A piecemeal approach to strategic planning might do more harm than good.
Senior living executives are pulled in pulled in many directions, causing strategic planning to take a backseat to urgent demands like staffing, occupancy, reimbursements and regulation. As a result, planning often turns into tightly focused events, sometimes only covering a single issue. Unfortunately, narrow planning may create more day-to-day challenges.
Despite all the demands for their attention, CEOs need to stop and take a broad look at the organization, competitors and market issues. And they need to gather input from staff, leadership teams and boards of directors — who are equally busy.
How to make time for strategic planning
If leaders don’t carve out time for strategic planning, they risk getting trapped in crisis management mode. Four practices can help senior living leaders prioritize strategic planning:
- Enlist outside help: Your executive team and board members are also busy — and may have competing interests. Go outside the organization and hire an independent consultant to guide everyone through the process. Consultants can set the agenda and keep everyone on track, compile targeted market research, and keep everyone apprised of demographic challenges and opportunities. They can also facilitate sessions to ensure meetings strike the right balance between being focused and thorough.
- Get away from the office: Plan a single-day, off-site meeting with key leaders. You can get more accomplished in a focused, six-hour timeframe than dispersed two-hour meetings. Plus, it signals that strategic planning is important.
- Right-size the plan: Don’t let the strategic plan get too big. Long-range objectives (e.g., 5+ years) are important, but three-year plans with annual targets are more likely to succeed. Likewise, set a small number of goals — even if a lot of issues surface in the strategic planning process. Gain alignment and support on a few target issues that you can drive home.
- Rally the staff: Make strategic planning a company priority, not just a leadership task. Frontline staff have valuable insight into opportunities and improvements — and they want to be seen and heard. Determine how to gather input from every level of the organization. Include mechanisms for “closing the loop,” too, especially if staff concerns don’t rise to the top of your strategy. Keep employees informed and celebrate wins to build buy-in and encourage future feedback and participation. Widening the audience also keeps the strategic plan front-and-center and builds in accountability.
A strategic plan can give you agility
A strategic plan isn’t an excuse to put your head down and power on when the world changes. Instead, it should empower your team to act quickly in the face of change. It should give the organization stability and clarity, which you can use to address new customer demands, changing regulations, funding issues and increased competition.
Remember to track the organization’s progress. If you’re not on track, figure out why. Maybe the plan hasn’t been properly resourced, or maybe it’s time to pivot. Encourage leaders to regularly reevaluate plans so the organization is nimble and proactive when new challenges emerge.
How Wipfli can help
Overcome overwhelm with Wipfli. Our senior living consultants can help you structure a successful strategic planning process and develop clear priorities. We have a deep bench of experience in the senior living industry, as well as strategic planning. Contact us today to learn more.
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