Moving Plans to Action: Implementing a Winning Strategic Plan

In the fast-paced, ever-changing healthcare industry, it is a common occurrence for organizations to become weighed down in day-to-day tasks and priorities, leaving strategic planning to fall by the wayside.

While organizations agree on the importance of a strategic plan to secure success, many don’t dedicate the necessary time and resources to developing, deploying and implementing an effective plan. In my previous article Eye on the prize: Leveraging the Baldrige Excellence Framework to Develop a Winning Strategic Plan, I discussed in detail the framework for developing a winning strategic plan along with the inputs organizations should consider to ensure its success.

The basis for this framework that many organizations used was the Baldridge Excellence Framework  – a systems approach to improving organizational performance, developed by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (established by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987).

Establishing a strategic plan from this framework is, naturally, followed by a detailed process to implement the plan. It has been found, though, that many organizations fail to allocate the necessary resources required to put such a plan into action. The results of a recent CompleteRx poll revealed that 79 percent of the healthcare professionals surveyed said they implemented only slightly more than half (51 percent) of their strategic objectives in 2016.

This would indicate a tendency of healthcare organizations to bite off more than they can chew, resulting in a failure to fully put a strategic plan in place. To avoid this potential pitfall, there are a number of steps organizations can take to implement their strategic plan, easily broken down into two phases: action plan development and deployment, and action plan modification.

Action Plan Development Phase

The first crucial step is action plan development and deployment; developing individual action plans for each strategic goal, based on what the organization wants to accomplish for the year and beyond. These goals will be easily found within the already-established strategic plan and will, accordingly, consider both short- and long-term needs. There are many examples organizations can use to set up the action plan with the best templates including a systematic mechanism to fully deploy the strategic plan throughout the organization.

Each strategic objective is assigned to a senior leader of the organization, along with target dates for when the items are required to be completed. Depending on the objective, the period of time for review could be monthly or quarterly and, in some cases, organizations may choose to review weekly to ensure the plan remains on track. Having one senior leader responsible for each objective ensures an integrated approach and allows them to break down potential organizational silos and barriers.

Determining how these strategic objectives will impact the organization’s workforce, both in the near-term and further out, is an important step in this phase. To get a full understanding of the workforce capacity, a review should be conducted to understand the organization’s resource needs based on the selected strategic objectives.

When considering resourcing, a practice that many organizations put in place is to ensure the strategic plan is approved first, making it easier to properly prioritize the plan and ensure the necessary resources can be obtained. Having the budget cycle follow the strategic plan process ensures the plan doesn’t become replaced with other competing priorities when it is time to sit down and finalize the budget for the year.

Action Plan Deployment Phase

Now that the action plan is established, a clear timeline of when each task must be completed by and appropriate resources allocated, it is time to commence the deployment phase and implement the plan.

As an organization works through the action plan, it is vital that identified senior leaders work with the appropriate department manager, who has an impact on the relevant strategic objective. In healthcare, these senior leaders may include: physician clinical directors, board members, medical staff officers, physician group practices, nursing councils, residents (for teaching hospitals), patients, communities, payers, external experts, partners, or others.

The action plan is communicated to employees and included in their individual performance plans, as well as in communication plans that are implemented to partners and collaborators. This part of the process represents a key bridge between the implementation plan and the original strategic planning process, allowing the partners and collaborators, who developed the strategic plan, to participate in obtaining the objectives they sought to create.

Once the plan is being implemented, most organizations have some format for tracking the achievement of each goal. In a dashboard-type set up, multiple items or tasks are listed, breaking down how to reach the goal, and each task that is listed will also have a set benchmark. Performance projections are also established and are usually based on the gap between what was obtained, compared to what was expected. Depending on what the goal is an organization may use varied benchmarks and levels of performance, including benchmarking studies, comparative data or externally established standards, such as value-based purchasing. Organizations should also include the performance of their competitors, current and projected, as a useful measure.

Action Plan Modification

No matter how much we try to produce a complete and comprehensive strategic plan there may come a time to allow for a change in course.  In order to accomplish this, an organization needs to maintain an eye on their environmental scan, and when changes are required as benchmarks are not being met.  This allows the organization to react rapidly to a shift in plans.

By following this clear framework, through the establishment of a strategic plan and a clear deployment plan with a constant effort to measure and benchmark goals, organizations can be confident they are on a clear pathway to achieving their goals and primary objectives and, ultimately, seeing the resulting improvements.

Kenneth Maxik is director of patient safety and compliance for CompleteRx. He has more than 20 years of pharmacy operations and management experience and works with hospitals and health systems across the country to help their organizations stay ahead of current and imminent regulatory standards. The findings in this article are based on a thorough review – conducted by CompleteRx in partnership with the Kentucky Center for Performance Excellence, of which Ken serves as president elect – of organizations that won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from 2010-2015.

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