Strategic Planning Initiation

Before initiating the process, it is important to assess current readiness of the organization to embark on strategic planning, review documents and outcomes of the previous strategic planning activities, and promptly address potential barriers to ensure that the necessary preconditions for successful strategic planning are in place. If the organization is not ready at the present time it is much better to postpone strategic planning until most of the criteria for successful planning are in place. Preparation for strategic planning should not be taken lightly. To provide common understanding and context for strategic planning it is very important to prepare a profile of the organization that may include brief information about key services, history, workforce profile, stakeholders, patient population, facilities, technology, organizational structure, regulatory framework, key influences, current challenges, etc. Effective, timely and open communication is absolutely essential at every phase of the strategic planning process. To ensure meaningful staff involvement in the planning process it is a good idea to establish a multidisciplinary Strategic Planning Task Force responsible for coordination and integration of all planning activities, development, implementation and ongoing refinement of the strategic plan, and monitoring progress towards established goals.

The intensity of planning activities and the amount of time required for strategic planning depends on various circumstances that may be radically different for any given organization. It may take only a couple of days to generate a basic but still useful strategic plan or it may take a number of weeks or even months of intensive planning activities to create a comprehensive strategic plan needed to move the organization forward. A number of decision factors should be considered and balanced when planning for the intensity and duration of planning activities. Any shortcuts taken in strategic planning may result in missing critical steps required to meet expectations and achieve desired outcomes. Predictably, actual implementation of the strategic plan and related projects, initiatives and action plans will take much longer. Depending on the nature of work environment, pace of change and organizational ability to implement the plan, the timeframe covered by the strategic plan may range from one to three years. Considering the work environment associated with modern, dynamic and innovative healthcare organizations, the timeframe longer than three years is becoming increasingly uncommon.

Early stakeholder engagement is integral to the success of the strategic planning and smooth transition to the desired future state. Stakeholders are individuals, teams, organizations, and other interested parties who are directly or indirectly affected by or can influence decisions, actions and overall outcomes of the strategic planning process. Examples of key stakeholders may include patients and their families, healthcare providers, scientists, hospital executives, departments, divisions, community partners, unions, charitable contributors, governing boards, suppliers, government agencies, and others. As part of the preparation activities, it is vital to conduct a stakeholder analysis and ensure congruence between stakeholder interests and the scope of the strategic planning process. Stakeholder analysis is the ongoing process of systematically gathering and analyzing information about stakeholders in order to better understand their needs, interests and levels of influence, identify interrelationships, prevent potential conflicts, and minimize risks associated with the lack of leadership support. Based on this analysis, appropriate strategies can be developed to increase stakeholder engagement, ensure effective communication and leverage the knowledge, experience and wisdom of key organizational players.

The responsibility assignment matrix shown below provides an example of how to define reporting relationships, roles and responsibilities for the strategic planning process, set clear expectations, eliminate confusion, and minimize potential ambiguities in accountability. Similar quality management tools known as “RASIC” (Responsible, Approve, Support, Inform, Consult) or “RACI“ (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) are frequently used in project management, particularly when two or more departments collaborate on a single project.