Agile Approach Can Boost Staff Engagement, Operational Efficiencies

Leigh Burgess, CEO & President, High Road Strategy

Clinical trial leaders can transform risks into opportunities and problem-solving efforts into team morale-boosting milestones by leveraging agile strategies to identify underperforming areas of operation, says Leigh Burgess, MHA, MEd, MA, CEO and founder of Bold Industries Group and its High Road Strategy services.

While there are tangible tools and tactics to leverage in what’s known as the agile strategies approach, Burgess says it begins with a mindset. “It’s about being open to trying something different,” she explains.

There are a number of benefits both short- and long-term, Burgess says. For example, employee morale can begin to rise quickly, in part because “everyone feels like they are part of the solution, like their voice is being heard,” she notes. Under the agile approach, “everyone’s voice is important and thinking out loud is encouraged.”

Mistakes are also accepted as part of the price of doing business, Burgess says. While keeping patient safety at front of mind, under the agile approach, teams thrive under a culture where “they have permission to try something that might not be successful,” she says. Intelligent mistakes can be excellent learning opportunities and “energizing” for the clinical trial team, she adds.

Amateur Buddhists and stoics might have a leg up in that they accept the inevitability of change. For those who are risk- or change-averse, it’s important for the team and leadership to address it head-on, Burgess says. “Change is constant in clinical research,” she says, and practitioners “have to get used to the fact that people, systems,” and other moving parts are in a state of constant evolution.

Even when a problem is fixed, it might need readjustments down the line, Burgess adds.

The agile approach is also effective because it can target certain “hot spot” problem areas and offer up ideas to improve a situation that can be assessed relatively quickly. For example, a site struggling with activation time might approach the problem “holistically,” Burgess says, before zeroing in on an area of particular concern. Often, a potential solution can be tested and judged for effectiveness in weeks or months rather than years, she explains.

Author: Michael Causey