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Don't Forget This One Big Thing When Facilitating a Strategic Plan

"Facilitating with FINESSE" means doing whatever it takes to operationalize a strategic plan - including going old school.
"Facilitating with FINESSE" means doing whatever it takes to operationalize a strategic plan - including going old school.

I was recently wandering around the lobby at Grand Strand Medical Center when I suddenly ran into an oversized bulletin board. I expected to see a slew of standard notices and general information. I was shocked when I saw a strategic plan – old-school style.

There were six columns, one for each strategic goal: people, service, quality, finance, growth, and community. The three rows under each column had a transparent pouch for the strategic objective, initiatives, and measures for each strategic objective. Each pouch was full of printed sheets.

I asked one of the nursing supervisors whether the sheets were ever depleted.

“Yes,” she said, “but they do good at keeping them re-stocked.”

Another nurse walked up, and I asked whether the patients or staff used the board more.

“Everyone," the second nurse said, “it is quite popular for some reason."

Last week, I was in a different hospital wing and asked the older, ex-military security guard if there was a similar bulletin board in his lobby.

"We have a small one around the corner," he replied, "but there is a huge one in the other wing. I do not think there are any sheets in this one."

"Yeah, I know," I replied.

“That is old school,” he said with a smile. "I guess old school still works."

“I reckon so,” I stoically said, inspired by Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Only the Leaders and Readers

There are many ways to communicate strategic plan performance

  • Staff Meetings

  • Board of Directors

  • Website

  • Email

  • Newsletter

  • Weekly Team Meeting

  • Lobby Video Screens

Most organizations have to try all of them to catch their staff's attention and communication preferences. The results are haphazard for many reasons. Sometimes it is a lack of management structure and discipline in getting the word to staff. In most cases, a great dashboard sits parked on our electronic devices.

One staff member recently commented when we were operationalizing the organization’s strategic plan, “Only leaders and readers look at the dashboard. Most of us are neither.”

Actionable Items in Front

In How to Improve Strategic Plan Facilitation by Reviewing Dashboard Design, I recommended looking at the dashboard of a car, airplane, or boat. The information directly in front of the driver is current, real-time information used to navigate the vehicle. Historical and non-essential information (like the radio) are on the side.

Managers need the information to help them drive the organization today. In most cases, the staff looks at the strategic plan parked on their electronic device only from time to time, which means the dashboard provides little help driving their operation daily.

Putting the strategic plan in the common area on a bulletin board effectively keeps the information in front.

The Number of Performance Measures

Grand Strand’s mission statement, “Above All Else, We Are Committed To The Care And Improvement Of Human Life,” sat proudly above their bulletin board dashboard.

In Choosing the Right Performance Indicators, I discussed that four to eight at each level per each strategic goal is usually sufficient. Care should be given not to double-count or have overlapping indicators. For example, "financial" can be broken into just four indicators—profitability, liquidity, debt, and operating. Grand Strand Medical Center used between two and ten for each strategic goal, and this number was a function of the number of initiatives associated with each strategic goal.

Both are good practices and worked well on with the bulletin board approach.

Remember to Operationalize Strategic Plans

Improving Strategic Plans discussed making your strategic plan better by making it understandable and relevant to the front-line staff who manage the organization. After all, strategic plans are the single piece that flanges the policy board to the organization's staff.

Whether it is capital planning, operations budgeting, business case evaluations, root cause failure analysis, or organization structure, the staff should look to the strategic plan to fully understand what is of “great importance to the integrated whole.”

As seen by their use and popularity in this case, old-school bulletin boards for communicating strategic plans keep a solid connection between the board and the staff.

For Facilitators

A strategic plan is only as good as its use by staff in doing their job. In my pre-session exchanges for new or improved strategic plans, I usually ask staff how and if they are using the current one. It reminds me as a facilitator that no strategic plan is complete until the performance measures (and their communication) are done.


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