5 Steps to Gaining Buy-in for a Hospital's Vision

Effectively sharing and gaining buy-in to the organization's vision is a critical responsibility of a hospital CEO. Organizing efforts around a shared vision helps unite everyone around common goals and prevents disengagement, which can lead to subpar care. Jackie Larson, vice president of client services at healthcare labor management consulting and technology company Avantas, shares five steps to communicate and garner support for hospital leaders' vision.

1. Communicate vision. The first step in creating a shared vision is for the CEO to communicate the vision to everyone in the organization. "The CEO is the one that really launches the effort," Ms. Larson says. "[He or she] has to be the voice of what the vision is. That helps carry the message forward."

2. Set up group meetings. Next, hospital leaders should set up several group forums to discuss the vision. These meetings give leaders the opportunity to determine if employees understand the vision and to communicate each person's role in achieving the hospital's mission and vision. "Can your team members, coworkers articulate the vision? Do they know what it is, what it means? Is it accurate? If it isn't, this is your time to provide clarity," Ms. Larson says.

Making the vision "real" to employees is critical for gaining buy-in, according to Ms. Larson.  "Every employee has to feel a connection to the mission and vision. Each employee has to see how their role is a key component of the execution of the organization's strategic goals." Hospital executives can make the vision real by clearly linking individuals' actions to the vision. A group setting can facilitate this process because having concrete examples of others' ability to contribute to the vision grounds the vision in reality.

These meetings should include representatives from different departments to provide a range of perspectives and to show how each individual can contribute to the organization's overall vision. In fact, maintaining a structure of silos is one of the greatest barriers to developing a shared vision, Ms. Larson says. Hospital leaders need to break the silos and bring everyone together to align goals and values.

3. Schedule individual meetings. Although the CEO and executive leadership team should drive the vision, it is really a grassroots effort by each individual, according to Ms. Larson. Departmental leaders should meet one-on-one with staff to develop line-of-sight goals — objectives that directly connect to achieving the overall goals of the organization. For example, if part of the hospital's vision is to improve patient satisfaction, a line-of-sight goal for a nurse could be asking each patient if there is anything else he or she can do to make the patient more comfortable.

4. Engage the critic. Every hospital will have at least one critic who will view the vision as "just another" initiative forced upon him or her. Instead of trying to suppress or ignore the individual(s), hospital leaders should engage the critic in understanding what his or her concerns are and explain how this initiative is different from past projects. One strategy is to ask the critic what should be different about the vision — what the hospital should do differently to be successful. "Draw out the critic, see what questions they have, what they would do differently. Make them part of the process; in this way, the critic becomes an advocate for the process," Ms. Larson says.

5. Follow up. It is critical for healthcare leaders to follow up with employees after line-of-sight goals are made to notify them of the organization's progress in reaching its goals. To be able to communicate progress, hospital leaders need to first create ways to measure progress. Departments should also report regularly on progress so the vision stays "top of mind" every day, Ms. Larson says. "Once you solicit the input of the team, they deserve to hear how it's going. Make them part of the process. Through communication of their efforts, they get validation that what they're doing actually provides value," she says.

While the time commitment to hold several 30-minute group meetings as well as multiple individual meetings and follow up with departments can be challenging for busy healthcare leaders, the process can ultimately lead to a more unified, successful organization driven by a common vision, according to Ms. Larson.

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