Health care is learning a lesson on instability. For decades, health systems benefitted from relative stasis—incremental market disruption, a policy landscape that favored the status quo, and ingrained clinician and patient preferences and behaviors that tilted their loyalties toward incumbents. Yes, innovation and disruption happened, but at a (more) manageable pace.
How Hywel Dda hardwired flexibility into strategic planning
However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, each of these insulating factors eroded. This means the environment we are operating in is now fundamentally different—it is far more unpredictable and prone to impulses.
With this change in the health care operating environment must come a change in how we think about, set, pursue, and track against our strategic aims. In the old and stable world, systems benefited from three- or five-year strategic plans that barely required recalibration. Systems took a 'set-it-and-forget-it' approach. And that was okay because the environment didn't necessitate anything more.
During our team's research on organizational flexibility, we noticed that the idea of dynamic or 'continuous' strategic planning was an emerging trend. Health system leaders we spoke with talked about the realization of how efficient their governing frameworks were during the pandemic response and how they were hardwiring that flexibility into their strategic planning processes. They talked about a new strategic planning process that is continuous, iterative, and easy to recalibrate.
(Interestingly, many other industries started migrating toward this continuous approach years ago—we found organizations in banking, software development, consulting, and others that have been doing this since the early 2000's. As always, health care is the laggard.)
Our team has published work on this idea already and will be coming out with more case studies and insights on 'continuous strategic planning' in the coming weeks. But it's worth capturing, at a high level, the mindshifts that any leader interested in a more 'continuous strategic planning' approach will need to make.
We found three:
Covid-19 made strategic planning and decision-making difficult because the disease was new, health systems had little information about it, and executives needed to make decisions quickly and prioritize those decisions rigorously. After adopting “pandemic response” frameworks, leaders realized that previous planning and decision-making structures were inefficient given today's rapidly changing environment.
Download this case study to learn the four steps Hywel Dda took to modernize their planning approach.
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