Thursday Thoughts – Hitting ‘Pause’ and Putting a QI Project into Hibernation

Those involved in quality and practice transformation efforts have likely experienced times when they’ve needed to put an improvement project “on pause” as higher-priority issues surface. It can be challenging to both put a project on hold and restart a project after a hiatus – even if the project is only in “hibernation” for a couple of months. Many of you are currently experiencing this as you pause some QI and practice transformation efforts to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those who are considering putting a planned or active improvement project on pause, there are a few resources you may find useful.

SnipImageFirst, the National Health Services (NHS) Health Improvement Scotland team created a guide with processes and practices for putting a project on pause so that these projects can more easily be restarted when the time is right. This working draft will be continually updated in the coming weeks, and currently includes actions teams can take related to:

  • File Management and Project Documentation
  • Email Correspondence
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Knowledge Management
  • Events and meetings

You can download the guide as a Word document here.

Here are two other templates that IHQC uses when working with improvement teams that are for teams needing to hit pause on an active QI Project: 1) a PDSA Tracking Log and 2) a Risks/Issues Log.

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A PDSA Tracking Log can be used by a QI team over the course of a project to plan and monitor their PDSA’s, or tests of change. We’ve seen teams successfully use this tracking log to help stay organized, plan for their future tests of change, and to document the lessons learned from past tests. This helps minimize duplicating tests and/or losing those lessons learned as staff are pulled onto new projects or leave the organization. To that end, completing a PDSA Tracking Log as you’re putting a project on pause can help your team pick up right where you left off.

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A Risks and Issues Log is often used by project managers to document, monitor, and resolve the various issues and challenges that come up over the course of a project (e..g, hiring delays, data report challenges, workflow bottlenecks, staff resistance to change, etc.). As with the PDSA Tracking Log, this can be a helpful tool for documenting the current state of a project so that, when the team is ready to restart the effort, they can be reminded of the challenges they were working to resolve.

Both of these files can be downloaded as a single Excel file here.

In the coming months, we’ll highlight some additional strategies teams can use when they are ready to restart a project. In the interim, we hope you all stay safe and well.

If you’d like to share a story of your improvement work, a resource that you find helpful, or just a quick note, please reach out to us at

Chris Hunt

Chris Hunt, MPH, LSSBB, is a Program Director at IHQC.

Chris HuntThursday Thoughts – Hitting ‘Pause’ and Putting a QI Project into Hibernation