Leveraging Your Organzation's Strategic Plan to Raise the Profile of Your Lab
Understanding what is in your organization's strategic plan can help ensure that your lab team is focusing its efforts and delivering value in the best way. However, while most organizations have strategic plans, they often fail to achieve the results they had hoped for.
In a 2016 report for Harvard Business Review, Alison Reynolds and David Lewis conducted a study of 80 senior executives from 20 countries and 25 industries focused on strategy execution; Reynolds and Lewis asked executives what the biggest barriers to execution were—75% said employee interaction. "In other words," they write, "people failing to work together to make change happen."
In the lab, collaboration requires knowledge and awareness of an organization's objectives, strategies, tactics, and priorities, which must be communicated to employees of all levels, from junior lab technicians to C-suite stakeholders.
The Role and Value of Strategic Plans
The purpose of a strategic plan is to help an organization identify its top priorities and the ways in which it will achieve them. The strategic plan directly impacts the budgeting process in terms of both financial and staffing implications; if your need and priorities aren't reflected in the organization's strategic plan, you are unlikely to receive the budget support you need to meet your teams more specific strategic priorities.
Strategic plans hold the key to helping labs better demonstrate their value and ensure that needs are addressed. Furthermore, a lab's own priorities must be complemented and strengthened by an organization's overall strategy.
- Understand your organization's strategic plan to enhance your lab's presence
- Align your lab with your organization and maintain alignment
- Enforce complementary priorities to build internal communication
Challenges Between Lab Priorities and an Organization's Strategic Plan
There are two important reasons for lab leaders to gain a better understanding of the strategic planning process and plan details:
1. To help ensure that your lab's priorities are reflected in the organization's strategic plan
2. To help better position your proposals and requests in ways that are aligned with— and support—the organization's initiatives
Undoubtedly, however, there are challenges. In “Five Macro Challenges Facing the Lab Industry", Dr. Edward Ashwood, president and CEO of ARUP Laboratories and professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, outlines key difficulties facing the lab industry today:
1. An increase in physician employment
2. EMR integration
3. A decrease in doctor visits
4. Changes in reimbursement
5. Early signs of ACO development
The report suggests methods to address these challenges, primarily by communicating the value of your lab in a way that directly aligns with the organization's larger strategic plan. This will make your lab priorities not seem random or disconnected, but integral to the business as a whole. However, this will require catching the attention of important stakeholders, raising the question: How can you increase the strategic profile of your lab? Below are a handful of tips.
1. Read Your Organization's Strategic Plan
This is an obvious but vital step. If you don't know what's in the plan and how it connects to the mission, vision, and values of your lab, the odds of being able to align your priorities with the plan are minimal. Many hospitals and health systems post their plans online to be shared with the community they serve. Parkland Hospital in Dallas, for instance, has published its 2020 strategic plan. Take advantage of this transparency and let it inform your lab's strategy.
2. Align Your Lab Strategy With Your Organization's
One of Parkland's strategic priorities is to “improve value by achieving exemplary outcomes that matter to patients, while lowering the per capita costs of care and anticipating changes in the dynamic healthcare environment."
This example illuminates an important and universal objective: Align your lab efforts with your organization's goal. Recognizing a larger priority will allow your lab to more effectively demonstrate its value and influence the business' greater direction. In turn, this will garner your lab attention within internal channels and further your connection to key stakeholders and decision-makers; then, when your lab wants to make a specific ask or influence strategy, your chance of success will be higher.
3. Maintain Alignment Throughout the Year
A strategic plan is a living, breathing document that guides an organization toward achieving specific, measurable outcomes. This means the plan is fluid and may change throughout the year, as new information emerges or as results either fail to meet—or exceed—initial projections. Therefore, your lab needs to ensure its adjusting its own strategy on an ongoing basis. Here are steps you can take to ensure ongoing alignment:
- Once you've identified lab-related initiatives that tie back to the overall plan, incorporate these into your own department plan. These plan elements can then be broken down and assigned to team members who will assume responsibility for specific strategies and tactics.
- The strategies and tactics assigned to team members should be incorporated into their individual performance reviews to ensure accountability.
- On a regular basis—generally monthly—the lab manager should meet with his or her manager to review results; the lab manager should then meet with direct reports to do the same.
- These meetings may identify opportunities to change course or direction, to alter priorities, or to adjust objectives, ensuring that any shifts continue to support the overall department and organization plans.
These steps can be employed to promote consistency, alignment, and ongoing communication around your organization's strategic initiatives, all in an effort to raise the profile of your lab. Even if your organization doesn't have such a transparent process in place, be proactive and implement the necessary internal structures that will ensure your lab's activities and initiatives complement the strategic plan of your healthcare system. When your priorities enforce those of the greater organization, your lab will make an even more impactful difference.
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