4 Reasons Why Hospitals Fail to Create Strong Strategic Plans

While critical to a hospital's success, strong strategic plans can be difficult to develop. Some common mistakes hospitals make when developing a strategic plan include failing to examine the mission and failing to include key stakeholders. Why do hospitals make these mistakes? Here are four possible reasons hospitals might fall victim to common errors. By understanding these factors, hospital leaders may be able to change their thinking and avoid making choices that weaken a strategic plan.

1. A lack of understanding of the value of a well-developed and executed strategic plan. "Without strategic plans, everyone in the organization is left to decide the direction of the institution, what the culture should be, what's acceptable outcomes, etc. There is no process for self-evaluation and an inability to pivot in response to external forces," says Akram Boutros, MD, founder and president of BusinessFirst Healthcare Solutions. Strategic plans have the ability to rally leaders and employees of a hospital around a shared vision, mission and values, which creates a culture where everyone is motivated to reach the organization's goals. Not recognizing the power of strategic plans can cause hospital leaders to fail to align the plan with the operations and people of the organization — a common mistake in strategic planning.

2. A lack of time commitment and resources needed to develop a strategic plan. All hospital leaders are crunched for time as they try to manage regulatory changes, a challenging economic environment and quality improvement. The lack of time and resources may cause hospitals to fall into some of the common pitfalls of strategic planning, such as not examining the organization's mission, according to Dr. Boutros.

Hospital CEOs need to carve out some time in their busy schedules to create a strategic plan, as this can ultimately help them manage their time better and delegate specific tasks to other leaders. By prioritizing the organization's goals and outlining specific tactics, hospitals can focus their efforts on a few areas at a time and create accountability in executives and staff.

3. The belief that the market is changing very quickly and strategic plans won't survive. Some hospitals may be hesitant to create a plan that forecasts years into the future because of the rapidly changing healthcare industry. For example, the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has already made significant changes in healthcare, was in doubt until the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the law. However, strategic plans that are grounded in the hospital's values and overall mission can withstand market changes.

People who believe strategic plans are short-lived "ascribe to the adage 'No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,'" Dr. Boutros says. "And although that is often true, why do armies still create battle plans? Because they inform the generals on the ground of the mission, assets they have at their disposal and boundaries they must keep within." A strong strategic plan can help guide the organization through changes in the industry and adapt as needed. Failing to realize this aspect of a strategic plan can lead hospitals to devise plans that are shortsighted, a common mistake in strategic planning.

4. A lack of follow through. A lack of follow through may also contribute to hospitals making common mistakes in strategic planning, such as not translating the strategy to specific tactics with measurable goals and timelines, according to Dr. Boutros. Linda Pophal, owner and CEO of Strategic Communications, echoes this sentiment. She says following through on a strategic plan — strategic "doing" — is often where strategic plans fail. Creating a strong strategic plan is not enough; hospitals need to implement the tactics and continue to refer to the plan to ensure their organizations are on target to reach their goals.

More Articles on Strategic Planning:

7 Common Mistakes Hospitals Make in Their Strategic Plans
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