As executives designed the strategic framework and consulted with the board, they developed a new way of thinking and talking about system priorities. This narrative reflected the mind-shift executives needed to embrace to ensure flexibility in the organization’s planning process. This narrative has two layers. On top are the broad, aspirational objectives that the organization is continually chasing—its “true north.” Below them are time-bound tactical moves they’ll make in the direction of true north. These tactical moves are time-bound, iterative, and measurable.
Hywel Dda’s chief executive used a sailing metaphor to describe this plan. The organization’s six strategic objectives (its “true north”) are “smudges on the horizon.” Those objectives are ideals rather than specific targets, since the organization should still be moving toward them in three years, five years, or even a decade. Five of the six strategic objectives came from previous cultural values or strategic priorities, meaning that staff and leaders were already familiar with them. The sixth was borne out of a need to conserve resources during and after Covid-19.
Hywel Dda’s six strategic objectives lay out its long-term identity:
- Putting people at the heart of everything we do
- Working together to be the best we can be
- Striving to deliver and develop excellent services
- The best health and well-being for our individuals, families, and our communities
- Safe, sustainable, accessible, and kind care
- Sustainable use of resources
After naming the six, high-level strategic objectives, Hywel Dda drafted 65 tactically oriented “planning objectives” to move the organization toward the strategic objectives over specific time spans. To carry the sailing metaphor further, if the strategic objectives are “smudges on the horizon,” then the 65 planning objectives are the “paddle strokes” that Hywel Dda will make to achieve them. Each planning objective falls under one of the six strategic objectives and has defined metrics and timelines. A single executive director oversees each planning objective by working with managers at the unit, division, and department levels.
This new way of thinking and talking about strategic priorities allowed Hywel Dda to shift from static to dynamic planning. Leaders constantly scan the horizon to see if they need to pivot left or right—update, add, or delete objectives—to keep “sailing” toward their true north.
Here are two examples of what this looks like. For the strategic objective “putting people at the heart of everything we do,” there are about a dozen planning objectives (“paddle strokes”) to move in that direction. For instance, one planning objective is to design a training and development program that would build excellent customer service for all staff in public and patient-facing roles, and to have the program running by April 2021.
Another strategic objective is “sustainable use of resources.” One of a paddle stroke under that objective is to develop a plan to make all services carbon neutral by 2030 and begin its implementation within the next three years.
These are just two examples of the 65 concrete goals that Hywel Dda detailed. Achieving each of these goals will bring the organization closer to their strategic objectives—those “smudges on the horizon.”