7 Common Mistakes Hospitals Make in Their Strategic Plans

Strategic plans that align everyone under the same mission, vision and values are critical for hospitals to succeed in today's challenging healthcare environment. Strategic plans help hospitals prioritize their goals and rally everyone's efforts toward reaching specific outcomes. Many hospitals, however, fail to create a strong strategic plan that unifies the organization. Akram Boutros, MD, founder and president of BusinessFirst Healthcare Solutions, describes seven common mistakes hospitals make when developing a strategic plan.

1. Failing to examine the mission. Many hospitals attempt to develop a strategic plan without examining their mission statement, according to Dr. Boutros. "This is a critical first step because the mission begets the vision, which informs the strategic plan," he says. He says some signs of weak mission statements include the following:

•    They don't elicit an emotional, motivational response in hospital staff.
•    They are not easily understood or transferrable into individual action every day.
•    They are not firmly rooted in the competitive environment in which they operate.

2. Creating a plan that is short-sighted and non-positional. Strategic plans should include strategies for differentiating the hospitals from competition, according to Dr. Boutros.

3. Not aligning operations and people. "For strategy to be effective it must be aligned and integrated with the organizational structure, operations, culture and people," Dr. Boutros says.

4. Failing to include key stakeholders. Dr. Boutros recommends hospitals create a committee of eight to nine people that includes representatives of key stakeholder groups, such as primary care physicians, faculty, employees and the board of directors. These representatives can then lead subcommittees that focus on specific strategies. "This will provide a more comprehensive view of the institution and create a sense of ownership," Dr. Boutros says.

5. Relying on one's own perceptions. The objectives and tactics in a strategic plan are valuable only if they are based on reality. Hospitals need to ground their strategies and goals in data from impartial market analyses and not rely on their own perceptions, Dr. Boutros says.

6. Not translating the strategy to specific tactics with measurable goals and timelines. Strategies are broad approaches to meeting a goal, while tactics are specific actions needed to reach the goals. A strategic plan without tactics makes it more difficult to implement the plan and achieve its goals. "Tactics and milestones define accountability and provide support for each person charged with moving the strategy forward," Dr. Boutros says.

7. Forgetting about culture. Dr. Boutros says the idiom "Culture trumps strategy any day" is true in healthcare. Hospitals should provide reward and recognition systems that support a culture that is needed for the strategic plan to be successful. "Unless the leadership clearly demonstrates the specific values it wants to promote, then culture will not change," Dr. Boutros says.

More Articles on Strategic Planning:

5 Steps to Gaining Buy-in for a Hospital's Vision
A Hospital Brand That Transcends Market Forces

What Supreme Court Decision? 4 Hospital Strategies Independent of the Fate of the PPACA

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