Can you succinctly state what your company does, where it’s headed and how you plan for it to get there? In the April 2008 edition of Harvard Business Review, Collis and Rukstad ask an important question: “Can you say what your strategy is?” Of course, they ask this because their research found that many firms’ CEOs cannot succinctly summarize their organization’s strategy. And if the CEO cannot do this, then it’s a logical assumption, which they found to be true, that the firm’s employees cannot either. As they state, “it is a dirty little secret that most executives don’t actually know what all the elements of a strategy statement are, which makes it impossible for them to develop one”. They offer a straightforward solution: define what the elements of strategy are so that its formulation becomes easier, with subsequent implementation becoming much simpler because the strategy can now be easily communicated and understood by everyone in the company.
The value of this clarity to a medical practice, as in any organization, is alignment (as eloquently stated by Harvard’s Michael Porter and noted in one of my previous posts on this blog). Here’s an example. Your front office employee receives a call from a concerned referring physician who wants one of her patients seen by your specialist practice within the next day or 2. Your employee knows that you and your partners are booked solid for the next 3 weeks. She has some options. She can tell the referring doctor that you’re booked and the next available office slot is in 3 weeks, and if this doctor says in response that never mind, she’ll call your competitor because they’ll make room, she responds with something like “that’s just the way it is if you want to see Dr. ___, good luck”, you will understand one reason why your market share is being eroded over time. If your goal is to maintain and/or grow your practice, and you plan to do this via a strategy of superior customer service, it will be critical for your front-line staff to understand this so they can help prevent situations like in this example. Perhaps they now will say to the referring doctor something like, “I don’t see an opening on Dr ___’s schedule this week, but we know how important it is to all concerned to get urgent patients like this one in ASAP. Please provide the patient’s phone number to me – I’ll let Dr. ___ know what the problem is and see if he can squeeze this patient in tomorrow, and then I’ll call the patient and see if we can work out a time that’s convenient for him. Should I have Dr. ___ call you?” Imagine what market share might look like over time if this was the essence of the conversation.
Here’s a pearl of wisdom attributed to Yogi Berra. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Rukstad (see above) identified objective, scope and advantage as critical components of a good strategy statement, a road map to getting where you want to go. What do you want to achieve and in what time frame? What products/services will you provide, and in what kind of setting? What will you do differently that will give you an advantage over your competitors?
Food for thought.