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Every Year: 'I'm a Strategic Planning Nerd'

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 10:00 AM

The BSM Way

Written by: Maureen Waddle

Maureen Waddle
Senior consultant for BSM

The BSM team just got back from our annual strategic planning meeting, and I feel invigorated, energized, and motivated. Three days away with the entire team is such a wonderful way to plan for future successes and bond with my coworkers. I come away with the same feeling every time. 

For me, fall signals a shift in focus both at home and work. At home, the focus turns to football, as my husband is a high school football coach. At work, the attention turns to strategic planning. It’s my favorite time of year!

At BSM Consulting, we don’t just preach the importance of strategic planning, we put it into practice, with fall marking our annual strategic planning session. It is usually a multi-day, offsite event that productively blends work and team fun. While I thoroughly enjoy helping our clients go through their strategic planning process, I find our own annual meeting to be invigorating, exciting, and wholly worthwhile.

I’ve heard some doctors say that strategic planning is just a long meeting that takes away from productive work time. I suppose a meeting without follow-up actions and implementation would be frustrating and unproductive. Our meeting isn’t. Strategic planning isn’t just a one-time meeting; it is an ongoing process. We see it that way, and it works. We plan, and we act. It is amazing when we look back at our previous year’s initiatives and see what we have accomplished since then.

"While I thoroughly enjoy helping our clients go through their strategic planning process, I find our own annual meeting to be invigorating, exciting, and wholly worthwhile." — Maureen Waddle

Strategic planning involves months of preparation, and more importantly, implementation of the discussed plan following the meeting. It’s a lot of work, but seeing results from a planning session is one of the key ways to motivate engagement in the ongoing planning process and the meeting itself.

To make planning sessions valuable and ensure that we stay focused on the key imperatives for the company, we:

  1. Communicate strategy throughout the year. We have quarterly meetings (or conference calls) where we are reminded of our key imperatives and the progress we have made. We are also reminded when the next planning session will be held to help us prepare.
  2. Create a clear process for vetting opportunities. I confess it is easy to get excited about something and run down that rabbit hole. However, since we have a process in place, only opportunities that have already received initial vetting are presented during our planning session. This makes it much easier to prioritize and get buy-in from the group.
  3. Create a culture where opinions are respected. Giving everyone a chance to be heard creates a sense of value for the person and pride in the company.
  4. Implement! Most BSM staff anticipate the annual strategic planning meeting with excitement … even knowing that from the meeting there will be action items that may fall on their shoulders. We all work better when we have a clear direction and goals in front of us to work toward.

This process works for us, and can for you, too. I readily acknowledge I’m a strategic planning nerd. For me, it’s gratifying to look back and see how much has been accomplished over the past year only to start again pulling together the right pieces of the puzzle to create another master plan for the new year.

Your Turn: What do you do to ensure a successful strategic planning session?

Please feel free to comment below. If you have a specific question regarding this topic, contact Maureen Waddle at


  • jack muckleroy said Reply

    Hi Maureen, What guidelines do you use for developing goals for strategic planning meetings? Equipment purchases, growth of the physical plant, etc.? Do you poll or question the participants before the meeting for ideas? Thanks.

    • BSMAdmin said Reply

      Hi Jack, thanks for a great question. The biggest challenge we face every day is to pare down a never ending list of opportunities. For strategic planning sessions, here’s what I typically do to get an appropriate list of opportunities:

      1) Survey key stakeholders to determine individual priorities. To your point — yes, I poll the shareholders going into the meeting to ensure we have prepared the right information, so they can make decisions during the meeting.
      2) Perform a situation analysis to determine operational strengths and weaknesses.
      3) Perform an external forces/market analysis to determine key opportunities and threats the practice must face.

      With these three items done in preparation, we typically get through a good SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

      For the list of opportunities, we use any number of voting methods, depending on the governance structure of the practice. Of course, we want to have plenty of time to discuss the opportunities and provide good information. In the end, however, participants pretty consistently come close to a consensus on the top imperatives. To help them prioritize we consider the opportunities against these key factors:

      1) Is the opportunity consistent with our vision? Be careful here. Saying “no” is just as important as finding the right things to say “yes” to. Many practices jump on opportunities just because they look good financially. However, if it doesn’t fit with the vision of the practice, it ends up being a distraction to the primary goals of the business.
      2) Does it take advantage of our strengths? Do we already have a core competency that will help us quickly adapt and implement actions to take advantage of this opportunity? If so, it typically means the opportunity will be fairly easy to implement.
      3) Does it eliminate a weaknesses or a threat? Often times a weakness has to be eliminated before an organization can move forward to pursue opportunities. For instance, the new CMS payment methodology — MIPS — is an external force. This can be seen as a threat and an opportunity. If the practice has not done PQRS reporting and meaningful use attestation, they have an infrastructure weakness and are not well-positioned to handle MIPS requirements. The opportunity to consider is whether to dedicate resources to build the infrastructure to meet MIPS requirements and avoid penalties. To help with that decision we might create an analysis showing the cost of implementation and the expected revenue compared to the penalties the practice would face in 2019 and beyond. We would then further consider that such infrastructure needs to be built for Medicare and for compliance with other payers, or to enable the practice to pursue new contracting opportunities and pay-for-value programs given the changing health care environment. You cannot consider pursuing such opportunities without first overcoming the infrastructure weakness.
      4) What opportunity has the greatest financial impact? Here is where you will want to have a good idea of the top initiatives for consideration to make sure you have prepared the right analysis to help stakeholders discuss the opportunity and make a decision.

      The topics you specifically mentioned — equipment purchases, physical plant changes/additions — would bubble up primarily from the stakeholder surveys, but they might also become apparent in the situation analysis. For example, if the physical plant is restricting provider capacity, the productivity analysis would show this.

      Good luck.

      Maureen Waddle
      Principal and Senior Consultant
      BSM Consulting

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