing to assume individual responsibility that contributes to the team's success
  5. Commits to the success of the improvement project
One strategy is to consider the attributes of an individual who is identified as a potential candidate for the QI team. Leaders of successful QI teams suggest that an organization should seek individuals who have the following attributes:
  • Respected by a broad range of staff
  • Team players
  • Excellent listeners
  • Good communicators
  • Proven problem solvers
  • Frustrated with the current situation and ready for change
  • Creative and able to offer solutions
  • Flexible--demonstrated by their willingness to change and accept new technology
  • Proficient in the areas and systems focused for improvement

If an organization has many individuals who are eligible and willing to serve on a QI team, the leader may use a chart, such as the one in Table 3.1, to compare potential candidates. (1) This chart has been used with simple check boxes or with a Likert scale rating of 1 to 5 for each characteristic, with 1 defined as strongly disagree that the characteristic represents the person being evaluated and 5 equaling strongly agree.

Table 3.1: QI Team Selection Chart

1= strongly disagree (this characteristic does not represent this individual) 2= disagree 3= neutral, 4= agree 5= strongly agree.)

Desired Characteristics  
Candidate's initials                      
Team player                      
Problem solver                      
Frustrated with current system                      
Creative and innovative                      
Open to change                      
List area of skill/proficiency                      
TOTAL SCORE                      

Each QI team is unique, melding together the insights and experiences of its individual members. It is important to ensure that the QI team includes members with complementary skills. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (2) recommends three different types of expertise within an organization be included: 1) system leadership, 2) technical expertise, and 3) day-to-day leadership. There may be one or more individuals on the team with each expertise, or one individual may have expertise in more than one area, but all three areas should be represented in order to drive improvement successfully.

System Leadership

An improvement team needs a leader with authority in the organization to institute a suggested change and to overcome barriers that may inhibit its implementation. The team's system leader understands both the implications of the proposed change for various parts of the system and the remote consequences the change might trigger. It is important that the system leader has authority over all of the areas affected by the change. This person should also be authorized to allocate the time and resources the team needs to achieve its aim. (2)

Clinical Technical Expertise

A clinical technical expert knows the subject intimately and understands the processes of care. An expert on improvement methods can provide additional technical support by helping the team determine what to measure, assisting in design of simple, effective measurement tools, and providing guidance on collection, interpretation, and display of data. (2)

Day-to-Day Leadership

A day-to-day leader is the driver of the project, overseeing data collection and ensuring that tests are implemented. This person should understand the details of the system and the various effects of making change(s) in the system. The day-to-day leader also needs to work effectively with the physician champion(s). (2)

Increasingly, the value of having consumers on a QI team is recognized. Consumers need training to participate in a meaningful way, but they can provide unparalleled insights into the impact of current processes and proposed changes. Those considering inclusion of a consumer on their QI team should learn from experienced improvement teams. A few resources for consideration are listed below:

Recruiting members for a team that have the right mix of expertise can be challenging--especially in small organizations. Fortunately, many of the clinical technical expertise skills, such as, QI tools, measurement tools, and data collection and display can be learned. An organization that is committed to QI should invest in the necessary training to ensure the team is adequately prepared. Most experienced QI leaders start with volunteers and then assess any gaps in the team's expertise and then recruit specific individuals who can best round out the team.

Note: Successful teams have learned the importance of keeping the team tight. Typically a team has five to seven members at the most. Team members should represent each area and employee affected by the improvement project. If the project cuts across departments, so should the team membership. For QI, consider selecting someone from finance to provide an organization-wide perspective.

Individuals who are not team members may also contribute valuable information or perspective. These team consultants may be engaged periodically as the project evolves.

Before a QI team's membership is finalized, ensure there is buy-in from organizational leadership. It is critical to the success of the project that leadership assumes responsibility for the team entrusted to execute the QI project.

Additional resources for assisting an organization with training or ongoing support of improvement teams are listed in Table 3.2: 

Table 3.2: Additional Support Resources for Improvement Teams

Name of Tool or Resource Description
Training-of-Trainers (TOT) Program Exit Disclaimer. The TOT Program is designed for individuals with a strong experiential background in quality management; it provides participants exposure to adult learning theories and other available training resources. Graduates of TOT plan engaging and effective workshops, while linking them with QI experts and peers facing similar challenges.
NQC Quality Academy: Using Teams to Improve Quality Exit Disclaimer. Creating a team-oriented environment begins at the top. Each person in an organization performs a unique function, and this module shows how to integrate these disciplines, so everyone is working towards a common goal.
The Team Handbook Exit Disclaimer. The Team Handbook facilitates team building and covers the following topics:
  • Learn how to establish teams
  • Understand team roles and responsibilities
  • Use teams to resolve problems and learn together
  • Learn how to deal with conflicts
This handbook is helpful for both leaders and team members and offers many strategies for helping teams work well together.
HIVQUAL Workbook - Guide for Quality Improvement in HIV Care Exit Disclaimer. The HIVQUAL Workbook is a step-by-step, self-learning guide intended to give HIV providers a clear roadmap for making QI a reality in ambulatory care settings. Materials provided are adaptable to facilities, whether or not they participate in HIVQUAL, and are applicable to all HIV programs, regardless of caseload, geographic location or the service delivery model used. This tool has proven useful for many organizations who applied the QI techniques acrossed a wide variety of chronic conditions.
A Team Approach to Quality Improvement Exit Disclaimer. This is a helpful book to assist in team development and highlights successful strategies teams have used to make organizational improvements.
Quality Function Deployment and Lean-Six Sigma Applications in Public Health Exit Disclaimer. The purpose of this book is to introduce the concepts embedded in quality function deployment (QFD) and Lean-Six Sigma to help public health professionals implement QI within their agencies. The tools and techniques of QFD and Lean-Six Sigma are designed to augment a robust PDCA or PDSA problem-solving process--not replace it.
American Society for Quality Exit Disclaimer. This is a Web site devoted to QI including specific information on the value and use of teams in QI.
Quality Improvement & Risk Management Training
Module 5: What Works Really Works
Module 5 provides training to further enhance the team's role in QI.

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