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Why is Strategy Important?


Well-known scholar Joe Barker once wrote:

Vision without action is merely a dream
Action without vision just passes the time
Vision with action can change the world

It is this concept that has proved to be elusive for many health sector organizations and institutions: creating a vision and moving towards it; in essence, developing strategy.

Organizational effectiveness for today’s health sector organizations depends on having a solid management tool that provides a roadmap for organizational leaders. This management tool is the result of an integrated planning process based on visionary and directional thinking, and the development of strategic actions that, once implemented by the organization, will lead to the achievement of consistent and planned results.

Strategy Development:

  • Is a process of defining ‘where an organization is going’ in the future;
  • Provides an organization with an opportunity to critically examine its vision and assess how it is progressing towards that vision; and
  • Challenges the organization to make trade-offs in competing initiatives – to choose what to do and what not to do. It also requires the organization create a 'fit' among activities. An effective strategic planning process will result in the creation of a meaningful and realistic strategic plan geared toward achieving results, and the creation of the environment necessary to encourage and support stakeholder commitment and sustain long-lasting change.

Key Success Factors

Although strategy development can take many forms, experience suggests there are a number of key success factors that health sector organizations must consider:

  • Key stakeholders need to provide input to the process;
  • The planning process needs to be thorough to ensure well thought out results and buy-in from those stakeholders;
  • The results need to be measurable, realistic and easily implemented;
  • The final document needs to be useful to the organization as a ‘blueprint’ for decision-making; and
  • Strategy development needs to link to shorter-term planning and guide the day-to-day operations and initiatives of the organization.

Benefits of Having a Strategy

So why plan at all? What will development of strategy accomplish? Strategy is vital to health sector organizations because it:

  • Provides a framework for goal setting and decision-making;
  • Provides an opportunity for people to contribute their ideas and have input in the decision-making process;
  • Provides a basis for measuring performance;
  • Allows the Board of Directors, executive and other stakeholders to ask and answer key questions;
  • Clarifies opportunities and threats allowing for better decisions;
  • Challenges the status quo; and
  • Helps to drive innovation through the organization.

The Three Most Common Planning Mistakes

I often see mistakes made in the development of strategy: the three most common and costly mistakes involve:

  • The creation of long to-do lists that clearly identify key elements that an organization must focus on, but fail to integrate these elements with the big picture.
  • The creation of a plan that lacks measurable objectives.
  • The creation of a plan that contains too many objectives, some of which are not really strategic.

So be bold, and more importantly be strategic, think about your own organization and the last time you discussed strategy. As another wise scholar Georgia Byng once said, "There is no time like the present."