Benefits of a continuous strategic planning approach
Organizations that have migrated to a continuous strategic planning approach report two primary benefits: it allows the organizations to remain flexible to the rapidly changing health care environment, and it instills a culture of continuous improvement and shared accountability.
Benefit 1: Greater flexibility than traditional strategic planning
Traditional strategic planning generally runs in three- or five-year cycles, which makes it difficult for organizations to quickly shift resources or recalibrate priorities in response to emerging constraints or opportunities. This “set it and forget it” approach is too reactive and hands-off to navigate today’s rapidly changing environment.
In a continuous strategic planning approach, an organization’s long-term ambitions are broken down into short-term objectives that leaders continuously review and update. Leaders, or designated environmental scanning teams, continuously monitor both the external environment and internal progress, sharing analyses and updates with the wider organization. Leaders use this information to alter any current objectives if their goalposts have changed, add new objectives if the external environment necessitates it, or remove objectives if their work is no longer high-priority or is out of touch with the external environment.
If and when a new objective is added or altered, these organizations utilize a standard decision-making process to either assign new workstreams to teams across the organization or to end or pivot an obsolete workstream with minimal disruption.
Benefit 2: Instilling a culture of continuous improvement and shared accountability
In a traditional strategic planning approach, organizations assign strategic objective workstreams to directors or managers who then create plans to meet predetermined goals and metrics. These leaders and their teams often work “heads down” for months or years, again, following the “set it and forget it” approach. When they complete one workstream, they are handed the next one and repeat the process. It is not until the next strategic planning exercise, often years later, that these leaders come together in any strategic, future-focused capacity to discuss the organization’s position within the wider environment.
Such infrequency and disparateness can lead to an organizational culture that involuntarily values and rewards individual performance over collective ownership. Teams often work in silos, becoming distanced from strategic conversations and losing sight of how their work fits with the organization’s long-term ambitions. Leaders across the organization don’t often come together to analyze changes in the operating environment or how they can jointly work together to respond to those changes. When the leadership team does gather, it’s usually to report on their individual workstreams, not to solve problems collectively.
Continuous strategic planning leads to a culture shift away from a focus on individual performance and toward shared accountability.
Under continuous strategic planning, there is constant dialogue around each teams' progress and how that work fits in with the organization's direction. Leaders come together often to recalibrate their objective workflows against changes in the operating environment and collectively respond to challenges that arise. Leaders collaborate with other teams to find solutions, building trust in the process rather than assigning blame or critiquing one another.