Why Driver Diagrams are good for planning

A driver diagram is an effective project planning tool on the LifeQI system. It comes in three parts:

  • Your overall aim
  • Primary drivers (the broad factors that affect your goal)
  • Secondary drivers (these break the primary drivers down into more specific factors)

Some QI teams may be tempted to use the driver diagram as a mere expression of their thoughts, rather than as an actual tool or method for planning.

5 reasons why you should take your driver diagrams seriously:


1. Allow you to consider multiple ways you can achieve a goal, thereby facilitating team thinking

The reality is that all problems are multifaceted and it is unlikely that one solution is going to fix everything; we need different ways of thinking and seeing the problem.

But it is also a reality that conflicting views and opinions can sour this multilateral way of thinking as communication breaks down into arguments. Driver diagrams foster group thinking and minimise conflict.

They encourage people to consider all of the factors that affect a goal, and to consider them equally and thoroughly, rather than focusing on one dominant view. As you construct your diagram you can bring key stakeholders to the table (for example, patients, healthcare providers, and professional staff) so that you can construct a balanced and systematic diagram.


 2. Maintain a project's logic and focus

Many projects jump straight from the aim to the change idea, without understanding the relationship between the two: PDSA cycles testing change ideas that bear no relation to the goal will be completed, meaning that time and energy will also be wasted reporting irrelevant data.

Start with a SMART aim, and make sure your change ideas clearly link through to the aim so they can be seen to be serving the overall aim.


3. Break down large, overwhelming problems

Large problems are not only difficult to comprehend - they also lead to expensive, vague and difficult-to-implement solutions.

It can also be the case that some healthcare organisations don't actually have clear processes in place when it comes to a specific area or problem, making creating specific changes almost impossible.

By gradually and methodically following the logical progress of high-level primary drivers to low-level immediate change ideas, teams can begin to untangle threads and map out clear relationships.


4. Show the causal relationships between drivers, thereby generating relevant measures and change ideas

Perhaps the biggest strength of driver diagrams is that they are simple, linear, and demonstrate the causal relations between different factors clearly. Understanding the system and creating more accurate predictions of what you can expect to happen in your project become much easier.

Very often primary drivers indicate the process measures that you need to consider (how you ensure that the project/change is being implemented as planned), and secondary drivers indicate outcome measures (how you measure success/improvement).

Change ideas are simply the logical, specific actions that come out of your secondary drivers.


5. Communicate a project's thinking and planning with colleagues

Teams can communicate complicated projects, along with the rationale behind them and the actions taken, clearly with colleagues in one simple diagram.

This plays a huge role in pulling skeptical or confused outsiders on board, and it also helps show different individuals affected by the problem one another's positions.