Testing your strategic choices
Many of the practices I work with think they have strategy, but a test shows they haven't made any strategic choices at all. Consider these steps to quickly determine whether your practice understands what a real strategy is and whether or not they actually have a strategy that can be successful.
Step 1: Identify your long-term strategic moves
I often challenge physicians by asking, “Do you have a real strategy for long-term success?” Strategy requires disciplined analysis and a deep understanding of how not only the healthcare industry but also how your specialty is likely to play out in the coming years. Then you need to get very clear on the few, key strategic moves your practice needs to make in order to position yourself for future success.
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Strategy requires tradeoffs. You cannot be everything to everybody; you cannot just blindly copy the moves of your competitors and hope to win. You have to figure out what to say "YES" to, and what to say "NO" to. You make clear cut choices about how you will compete in the future, and then allocate your time and resources accordingly. Keep in mind that less is more when it comes to strategy execution. I recommend that you whittle your wish list down to only a few strategic moves that will have the greatest impact, and say “No” to everything else.
Step 2: Question the validity
Take a look at each strategic move in isolation, and ask yourself, “Could we do the exact opposite, and would that also be a valid strategy?” If doing the opposite of your stated strategic move would be stupid or nonsensical, then it is not really a strategic move at all. It is simply a table stakes requirement for doing business in your specialty. It is likely to be something that many of your competitors will also be doing.
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Your strategic move should be something that will help you to establish a competitive advantage. A strategic move should help you to create a category or a niche in your catchment area (and perhaps more broadly in your specialty) where you can genuinely claim a position of leadership or a meaningful point of difference. A strategic move should make it very clear what are going to say “YES” to, and by association what you are saying “NO” to, and what you are NOT going to do.
This is where I have seen many practices fail. Their stated strategies often include generic fluff like, “provide a world-class patient experience.” Well duh, really? So the opposite of that would be to provide lousy patient experience, and that would also be a valid strategy? I don’t think so. You haven’t actually made a strategic choice at all.
Take a look at your long-term strategic moves now, and question viability of those courses of action. I’m betting a few of you will realize there's still quite a lot of work to be done.
Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE, is the CEO and founder of ABISA, a consultancy specializing in strategic healthcare initiatives for physician practices. His firm helps devise and implement strategies that will allow practices to remain competitive and solvent. E-mail him here.