When working with physician partners on strategic planning, one of the key items that I ensure we address is vision. You started your own practice because you had an idea that you wanted to bring into reality. All of the day-to-day administration and worries can crowd out the joy and excitement of your medical practice, thus it’s important to stay connected to the passion that led you to go into private practice in the first place. When you focus on the vision, the smaller things won’t take over your life. It is imperative to develop a shared vision for the physician practice.
In some strategic planning efforts, a vision for the practice is developed after a vision for the patients has been discussed. This is with the assumption that a shared organizational vision may be dependent upon a shared vision of how the patient population should be treated. Whenever this is done, it is important to agree on where the practice wants to be in three to five years. It is often helpful to focus on where you want to be at the end of the period covered by the strategic plan, so this time period may be shorter, but certainly no longer than five years.
This three-to–five-year vision might describe the practice broadly, in terms of its mix of programs, reputation or status inside and outside its primary target community, key accomplishments, and relationships with referring physicians. Specific descriptions might be included in relation to service/target area, program scope and depth, funding, governance, staffing, relationships with other groups, visibility, etc. This form of “visioning” can be done in many ways. For example:
- Groups can physically draw their vision of the future, then work to identify common elements and use them to establish a joint vision.
- Groups can role play what they would want to be able to say about the practice’s major accomplishments and reputation to a newspaper reporter five years from now, then use this as a basis for developing a shared vision.
- Groups can play the role of various supportive stakeholders (i.e. patients, referring physicians, etc.) and each developing a series of statements describing the practice as they would like to see it in a specified number of years. Then these visions can be shared and meshed.
Physicians may also want to devise a formal worksheet indicating where they see the practice in either broad or specific terms. For example:
- Broad categories – Describe the practice in five years, in terms of categories such as program, resources, status, relationships, organizational development, and governance;
- Specific characteristics – Describe the practice in five years, in terms of categories such as target area, target populations, budget, staff size and composition, staff/component structure, program areas, offices/locations, board size and composition, relationship with local hospitals.
Physicians would then share the information from these worksheets and discuss in order to reach some form of shared responses. The full group must reach a consensus on a shared vision. The physicians may opt to take turns describing the practice in terms of specified categories or topics (e.g., missions, program scope, resources, relationships), then consensus can be reached on major statements and categories.
Regardless of the approach and tactics used, it is imperative that all physician owners share a common vision and that all staff members are aware of the desired future direction of the practice. Vision is the thing inside of us that guides us. It creates a desire to grow and improve. Vision embodies our hopes and ideals. It gives us a sense of purpose. Vision brings us flashes or glimpses of what is possible.
A New Approach
Many consultancy gurus will tell you that you need to set goals and work toward them every day. That can work for you if you’re motivated to work that way and if you’re finding success. Yet this method can also become demotivating if you are not able to hit those goals. Putting lots of effort and energy into something but not getting the results you want is a surefire way to feel like a failure.
Instead, try a different approach. Stay focused on your vision, your purpose, and your values. When you use these as your guiding lights, instead of goals, you reveal another path that leads to what you want. And in turn, you can approach your practice in a way that’s right for you and the way you work. This will allow you to blaze a path to success in a way that aligns with your personal style and strengths.
The secret to this approach is to remain connected to your vision and purpose at all times. Your vision and purpose can then guide every one of your business decisions.