Healthcare is the most dynamic changing environment we have today, which correlates to the importance of strategic planning. Whether your organization is in its infancy, growth or mature stages, it is vital that strategic planning is a priority. It is very easy to comprehend the definition of strategic planning (a fundamental discipline for articulating dynamic situations that is shared among organization leaders), but to implement this strategy is complex.

First leaders must review their organization. Is their mission statement in line with their beliefs, philosophy and culture? Then you must assess the external market, which will allow for organization direction. The third stage is assessing your internal characteristics. This applies to strategy formulation and assists the organization in establishing goals and objectives. Finally, an evaluation of competitive position must be performed. How do we get to the next level? This involves identifying the actions needed to implement the plan.

It is critical that the strategic plan moves the organization forward in a direction agreed upon by key executives. This is vital for success as the most common problems in achieving effectiveness are: (1) not addressing the critical issues; (2) falling prey to paralysis of analysis; (3) conducting strategic planning independently from financial planning; and (4) most important of all is failing to involve the appropriate people in the process.

As organizations begin a new planning process, they should evaluate past strategies for several reasons. This will help in determining what has worked, what has not, and why. It also will highlight certain types of analyses that may be more important. Clearly, planning issues that result from situation analysis are the most critical issues. In comparing data analysis, it is not necessary to compare all types, but enough data is needed to provide a good perspective on historical performance.

It is very easy for all of us to become complacent, especially when business is good. Everyone spends too much time preserving the past and not enough time building for the future. Typically, senior managers spend less than 5% of their time in building overall corporate perspectives for the future. When developing a perspective about future conditions facing the organization, executives need to include multiple, diverse scenarios.

Organizations that survive numerous external and internal changes are exceptional visionaries. They provide continuity and change and provide guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward. This mindset and discipline allows the strategic plan to be carried out by the final component, the action plan. Specific tasks are described for achieving objectives and responsibilities are assigned for completing each action. The plan also defines a schedule for implementation and estimates incremental resources that are necessary.

Board members, medical staff leaders, and senior management are the most common groups involved in the strategic planning process. People outside the organization may be involved in the process in certain ways as well. Typically these individuals have recognized expertise and may be consulted on issues regarding implementation, community support, the environment, and much more.

These organizations have a critical theme that all key leaders share. They listen, they are focused, and they understand that strategic planning is an ongoing process that involves significant participation from the top down.

Unfortunately we have seen many healthcare companies and medical practices lose focus of their vision and values. As a result, these organizations have lost the opportunity to increase their clinical and business fundamentals and many have filed for bankruptcy.