As healthcare focuses more and more on consumer experience, we find ourselves sending out surveys for everything we do. We gather data through surveys and must make decisions about the results. Sometimes, the results of such surveys may be unfavorable enough that action needs to be taken. So, where do we begin?
One answer may be to create a task force. A task force is distinctive and should not be confused for a committee.1 A task force is a group of stakeholders coming together to address a complex, major issue in a short period of time.2 A task force provides diverse stakeholders an opportunity to work together to make unified recommendations.2 Ultimately, these recommendations are reported to those who have the power to enact change.
Although creating a task force may seem intuitive, it can be challenging.2 There are common themes to consider when creating a task force. Ultimately, addressing these themes early on may make the task force more efficient and effective in the long run. The considerations addressed in this article are not all-inclusive, nor rigid. Every issue and organization is unique, which necessitates a degree of flexibility suitable for each scenario. Nonetheless, the considerations to follow are generally applicable when creating a task force.
A clear hierarchy is essential when creating a task force. There should be a task force creator, a task force leader, and task force members. The task force creator has power and influence to make impactful change, while the task force leader reports the findings and suggestions of the group to the task force creator. The task force leader should be appointed by the task force creator and should serve as a liaison between the task force creator and task force members. It should be decided early on if the task force should function as a working group with a focused leader or a team with shared leadership roles.3
Task force members should be selected by the task force leadership. Although members can volunteer to participate, the leader and/or creator of the task force must ensure the task force addresses key criteria including member accountability, group diversity, and stakeholder representation. Strategic selection of task force members may allow the task force to fulfill all of the aforementioned criteria, while maintaining a reasonable number of participants.3
Members should be informed of expectations including roles and responsibilities before agreeing to serve on the task force.4 Members should be accountable, dependable, and dedicated to the task force cause. Providing expectations ahead of time can help potential members make more informed decisions about their ability to serve as effective task force members. When selecting task force members, leadership should take diversity into account to ensure that the diversity of the personnel is represented. In addition to diversity, leadership should reflect on the number of members representing involved parties and decide how to appropriately distribute stakeholders to best address the issue being investigated.2
The vision and goals of the task force creator should be communicated to the task force leader and members. Importantly, the vision and goals of the task force should align between all facets of the task force hierarchy and should be reconciled early in the task force’s establishment. Frequently reiterating the vision and goals of the group will foster a sense of purpose and remind members to stay focused on the group’s goals when discrepancies arise.4
A reasonable timeline should be set in advance for the task force. Doing so will not only keep the task force on schedule, but will also provide members with further information about expected time commitments. A timeline should be set for the expected establishment and disbandment of the task force as well as number of expected meetings in the interim. Meetings should be held at regularly scheduled intervals. Dates should be scheduled in advance for the task force leader to report progress to the task force creator.2 An agenda for each meeting should be drawn up in advance with specific topics to be discussed to reinforce efficient and productive meetings.5
It is essential to appoint a task force secretary to perform formal documentation. This may be a task force member or non-task force member with the sole responsibility to document meeting minutes. Minutes should be detailed and describe agenda items discussed and all decisions reached.5 Meeting minutes should be sent out after every meeting and previous meeting minutes should be reviewed at the start of every meeting. Minutes should be detailed to provide clarity between meetings and serve as a reminder to individuals of their responsibilities and tasks.
Leaders may choose to establish a task force to address problems identified in consumer surveys. There is no magical equation that guarantees the success of a task force; however, there are early considerations in the creation of the task force that may make the task force more effective and efficient. Although creating a task force may be challenging, leadership can benefit from the recommendations developed by various stakeholders with interdisciplinary expertise on a task force and can use these valuable recommendations to solve complex issues.