How does your company plan for the future? Do you have a weekly, monthly, annual, long-range or seat-of-your-pants plan? Do you measure success by objectives met, sales, profits, lives covered, or operational success? How do you recruit staff, develop marketing campaigns, or plan lobbying activities? Do you follow a general budget, manage every expense, or wait for the monthly financials to determine spending? What is the one big thing that stands in the way of your organization's success? Do you believe that planning is a critical leadership function, a necessary evil or a big waste of time or that, because you have a successful company, planning isn’t necessary?
The truth is that any kind of planning is only valuable if it is done in a thoughtful, intentional way and, above all, if it is an ongoing living, breathing and adaptable process. Too many organizations go through a staid, overly structured planning process that starts with "here's where we need to be by the end of next year" and ends with a planning document that is outdated as soon as it’s printed.
That doesn't leave a lot of room for stepping back and taking advantage of the leadership team’s brain power to truly develop a company’s potential. Whether you subscribe to short-term, long-range or scenario planning processes, there are seven positive outcomes that we have seen as a result of a THOUGHTFUL planning process.
Taking the time to envision new markets for your current products can open the door to a more diversified revenue base. Many health plans serving Medicaid or Medicare members have only one or two customers, the state and CMS. When either of these has a hiccup, the plans suffer and often have little remedy. Opening up additional markets can put more legs under a wobbly stool and perhaps take the company in a new and bigger direction. What other customers might be able to use the capabilities and products you've developed? Map it out.
True product development cannot be assigned to any single department in an organization. It optimally occurs through a deliberate, open discussion of possibilities arising by matching an organization’s capabilities against market opportunities. This discussion requires everyone in leadership. Operational, financial, clinical, technological and human resource insights focused on this match can be magical and eye opening.
Well facilitated planning meetings are an excellent setting for discussing and refining the various processes that an organization uses for marketing, operations, human resources, technology or any other activity. A sign of an open discussion is when the words, "what if we..." are used. This can lead to developing alternatives that can make your organization conduct its business more efficiently and effectively. Never stop the “what ifs”.
There's not a better time to find out that your leadership team has capabilities, experience or brilliance that previously went unnoticed. Generally an organization's leadership team has enormous untapped talent that doesn't bubble up until it’s unleashed in a conducive environment–like a planning session. It’s also a good time to find out where a talent vacuum exists and to make decisions about how to fill it.
A common outgrowth of coalescing a group of bright, capable people in an atmosphere charged with creativity and the freewheeling exchange of ideas are bursts of insight. Harnessing these EUREKA moments can yield amazing results. Not surprisingly times of crises combined with an open planning environment are a great combination for creating new, impactful concepts. The movie, Apollo 13, captures the intense creativity that can arise during a crisis. Set up a separate flip chart to capture the “EUREKA” moments.
Getting a leadership team out of their silos into a planning meeting affords an opportunity for the group to reflect on the organization as a whole. This sometimes results in a realization that a problem is much bigger than initially thought. An issue that is thought to be minor by one of the leadership team may be huge to other members and ultimately to the organization. Technology system conversions, new provider contract terms, postponing deadlines could all fall in this category. The good thing is to discover the problem and, with the assembled team, correct it.
What keeps most executives up at night is the fear that they've missed something or are not prepared for _____________ (you fill in the blank). The best way to put your mind at ease is to engage your team in an honest, collaborative, let's change the world planning session. Take your worst fears, biggest concerns, greatest hopes and dreams and put them on the table. You will be pleasantly surprised with what can happen ...and you can stop waking up in the middle of the night–at least for a little while.
How many of these positive outcomes will you see as a result of your THOUGHTFUL planning process?