5 Methods to Ensure the Failure of Your Accreditation Project

Running a successful accreditation project takes skill, energy, and resources… but getting your project to fail is easy, if you follow this advice:

Overload your staff. Assign the primary responsibility for the project to your IRB Chair or Administrator, without providing any additional staff resources to support him/her.  Choose the busiest people in your organization to serve on your project team, especially if they travel a lot!  Keep expectations for regular job responsibilities the same, while assuring your staff that heads will roll if accreditation is not achieved in the reasonable 3-month timeline established.

Disregard skills and strengths.  Be sure the person in charge of project communication is anti-social, and assign document revision responsibility to the people who procrastinate the most.  It’s also helpful to make sure there is nobody with project management experience on your team, since it won’t be necessary to be organized or pay attention to silly things like budget, timeline, action items, roles & responsibilities, tracking changes, etc.

Procrastinate.  It’s important to wait until the last minute to convert your documents to PDF and assemble the final package. Everyone loves the excitement of figuring out how to solve technical problems at 3am on the day before a deadline!  For an added thrill, make sure you’re out of toner for your printer so that you can hunt for a 24-hour office supply store too!

Decentralize your documents.  To make sure everything is prevented from being backed up regularly, it’s important to store your policy documents on several computers.  It’s helpful if these computers are over 5 years old, and are regularly brought home and stored on the kitchen table next to pitchers of water or other liquids.  When your data is lost, you’ll be able to reconstruct everything with a clean slate, instead of worrying about restoring from a remote server.

Underestimate the usefulness of technology.  Be sure you have no budget for information technology – computers and software are overrated for improving efficiency, working collaboratively, or automating repetitive tasks.  Why invest a modest amount of money in time- and energy-saving technology when you could WASTE BOATLOADS doing it inefficiently?!?  You can always have your VP of Research help do document conversion and application assembly in the eleventh hour – it’s an excellent use of his or her time.

AAHRPP Conference Followup: Keep Your Connections Going on LinkedIn

We’re back from the 5th Annual AAHRPP Conference in Los Angeles, and we’re excited about all of the great connections we made again this year.  We heard over and over again that people are ready to make their accreditation process less painful by sharing lessons learned.  People are tired of feeling isolated, and want to communicate with their peers to share strategies for executing a successful accreditation project.

The best laid plans…

We know how easily life can get in the way of good intentions!  You return from the conference with a pile of business cards and every intention of following up with your new friends, but those business cards can quickly become buried under mountains of other work.  Before that happens this year, take action and establish new habits to keep yourself in the loop with minimum effort.

Social Networking Spotlight: LinkedIn

The great news is that there are a ton of social networking tools out there to help you stay connected!  There are a lot of services available, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so we’re just going to concentrate on one of them for now:  

LinkedIn.  Our favorite site for making professional connections is LinkedIn – it’s easy to use, and we’re already set up to create a network of people who share our passion for making accreditation less painful by sharing lessons learned.

  • Step 1: If you don’t already have one, create a professional profile on LinkedIn.
  • Step 2: Join the AAHRPP Accreditation Community Group
  • Step 3: Invite your colleagues to join LinkedIn or tell them about the group.
  • Step 4: Participate!  Start a discussion or add a news article of interest to the group.

9 ways to make your accreditation process greener

Perform group reviews with a projector. Consider meeting in the same room and using a projector to display the document while one person makes changes, instead of printing copies for everyone. 

Use electronic annotation tools.  Instead of revising printed documents, use the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word.  Or convert your documents to PDF and annotate with Adobe Acrobat Reader or Apple Preview. 

Print double-sided.  If you must print a draft document, print it double-sided.  Ask your IT staff to show you how – they love to feel useful! 

Use recycled materials.  Always use paper with recycled content wherever possible.  Look for paper or corn- based report covers and binders to organize yourself.

Recycle your materials.  If you must print draft documents, be sure to recycle them!  Let your kids draw on the back, or shred them for packing material. 

Use Energy Star™.  Be sure your equipment for editing and printing is labeled as Energy Star compliant.

Buy Organic.  If you’re up until the wee hours working on your application, use organic coffee as fuel.  Serve organic coffee and treats at project meetings and get bonus points if it’s also fair trade! 

Work from home.  Designate one day per week as “accreditation day”  – save gas, turn off the phone, and concentrate on your project without the distractions!

