Hope Is Not a Strategy

Hope Is Not A StrategyOne of the most important responsibilities of any group’s governance is to develop a strategic plan for the group. For some groups this is the role of the Board. In other groups, all Shareholders participate in this process.

Unfortunately, it appears that for many groups, “Hope” is their strategy.

I am continually surprised to find groups that have never (or rarely) conducted strategic planning retreats on an annual or semi-annual basis. This is especially surprising given:

  • Almost all of many physicians’ compensation comes from the group they work in.
  • Almost all of many physicians’ clinical work life takes place associated to the group they are a part of.
  • Moving ahead with significant initiatives requires the collaboration of the members of the group – there is often little that one physician can do by themselves.

And yet, many physicians won’t allocate one day a year for a group planning session.

Why Is Planning Avoided?

Why don’t they? I think there are several reasons:

  • Many physicians don’t see the need for strategic planning. They think the group should be able to develop plans at their monthly meetings – they don’t recognize that they typically use those (overly long) monthly meeting to fight day-to-day fires.
  • As noted in earlier articles, many physicians are conflict avoiders. They don’t want to planning go to such meetings because they worry that uncontrolled, unproductive conflict will break out.
  • The idea of doing “planning” sounds too business-like, or the term “retreat” sounds too much like “kum bah yah.”

Critical for Success

The decisions that medical groups face today are significant and have long-range implications. They involve such things as whether or not the group will stay independent, who the group might align with, the need for new facilities, the addition of physicians, the purchase of major equipment, implementation of electronic medical records, the addition of new services, and a host of other issues.

Decisions related to each of these issues require substantial resources and lead times. In addition the decisions are often interrelated. For example, the decision to add additional physicians can be constrained or impacted by the size of your facility.

But the significance of the needed decisions is only one factor highlighting the importance of long-range planning. Without planning, physicians in medical groups rarely have a common vision of the direction their group is moving. This can result in inefficient utilization of resources, lack of direction for the administrative staff, and lack of any progress for the group.

Why is long-range planning important?

  • Significant changes in the environment can hurt or help the group. Planning helps identify these issues and prepare for them.
  • The planning process allows each physician to communicate his or her vision of the future, and work to develop consensus in their objectives and goals.
  • Key issues are highlighted, discussed and resolved.
  • The plan provides direction to and sets priorities for the administrative staff for implementation.
  • The planning process and completed plan improves communication to both physicians and staff.
  • If progress is tracked against the plan, performance measurement can be improved.
  • Physician recruitment may be enhanced as potential recruits can quickly understand if their long range goals are in line with the group.

The Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning includes the following major elements:

1. Developing Mission and Vision statements for the group.
2. Considering internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats.
3. Discussing Key Issues.
4. Developing Goals and Objectives.
5. Developing Strategies to achieve those Objectives.
6. Creating Action Plans to implement those Strategies.

Over the next several articles we will address each of these steps, and then provide some practical suggestions to make your planning effort a success.



Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Will Latham

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