One of the most important mantras in my leadership style is transparency. I believe in transparency in communications, accessibility and appearance.
In recent years, I have extended my philosophy of inclusiveness to strategic planning as well. One example was a few years ago when I was organizing the biannual strategic planning retreat for one of my hospitals. This particular hospital had a history of controversy in the community, including a recently failed tax election to support the hospital financially. It was a public hospital, located in a small rural community, with a publicly elected governing body, a labor union and many vocal critics.
I consulted with our strategic planning consultants and told them that I would like to try opening our process to all of our stakeholder groups, and not make it a small meeting of our board of directors only. We ended up planning a one-day retreat, on a Saturday, at a local venue large enough to hold 100 people.
Then we began working on our list of invited participants, starting with our board of directors, of course. Since this was a public hospital and required to abide by the open public meeting law, we posted our agenda and invited the public. We also sent written invitations to our target participants, including our medical staff, our labor union, publicly elected officials, community groups (e.g., Rotary Club) and our employees.
Having consultants who were skilled in pre-retreat day preparation work was key to the process. In addition to the one-day retreat, our consultants spent many hours on the telephone with board members and community leaders, as well as hours in our hospital itself to interview employees.
The result was a well-planned day, in which all constituent groups and key stakeholder groups had an opportunity to have a say in the future path of our local community hospital. A rich, facilitator-led discussion ensued in which we identified and solved some of the real issues preventing our hospital from reaching financial and operational success.
The No. 1 goal—as identified by the entire group—was community engagement. We took a giant step that day to fix that problem just by including the community in our strategic planning process. Other issues that were tackled that day included financial performance, physical plant renovation, new programs and services, and staff recruitment and retention. It was a very productive process and a day that all of us felt extremely proud of.
The plan paid off and we went on to make major improvements in our communications, operations and, of course, community engagement. I have used this same approach many more times over the years with great success. To this day, I still use this stakeholder engagement approach to strategic planning.
Raymond Hino is an administrator at Skyway Surgery Center in Chico, California. He was previously the president and CEO of the Sonoma West Medical Center.