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Take your hospital from strategic planning to action

December 17th, 2012

by Raymond Hino

In the Lewis Carroll book "Alice in Wonderland," there is a marvelous business lesson on planning for success. Remember when Alice meets the Cheshire Cat early in the story?

She says, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" The cat wisely says, "That depends a good deal on where you want to go?"

Alice didn't care where she was going. So the cat answers, "Then it doesn't matter which way you go."

That leads me to the question that I want to ask you today. Do you know what direction you want your hospital, system or organization to go in the next few years? And, if you do then do you have a plan to get there?

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While most of you will answer "yes" we have a plan, my next question is: Are you using your plan to get your organization where you want it to go?

I have found that, perhaps, the most valuable exercise we can take as an organization to move to the "next level," is to not only create an excellent strategic plan but also to use it effectively to achieve our goals. My practice in recent years has been to bring in as many stakeholders as possible into the planning process from the very beginning.

An excellent way to start is with an all-day planning event in which the invitees include hospital board of directors, employees, medical staff, foundation membership, key stakeholders from the community and experts from the field. With as much input as possible, and with expert facilitation, I have used this process to create a strategic plan to guide the hospital's actions in the areas of physical plant improvements, medical staff growth, program development, community development, financial planning and staff development.

Once we created a plan that satisfied everyone and got it down on paper, then the real work started. The real work is implementing the plan!

I subscribe to the theory that a strategic plan is not meant to simply look attractive and validate the fact that we do indeed plan for our future. A strategic plan is a living and breathing tool, much like a computer or a communications system that enables our organizations to achieve our goals and "raise the bar."

I recommend that the board of directors and the community be involved in implementation of the plan, too. This can be accomplished by delegating oversight and accountability for completion of the plan to the board's planning committee. The planning committee should include not only members of the hospital board, medical staff and hospital staff, but also members of the community.

Each month the planning committee receives an update on a specific set of goals in the plan. In my experience, managers and staff who are accountable for their sections of the plan report on new developments since the last report. They also report on resources necessary for completion and percentage of progress towards completion.

Each manager will report four times each year on progress that they have made on their part of the plan. To close the loop, the planning committee reports to the hospital board each month on progress made on the plan.

I cannot stress enough the importance of creating your plan and converting it to action. That way your organization will get to where it needs to go.

As the Cheshire Cat says, "You're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough."

Raymond Hino, MPA, FACHE is vice president of Healthcare Advisory Services, Inc and a board member of the Health Research & Education Trust. Previously, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg, California.

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