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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Strategic Planning Simplified

Published August 7, 2010 7:06 PM by Glen McDaniel

When I was a COO of a hospital I looked forward to the annual strategic planning with a mixture of dread and excitement. I was always pumped about what we would achieve for the next year in terms of growth, patient outcomes, employee retention and so on. However, the process was so convoluted and stilted that it carried as much attractiveness as speaking to a crowd in my underwear.

My hospital had to follow rigid guidelines set by corporate to make sure we supported the company's big plan. The company got it right when they said each unit's goals should support the wider mission of the larger organization. So the clinical laboratory was expected to come up with their own mini strategic plan that derived from and fed into the hospital's plan. However, department directors always struggled with coming up with a plan that passed muster. It was all very artificial and painful.

Recently I was consulted to be part of an organization's strategic planning process and the first thing I suggested was that the laboratory organize a weekend retreat.  Luckily, administration did not balk at the idea. A combination of leaders and selected line staff bonded, socialized and came up with a list of ideas that "should be considerd" as part of the strategic plan.

Whenever something came up from discussion, brainstorming or a flash of inspiration, it was added to the list.Next we distilled the list down several times and finally came up with this very simple list

  • - increase productivity (increase billables, use excess capacity, staff more efficiently, reduce OT)
  • - decrease turnaround time (constant challenge, constant demand from the ED and doctors in general)
  • - meet regulatory compliance (they had issues with proficiency surveys and a state visit)
  • - reduce errors ( increase competence, improve processes, drill down on errors and fix them to avoid recurrence)
  • - decrease cost (decrease supply cost, renegotiate contracts, minimize waste, reduce overtime etc. Isn't this the bottom line to most administrators?)
  • - Increase employee engagement (this one I added to emphasize the importance of this thrust and to indicate that an engaged workforce is much more likely to improve all the above)

We then selected 2 or 3 metrics under each heading. The ideas in brackets are some of the rationale/discussion items.. Some of these bracketed items could be converted into measurable goals as well. Can you see how these would be part of the strategic plan of just about every hospital and every laboratory? Can you see how this would simplify the strategic planning process in the future? Besides everyone actually had fun!

By posting this list in the lab and discussing them repeatedly all year (such as at department staff meetings), employees are constantly reminded of what's important. They are more likely to look at each action, each behavior in terms of how they contribute to each of the above goals. In other words employees are painlessly and almost unconsciously working to meet the organization's goals. Isn't that the goal of strategic planning anyway?



Thanks for your comments. To answer your question, I must say I didn't fully explain all the details above. First, I had worked with this organization in another capacity before, so in some ways they trusted my method of operation, I suppose.  The  lab director was not thrilled at first until I told her I would  help to run interference for her with hospital administration.

Then we were able to get a very good deal at a local hotel used by the hospital to house visiting executives and agency nurses. The cost of rooms (meeting and sleeping) was nominal and we were allowed to have a local caterer provide lunch at a fraction of the cost the hotel would have charged. We all went out to dinner at a local restaurant-again, at less than hotel pricing.

But I do not want you to think that this position was so unusual that it's unique. Rather it means where there is a will, there is a way. Instead of the 2 days that we did, a  retreat can be one paid day away from work (involving maybe only 1 meal and snacks). Administrators can drop in to give insight or a pep speech and then go back to work. The "retreat" aspect tends to allow more dedicated, uninterrupted time away from work and allows the creative juices to flow more readily.

Try it!

Glen McDaniel August 15, 2010 5:51 PM

Some good ideas. I am surprised that management even went for the retreat. Who paid for it? I have helped my manager to get information together to help her with budgeting and strategic planning but no one has asked me for input otherwise. I have worked in many labs that are just handed the hospital plan, I think.

Bola O. MT(ASCP) August 11, 2010 8:07 PM
Dallas TX

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