Strategic Planning-Preparing for Success – Part 2 of 3

Preparation 2Let’s continue our discussion of the “nuts and bolts” of how your medical group can conduct a Strategic Planning Process by considering the retreat facilitator, the data and information that needs to be pulled together to support planning process, and the Key Issues to be discussed at the retreat.

Retreat Facilitator

The group needs to decide who will serve as the facilitator for the retreat. We discussed the importance of the role of the Meeting Manager in a previous article, but in this case the question is “should the meeting management of the retreat be conducted by an insider or outsider?”

Insiders could be the group’s President, another physician or the group’s manager. Outsiders could be a professional facilitator, a local college professor, or an administrator of another, non-competing group.

In making the decision as to which to use – internal or external, you should consider the following factors:

Retreat Management










One other factor should be considered: whether or not the group wants an objective, third-party facilitating the meeting. Some groups suffer from a lack of trust among the group members.  In these situations there can be a concern that if an “insider” manages the meeting they may manipulate the agenda or process for their own ends.  In this case most groups look to an outside  facilitator.


A key part of preparation is pulling together the information needed to either identify the issues to discuss, or to support the discussion.

It is also essential to get physician feedback about the meeting. Some groups create very extensive surveys asking the physicians many questions, but you want to make sure you ask these three questions:

  1. What do you see as the major strengths and weaknesses of the group?
  2. What do you see as the major opportunities and threats that the group faces?
  3. What issues need to be addressed at the retreat?

This information can be gained either through the use of surveys or interviews. If you are facilitating the process, it will probably be easier for you to collect this information through a survey.

Using this information you can identify the key issues that will need to be addressed at the retreat.

The information needed to support discussion depends, naturally, on what is to be discussed.  Here a few examples of information we have seen used in planning retreats:

  • Patient, referring physician surveys.
  • Demographic trends.
  • Payor information.
  • Cost/benefit analyses

Key Issues

Some facilitators wait until the retreat to have the participants identify Key Issues. We believe it is better identify the key strategic issues to be discussed prior to the retreat for the following reasons:

  • Some groups waste valuable retreat time developing the issue list when they could be using the time to discuss the issues.
  • There is often data or information that needs to be collected or developed to support the discussion of an issue.
  • The group may want to provide the issues to the attendees prior to the retreat so that they have time to consider them in advance.

Key Issues are typically derived from the results of the data-gathering step, primarily the physician survey or interviews. You might find that many of those interviewed or surveyed mentioned the same opportunities, threats or weaknesses.  These are good candidates for discussion.  You can also check these issues against the responses from the question: “What do you see as key issues for the retreat?”

Quite often the issues to be discussed will  revolve around the following items.

  • Externally Oriented Issues:
    • Market needs – specialty coverage.
    • Geographic
    • Recruitment
    • New services
    • Relationships with others
  • Internal Oriented Issues:
    • Governance
    • Compensation
    • Workload/Call
    • Retirement
    • Facilities

You may have others depending on your group’s situation.

Once the Key Issues are identified, we suggest you review them with the group’s President or Board to make sure it fits with their thinking, and to prioritize the order of discussion.

Coming Up Next

In our next article we will focus on the meeting agenda, other necessary arrangements and pre-retreat communication.


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

Will Latham

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