While the priority for health and community service providers is helping their patients, clients or consumers, these organisations are operated as a business, and like every other business, they need a plan.
Have you ever taken a wrong turn and ended up completely lost? Perhaps you kept going the way you were in an attempt to correct your error and get back on the right track which leads to even further confusion? In this day of modern technology, you likely turned to a GPS system to help you get back to where you needed to be.
A strategic plan is your organisation’s GPS system; a reassuring guide that identifies where you are, examines available options and, ultimately, calculates the best route to get you to where you want to be.
Whether your organisation is brand new or has been running for decades, developing a strategic plan is more than a requirement of the NSQHS Standards or the QIC Health and Community Services Standards 7th Edition Standards – it can be a crucial part of your organisation’s success. A strategic plan will support the future direction, sustainability and growth of your organisation and is the key to your organisation being more efficient and productive.
Developing a strategic plan, particularly an initial one, can be daunting and time-consuming. However, the task can also be extremely rewarding and provides an opportunity for you to take a big picture look at your organisation to see what’s working and what could be improved.
To support your team with preparing and implementing a strategic plan, we have gathered together seven helpful tips for you to consider:
The importance of research in strategic planning is an immensely important process.
It is useful to gain an understanding of your current position and to identify whether there are any opportunities available to you. To assist you in doing so, you can start by answering questions such as:
- Who are our competitors?
- Where does our organisation fit in the marketplace?
- What do we want to achieve?
- Who are our clients?
- Are we meeting the needs of our community members?
- Are there any members of our community we could better service?
- What makes our organisation stand out from the one down the street?
- Are there any areas of our business we could be doing better?
If you are a newly opened organisation, it is highly likely you covered these questions recently, however they are just as relevant for organisations that have been operating for many years.
New organisations may have opened in your area, new housing developments could provide new opportunities, or demographics of your clients may have changed. Ensuring your research is accurate and up-to-date will allow you to have a better understanding of your organisation and where you should be heading.
2. Be realistic with time
Good strategic planning takes time and should be carefully undertaken to ensure you can create the best goals and outcomes for your organisation. It’s an activity that needs dedicated effort and is not something that can be completed in a couple of hours at the end of a busy day or when the organisation has a lull in clients.
Developing a strategic plan includes looking at a wide range of areas including legal, financial, human resources and services to name a few. Just like the range of issues present in your client population, some parts of the plan will be easy to identify while others will need further investigation. Once you’ve worked out which parts you are going to include don’t be afraid to jump between the sections of your strategic plan. Some sections will be easier to complete than others and you can always go back to the other sections later. If you are unable to complete the process yourself, you may like to get additional help from a business planning professional.
3. Make your strategic plan specific to you
This may seem like an obvious tip but a lot of organisations will look to competitors to find out what they’re doing rather than examining what they want to achieve and the best way to make this happen. Every organisation is unique offering different services, professionals with different interests and specialities and a client population with its own individual needs. Your strategic plan should encompass all of these unique elements instead of simply copying what others are doing.
4. Identify the areas your strategic plan will address
The actual format of your strategic plan can take many forms but generally will include your organisation’s purpose, vision, values, objectives, strategy, governance structure, roles and responsibilities, reporting and performance measures, monitoring systems, processes and timelines, financial status, and budget. Always leave your summary to last as you’ll be in a better position to write a concise overview once you are clear about the details.
5. Involve consumers, stakeholders and staff members in the process
The amount of input from each group will depend on their connection with the organisation however, involving everyone in some way will ensure greater commitment and dedication to the overall objectives identified. Clients, for example, will provide invaluable information about your organisations overall feel while stakeholders and staff may be able to identify new issues, options and opportunities that you hadn’t thought of previously. It also provides the opportunity for collective contributions, improving the morale demonstrated when working toward a common goal.
6. Presentation matters
Just like when meeting new clients, your strategic plan also needs to make a good impression so language and presentation should be professional. To minimise errors and make sure your strategic plan makes sense, it is a good idea to have someone impartial proof read your document. The more well-thought-out, clear and concise your strategic plan is, the more likely decision-makers or those assisting in the implementation of the plan will be to support with its success.
A strategic plan should be a living document rather than something you write then forget. Your organisation, clients, market and competitors are constantly evolving and it is vital that your strategic plan does the same. Your strategic plan should be reviewed several times a year and when your organisations circumstances change to ensure you are on track with your goals and are provided with opportunity to make updates, changes and improvements based on experiences, learnings and situations encountered along the way.
In addition to these seven tips there is plenty of free advice available online. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (https://www.business.gov.au/Guide/Starting) has a whole section online dedicated to useful tips, templates and resources to support your team in better understanding this process and creating a winning strategic plan.
Meeting the Standards requirements
In addition to the benefits of strategic planning identified in this article, undertaking this process also supports you in meeting requirements of Standard 1 in both the NSQHS Standards 2nd Edition and QIC Standards 7th Edition as part of your accreditation, linked to the following Criterion:
- NSQHS Standards 2nd Edition: Clinical Governance > 1.1 Governance, leadership and culture
- QIC Standards 7th Edition: Standard 1 – Governance > Criterion 1.1 Strategy and planning