Use AccreditStation for group collaboration. Comment on document content, dynamically create your Element Index, and automatically assemble draft and final versions of your application packages — without using any paper! 

Starting your accreditation process – Tip #4: Get Dedicated

Most accreditation projects stall because the other job responsibilities of team members get in the way. This is especially true if the project manager is also trying to run the IRB or compliance office. It’s hard to pay attention to the big picture projects when day-to-day crisis management tasks occupy all of your energy.

  • If you can dedicate a full time person to be in charge of the process, do it!
  • If you can’t dedicate someone on your staff to manage the project, hire a consultant! Having an outside voice of authority is usually a motivating factor, and experienced consultants can help you with everything from providing templates to content expertise to project management. If you don’t know where to find a consultant, contact us – we know several seasoned veterans (not on our payroll) who’d be happy to hold your hand.

Starting your accreditation process – Tip #3: Establish a budget

There’s more to an accreditation budget than paying the application fee.  

Consider these other factors when you establish your project budget:

  • Figure out the hourly rate of all staff members involved in the process (salary + benefits, divided by the number of hours per year that they work – typically 2000)
  • Figure out the average number of hours per week each person will be able to dedicate to the project
  • Now that you have the weekly cost of the project, multiply that by the number of weeks in your project timeline.
  • Be sure to add in technology costs, application fees, consultant fees, conferences, travel, etc.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Now make sure everyone is aware of the budget and the impact delays will have on the bottom line.

Knowing the real cost will help with decision making, and calculating return on investment (ROI) when considering options such as consultants or technology purchases to speed up the process.

Starting your accreditation process – Tip #2: Get Organized

There’s a lot to do when getting organized to start a big project like this! The ones we’ve highlighted below are those we’ve found to be most frequently overlooked.

  • After you figure out who will be on your accreditation team, and establish roles and responsibilities for your team members.  Figuring this out in advance will help you avoid stepping on toes, or missing important tasks because you assumed someone else was handling something they didn’t know they were supposed to handle!
  • If you are the only person on the team – get HELP!
  • Make sure the person in charge of the team has a Type A personality — he or she must love to make lists, keep spreadsheets updated, and have an unnatural affinity for post-it notes and office supplies.
  • Establish a project timeline and milestones so you can measure your progress. If you’ve never worked on a large, long-term project before, consider investing in a project management book (read it – don’t just buy it!) to familiarize yourself with basic concepts.
  • Figure out how you’re going to handle the technology side of things – store all your documents in one place, make sure everyone has the access they need, decide how to name your documents and handle version control. This might be a good time to check out our AccreditStation™ product (hint, hint).

Look for more detail on these topics in the coming weeks – we love to rattle on about the importance of organizational skills and project management!

Starting your accreditation process – Tip #1: Get Connected

We hear from a lot of people who are frustrated with the pace of their accreditation projects. It’s hard to keep energy and interest levels high over a longer time period, and costs increase as momentum slows.

We’ve worked with several institutions now who have managed to stay on track with both their timeline and budget. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share with you some of the things we’ve learned. We’ll try to address a new topic each week, so be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to stay on top of things!

A lot of people tell us that they feel isolated and alone as they travel the path to accreditation. Many people are reluctant to ask AAHRPP for help because they are afraid it will “raise a red flag”, causing additional scrutiny when they submit their application. These same people usually tell us that they don’t want to reach out to colleagues because they are afraid of looking silly, or they simply don’t know where to start to get help.

Talk to people at already-accredited institutions. The good news is that there lots of people out there who have been through this process before and have already learned valuable lessons. Most are happy to talk with others and are eager to share their lessons learned. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. If you want to talk to people who have already “been there, done that”, you can look on the AAHRPP website to view the list of organizations that have already been accredited. It can be really helpful to find out what these people wish they had known when they were first starting out.

Go to the AAHRPP Conference.  If you’re looking to commiserate with someone feeling the same pain that you are, it can be a little harder to make a connection. Due to the culture of confidentiality surrounding this process, AAHRPP does not publish the information of institutions seeking accreditation for the first time. The best place to meet people is at the AAHRPP conference, held every year in February. It’s a great opportunity to talk to people at all stages of the process, and to make a personal connection with reps from AAHRPP who will help guide you.

Contact Us. Finally, feel free to contact us –  we’re happy to act as “matchmakers” to help people find the resources they need to get (and keep) things moving!