A medical group is more likely to create the future it desires by planning strategically. The planning process employed by large, resource-rich organizations consumes more time and energy than most smaller groups can afford. However, there is a simplified, low-investment approach that provides most of the same benefits for a modestly sized medical group. By taking these actionable steps, medical groups can develop a strategic plan:
1. Assess the group’s resources and competencies by identifying its greatest strengths and weaknesses. Spend half a day doing this using your best judgment.
2. Consider external factors such as the market (both patients and payers), leading competitors, law and politics, area demographics, new technologies and economic trends. Spend a full day identifying the 10 greatest opportunities and threats posed by these external factors.
3. Spend half a day as a group — involving all owners and employees — describing a vision for the group. Look ahead at least five years. Once an agreed-upon vision is formulated, do not change it without good reason.
4. Spend a day brainstorming steps the group must take to achieve that vision and translate them into four to five strategic objectives with these parameters:
- Define success in measurable terms
- Allocate necessary resources
- Set deadlines for progress and completion
- Assign a person primarily responsible for each objective.
At this point, the group will have a plan that compares favorably to a much larger organization. This also is where the planning efforts of many organizations stall, and the completed plan, not implemented, languishes as merely a document.
5. Systematically implement the strategic plan. Follow a rigorous process with deadlines, benchmarks and delegated responsibilities. Regularly monitor the progress and provide frequent updates to management. Be prepared to adjust the implementation schedule and strategies.
6. Establish an annual review of the strategic plan. Drop strategies that have been completed or are no longer relevant. Modify continuing strategies by expanding or reducing them by allocating more or fewer resources. When appropriate, approve new strategies. Next, adopt an annual operating plan that reflects any changes in the strategic plan. Finally, prepare a one-year financial budget to support the operating plan.
It is advantageous for the group to engage as many group members as possible in the formulation and implementation of the strategic plan. Keep everyone fully informed on progress. Err on the side of providing too much information rather than too little.
While it can be beneficial to use an expert to facilitate the medical group’s strategy meetings, the plan itself must come from group members. There is no one-size-fits-all plan — a good strategic plan is customized for the group.
These steps are crucial to building a strategic plan for the organization: when considering merging with or acquiring another group, developing a new practice specialty, adding a new ancillary service, opening a satellite clinic or purchasing a major piece of new equipment. All of these should be done within the framework of a formal multi-year strategic plan.
George Moseley III, MBA, JD
Health law and management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Strathmore Business School