Trickle-down planning for the new year

Trickle-down planning for the new year

Mar 01, 2007

Help your team develop a year-long plan to improve on weaknesses and let them run with it.

Jeff Rothstein, DVM
With a 3-, a 6-, and a 9-year-old at home, it's easy to get tired of telling everyone what to do, especially when my kids don't seem to hear half of the things I'm saying. As I started getting into the 2007 strategic planning mode for our eight-hospital group, a similar feeling came over me. Usually a few members of the management team come up with goals, plans, and strategies for the whole group. But I was thinking the best strategy for this year might be a different strategy.

So as 2006 ended, the management team met with the doctors and managers of each hospital and had them fill out a questionnaire identifying their hospital's strongest points of success as well as their weakest areas. We also asked what specific areas needed the most improvement. Then we discussed the results. The hospital leaders' take-home assignment is to host their own staff meeting to discuss goals and vision for the new year—we're dubbing it the Plan-for-the-Year Meeting.

We've provided the team leaders with a meeting protocol to give them some direction. The logic, and hopefully it works, is that each team has its own strengths and interests. If the group focuses on these key areas they're more likely to be happy, motivated, and ultimately successful. Just like it's hard for me to convince my 9-year-old to take after his dad and play hockey, it can be equally challenging to convince team members to excel in particular areas when their hearts aren't in it.

This strategy works well for independently owned practices too. So involve key folks in the practice in your planning for 2007. Owners, you should have a role in the process. But try to sit back and let your team create the majority of the plan. My guess is that they'll buy in to their own strategy more than they would the management-driven plan—and therefore the practice will be more successful.

If you haven't gotten around to planning your meeting yet or if this idea is new to your practice, now is a good time to get started. And the clock is ticking. Good luck on a successful year—let's compare notes and see how our plans worked out.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein is president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.