How 3-Day 'Future' Workshops Can Help Medical Practices

December 15, 2014

The 3-day workshop can move any organization in a positive and creative direction. Here's how to have one at your medical practice.

If your practice is facing a major challenge, I recommend using the three-day workshop method to identify a solution.

This workshop method is also known as a future workshop. With an expert planner and facilitator, the three day workshop can move any organization in a positive and creative direction.

The basic model is to use day one to brainstorm - that is to think, discuss, and formulate what could be done with your resources (physical, financial, personnel and/or intellectual resources), when no limitations apply. This means that the participants are expressly encouraged to forget about any and all historical hindrances to progress. This never fails to produce surprising scenarios that few, if any of the participants, would have thought of otherwise.

The second day is spent adjusting those brainstormed solution to your reality. Reality is never as good as it could be, but there are always ways to make positive and creative changes that can be accomplished. This adjustment to reality takes all of day two and a variable amount of day three, depending on the complexity of the issues dealt with.

To finish off the process, devise a concrete plan of action on day three, which can be set in motion as soon as the participants get back to their usual daily activities.

My crowning workshop experience was with the group convened by the CDC/Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Public Health Faculty Agency Forum.

The forum was established after the 1988 Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Public Health,” which brought to light the lack of collaboration between schools of public health and public health institutions - local, state, or national.

My role (and hope) was to help the participants identify the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the lack of collaboration, and use this as a backdrop for developing a strategy for moving toward optimal operation.

My plan was to get the participants to define areas of collaboration. Since there were very few in place already, the process ground to a halt after about an hour.

I had anticipated this, and I enticed the participants to roll up their sleeves and get in gear so that they could find and define relevant and needed common agendas that predicate collaboration that would give positive value for both academe and practice. Then the real work began.

As a result of the forum, the practicum experience, which had been practiced in a limited number of schools previously, was emphasized as an important part of public health education. The practicum is an experience that puts the student in a real-life situation under controlled circumstances; that is, the student has a mentor and/or boss that has the end responsibility for what happens in the situation. The hard part is letting the student do and decide until things almost go wrong. It can be likened to playing chicken in traffic. Without taking a calculated risk, the development of responsibility cannot run apace.

My “practicum” as it were, was the forum.

Another very important product of the forum was a listing of the core competencies of the Master of Public Health. This was the first time such a list had been put together. The list has gone through several iterations since its inception, but the main themes and issues have not changed significantly.

Although the three-day workshop process in my experience has been primarily utilized in the academic educational setting, it is clear that the same process can be utilized in any organizational setting with an expectation of the same level and value of the resulting synthesis.

Get an expert to run a three-day future workshop for your organization or practice - it could blow your mind!