Ready, Aim, Improve in 2016: Start with your Aim Statement

Submitted by: 01/13/2016 by Maureen Fitzgerald

Every NIATx change project has an aim statement that describes the specific measureable goal that you hope to achieve through rapid-cycle tests.

The aim is specific to a project and describes what you hope to achieve.

If you plunge into a change project without first defining your aim, you and your team are likely to flounder. It’s like setting out on a road trip with no clear idea of your final destination. If you have only a vague notion of where you want to end up, you can waste a lot of time and a lot of gas —and may decide to just turn around and go home. 

A good aim statement keeps you focused on the process you want to improve.  It’s something you can return to throughout your project, especially when you and your team find yourselves drifting off course.

A good aim statement is specific

As Don Berwick, former director of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has said, “Some is not a number and soon is not a time.”

An aim statement should answer two questions: What are we trying to accomplish?” And “How will we know if the change is an improvement?” Here’s an example: “Reduce no-shows to assessment appointments by 50% from an average no-show rate of 80% to 40% by February 1, 2016.”

Three common pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

Scott Gatzke, NIATx coach and director of dissemination for ElderTree Wisconsin, has helped many change teams refine their aim statements.  Here, he shares three common aim statement mistakes, and what you can do to correct them:

1. Aim statement is vague and not measurable.

To avoid this, start each aim statement with either the word "increase" or "decrease. Says Scott, “This one trick will help in writing the statement so it includes "what" you will increase or decrease and by how much.”

2. More than one aim in your aim statement.

A change project is defined by one aim, one level of care, at one location, with one population. If your change project has the aim to reduce no-shows and increase customer satisfaction, the changes you make not have the same effect on each. Focus on one aim at a time.

3. No specific date identified to achieve your aim.

Use this simple template when writing an aim statement to avoid the above-mentioned pitfalls:

Increase/decrease _________ by ___ % from a baseline of ____ to a goal of____ by ______ (date).

“An end date gives your change team a time bound goal. It also give them a point at which to celebrate when the aim is achieved,” says Scott.

Looking for ideas or promising practices for your next change project? Visit the Resource Center at 

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