Some of my counterparts have a firm belief that strategic planning is a rigid process which should occur once every three to five years. The process they undertake is often done during an off-site planning session with the outcome being printed up in a large three-ring binder. In less than six months, those binders are sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust, never to again see the light of day.
I, on the other hand, believe that strategic planning should be a continuous process involving the ongoing adjustment of means and ends. We should also view planning as an evolutionary process involving continuous adjustment and improvement. We can think of strategic planning as solution-by-evolution rather than solution-by-engineering. We should generally not view strategic planning as trying to solve a problem in one iteration because most healthcare business problems are too complex (especially in today’s environment) to be solved that way. To quote Helmuth von Moltke (German Field Marshal):
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
In many cases, it is more advisable to find a workable solution quickly and improve the solution as time permits. What matters most is not generating the best possible strategic plan (the polished edition for a revered binder) but achieving the best possible result. Oftentimes, a reasonable course of action executed quickly and aggressively is better than an optimal course executed too late. We should generally view strategic planning as evolving continuously and iteratively toward the best executable solution that circumstances allow until the process is interrupted by the imperative to act.
Strategic planning bridges the gap between where we are standing today and where we want to reach. It is a requirement for a sustained competitive advantage. Left to its own devices however, strategic planning leads to rigidity. Following a predefined plan when circumstances are changed may not bring positive results for the healthcare organization. Effective strategic planning continuously refines and deepens the plan as time permits.