Consider increasing emphasis on healthcare programs

June 1, 2008

The majority of program development or improvement plans fail to meet their projected performance. What can a healthcare executive leadership team do to change this outcome for their organization?

The majority of program development or improvement plans fail to meet their projected performance. Whether it's a physician recruitment goal or a department level improvement initiative, end results do not typically achieve those projected when the programs were launched. What can a healthcare executive leadership team do to change this outcome for their organization?

In most cases Program Development and Strategic Planning (PD&SP) functions are roles within the executive leadership team. Implementation responsibilities are 'assigned' to individual groups. Even when these roles are aligned in strong organizations the success of separate initiatives too often produce less than projected results. Transforming the PD&SP roles to include program execution responsibilities can 'bridge the chasm' and drastically improve performance. This change requires a transformation of an organizations performance expectation and building the skills of the PD&SP staff.

Program Development and Strategic Planning roles are important elements in a hospitals growth and financial stability. Typically, however, they only identify and detail opportunities. Most healthcare leadership teams believe they have programs in place that are adequate and meet their needs in this area. Improving these programs can help position the organization for at least slight success.

The PD&SP team is responsible to assess and recommend opportunities. All issues, questions and concerns of any affected group need to be addressed by the team. Information inputs should objectively present the opportunity, opposing thoughts, risk assessments, resource requirements and timelines in enough detail to allow the leadership group to make a clear decision.

Once a decision is reached to move forward, the organization aligns and commits the resources required for success. Programs are approved by both executive and operational decision makers and prioritized according to a clear set of sustained growth goals for the hospital.

With a decision to move forward the PD&SP execution team's expanded responsibilities come into play.

First, a cross-functional team is formed with PD&SP and operational team members. The new team develops and implements a detailed execution plan and regularly reports the progress to the executive team. Management is responsible to resolve conflicts and address priority conflicts that arise. The team completes a project with a plan vs. performance report that is used to refine future goals and the decision process.

Two key organizational changes must take place to produce new and successful program outcomes. These are: a change in the company's expectation of performance and the expansion of staff skills and responsibility.

Often, reports of program outcomes are overstated or have even been 'manufactured' to make the executive team happy. Leaders learn that major steps were addressed but not fully completed, details were left incomplete or unattended. No one has picked up the detailed action because they are already busy addressing their day-to-day responsibilities. The result produces a less than optimized outcome to the overall disadvantage of the organization.

Authorized plans must become organizational commitments. Program success requires committed 'transitional resources' to assure that details are completed. The best and most capable transitional resource is the PD&SP team. To be effective role, responsibility and skill set of team members must be expanded.

Team members certainly need to exhibit strong analytical, project planning skills. Most important is the motivation of team members. They must view accomplishment as the reward and be motivated to do what needs to be done. A 'cross-functional mindset is essential. Members should possess a high emotional quotient (EQ) with demonstrated conflict resolution skills and an ability to work across all levels of responsibility through the company.

Summary

Program success can be improved with a focus on execution. By taking key steps to align their organization with an effective decision process, a refined organizational mindset and the necessary staff skills, hospitals can begin to direct rather than leave program outcomes to chance. These changes are subtle but key to achieving a new level of performance.

Through the process the number of organizational initiatives are refined and prioritized based on the resources available to execute the approved plans. First it increases the success rate of individual initiatives. Second it requires the organization to prioritize and puts pressure where it can have the most benefit on the decision process.

Healthcare executive teams do not have to accept partial results. Success is a matter of execution.

Warren Mauter is managing principal with The AND Group, focusing on healthcare and medical products strategy execution. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the University College Masters Management Program at the University of Denver.