Strategic planning is a topic near and dear to my heart, and today I’m going to share the love with all of the health communicators out there. First off, why should you care about this post? It’s no secret that budget dollars are hard to come given the current state of the health care industry. Only the health care communicators with the best plan possible will get the attention of their leadership team and ultimately the dollars you need to carry out the great work that you do.
Why are strategic plans so important? Strategic plans provide you a simple way to clearly articulate your organization’s vision and outline the steps to realizing your vision. Just so we’re on the same page, your organization’s mission is where you are today, your vision is where you’d like to be, and your plan is the roadmap highlighting how you’re going to get there. Sounds simple right? It is, but I find people tend to overthink the process and make some critical errors. It’s no surprise that there’s an entire multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to helping people create their plans.
However, you’re in luck. I’m going to provide you with a 3-step process to build the best plan possible. You need to break down each part of your plan into three simple parts:
The Why: It’s the reason you get out of bed in the morning. It’s the reason your team members put in long hours and eats at their desks. It’s your rally cry. All plans are created to produce change, and it all begins with the why. Your plan should consist of no more than three to five goals for the year that get you closer to your organizational vision. An example of a solid goal would be, “To achieve top decile nationally in patient safety outcomes.” This goal is bold, aspirational, and crystal clear. Justin Rosenstein of Fast Company addresses the importance of clarity by saying, “Teams armed with clarity know exactly what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and who’s responsible.”
The What: How are you going to measure if you’re achieving your goals? As Peter Drucker put it, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” What this means is that you need to define certain quantifiable measurements for the goals in your plan. You want to increase patient satisfaction? Great, how much by when? Don’t feel the need to over complicate things. Pick a few of the most important measurements, set targets, and watch them like a hawk throughout the year.
The How: Now that you’ve defined why and what, it’s time to clearly outline what actions will get you there. These activities take the form of strategies/tactics or projects/assignments. It really doesn’t matter what terminology you choose. What matters is that you’re aligning your activities to your measurements. Bill Coverly from Forbes wrote an article titled, “3 Strategic Planning Pitfalls” saying that you can’t confuse vague thoughts as action steps. I can’t stress enough how important this is. People love to measure their success by how many projects they completed during the year but, rarely do they tie them back to a quantifiable outcome. It’s not enough to measure success by activity alone. Let the data speak for itself and prove that your work led to the desired outcome.
So there you have it. I may be biased, but if you follow my suggested process, I promise you that you’ll have a plan that will raise eyebrows and get you the attention you deserve. However, let me be honest, the first plan you develop is not going to be perfect. As Voltaire so famously said, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” You don’t need to be perfect—focus on what’s important, and make your case. The work you do is too important to not give it the plan it deserves.
Joe Krause is the VP, of Business Development at Achieveit. Achieveit provides its clients with a cloud-based plan execution software that allows organizations to effectively build, monitor, and report on their plans.