Strategic Planning Retreats – An Ounce of Preparation Makes for a Pound of Future Success

As the healthcare industry continuously evolves due to market and regulatory demands, hospitals are seeking some semblance of certainty. While strategic planning is still that — a plan — and will not protect organizations from all stresses of the industry, it can establish a clearer path for the near-term future. Moreover, developing a plan dedicates specific time to evaluating the known challenges facing your organization, contemplating potential future issues, and assessing the organization’s ability to adapt – all of which are valuable in facing continual change.In the unfortunate cases where hospital administration becomes relatively far removed from their providers, who are the key financial and operational drivers, it is most likely a result of their focus on keeping up with the ever-increasing demands of the healthcare industry and government regulations. Thus, it is important to set aside time (such as via a strategic planning retreat) to bring together the administrative and clinical sides of the business to most comprehensively evaluate potential issues and prepare for anticipated changes expected in the near future.

The chief goals of a strategic planning retreat are as follows:

  • Review current issues: Review areas that the hospital administration and clinical leaders are struggling with on a recurrent basis.
  • Improve communication: Provide an open forum for stakeholders to voice their concerns within a productive atmosphere.
  • Establish a vision: Develop a clear plan for the future based on an agreed-upon vision for the organization.
  • Determine expectations: Clinical and administrative leaders indicate what they agree to complete going forward, as well as what they expect in return.
  • Develop leaders: Build and identify potential leaders.

While many of the goals outlined above are intangible results of the retreat, there should also be a defined deliverable in the form of a strategic roadmap. Thus, a document (i.e., action plan) should be developed post-retreat with content inclusive of the following (to be tweaked based on the outcomes of the retreat):

  • Goals for the upcoming period: Clear, quantifiable goals for the upcoming period (likely, the period until next retreat)
  • Issues to address: Any problems identified via discussions that will be addressed through specific and measurable future initiatives
  • Initiatives to implement: Agreed-upon initiatives that will be implemented among the medical and administrative staff to address the issues outlined above, respond to industry changes, and meet the mutual goals of the clinical and administrative leadership
  • Action tracker: Well-defined next steps to meet the above-noted goals within the tangible initiatives, including a timeline for completion, the status of the action, and the responsible party.

The overarching purpose of the retreat should be to establish a single focal point to ensure all parties are working toward the same end goal. Thus, when separate meetings occur to address more specific issues, this guidance document should be consulted to ensure any additional initiatives either align with or build upon those outlined in the strategic plan.To ensure adherence to this plan, a hospital representative (likely the CSO, COO, or CMO) should be identified to continuously review the document and ensure all parties are driving toward the accomplishment of the defined goals. (In most organizations, this would also be in concert with the Board.) Further, the leadership should celebrate their successes, as well as evaluate the initiatives that were not achieved, during a subsequent retreat to determine how to move forward with those items and assess how or why these fell short. While the frequency of strategic planning retreats will depend on the organization itself, there is significant support for conducting them annually. Yearly meetings allow for making considerable progress on all initiatives and for realizing additional issues/changes before developing a new strategic plan.

Moreover, it will enable administration and providers to set yearly goals for the organization tied to adequate financial projections, based on realistic projections. With that said, it may be beneficial to have more frequent, tactical sessions with specific subgroups of individuals (i.e., particular specialties, individual facilities, administrative functions) to respond to the initiatives outlined by the retreat. This initiative will allow each area to define the specific steps needed to implement these activities and will provide a forum for highlighting more granular issues that should be evaluated at a higher level.

For further insight, Aimee Greeter and Taylor Harrison have written white papers on strategic retreats for both private practice groups as well as hospitals and health systems. Contact us today to see how Coker Group can help facilitate an effective and worthwhile strategic retreat for your organization.

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