One of our recent Physician Strategy News’s articles, “Creating a Shared Vision for Your Network”, extolled the virtues of developing a vision statement as a mechanism to galvanize your physician group around an aligned, common vision for the group’s future. We described our process for developing the vision statement and indicated that it could be used to engage physicians, define a common culture, and drive change. In this article, we address how the vision statement can support those goals.
Engaging physicians. This starts from the beginning – with the designation of the steering committee and the initial phase of vision statement development. The steering committee consists of formal and informal physician leaders and key administrative leaders working together to develop the vision. The process instills a sense of physician ownership in the end product, which is reinforced when physician members of the steering committee present the vision (and associated strategies) to their peers
Physician engagement increases with implementation of the vision-associated strategies. Most vision statements contain elements related to physician leadership and often lead to the development or modification of a representative physician leadership or advisory council for the network. This group takes on the task of prioritizing the associated strategies, developing specific action plans through which the strategies can be attained, executing the action plans, monitoring the results, and developing further action plans based on the initial outcomes.
The planning, implementation, and execution of the action plans are transparently communicated to the entire group through agreed upon mechanisms – including regularly scheduled group meetings. In this manner, physician leaders continue to own the process, advocate actions to their peers to obtain further feedback and buy in, then champion the implementation and execution. The ongoing process progressively builds physician engagement and ownership. This process also drives organizational change and vision fulfillment.
Defining a Common Culture. Many groups enter the vision development process as a collection of relatively autonomous practices – each exhibiting their own identity, culture, and ways of conducting business. Networks of these disparate practices invariably envision a more cohesive group. The vision statement strategies can directly aid this process.
First, the vision statement projects a future state that was not previously declared. The individual practices were quite satisfied moving into the future in the same manner they functioned in the past. Continuing the status quo, functioning the way that the practices always have, is familiar, comfortable, and preferred. The questions were not only “why change,” but “into what.” The vision statement provides answers to both questions.
Second, the vision statement will often contain behavioral norms and outline shared expectations to more explicitly define the desired common culture for the group. These often build on identified fundamental values that exist within the group but have not been formally promoted as the foundations of the network’s culture. Specifically culling these out of the background, bringing them to the foreground, and emphasizing their shared importance to the group commences active culture development.
Third, the detailed vision statement can be used as an educational tool for all network physician and non-physician staff – both current and future. By delineating a detailed description of what the network is working toward and aspires to be, it can be used to outline organizational goals for current staff and provide a unifying influence on adopting a common culture and identity. It can similarly be used to recruit and indoctrinate future staff. Clients have used the document during the recruitment process to determine cultural fit. If the prospective recruit cannot envision him/herself practicing in the described environment, the individual is likely not going to be a good fit.
These clients follow through with this emphasis by incorporating the document and associated strategies in the provider onboarding process – further reinforcing the import and impact of the network’s vision in daily operations and cultural development … and the actions required to get there. Clients have also used the document in their new employee orientation programs to educate new staff of the network’s aspirations and intent. The common theme resonates, builds momentum, and becomes the new reality.
Driving Change. In addition to driving change through strategy, action plan implementation and homogeneous culture cultivation, the vision and resulting strategies drive change through direct linkage with operational decision making. They can provide a measuring stick against which proposed operational initiatives and budgetary requests can be gauged. Leadership can require that proposed initiatives and funding requests advance an existing vision element or contribute to a meaningfully revised vision element as one of the criteria to have the initiative considered or funded.
One of our clients refers to their vision statement as the network’s “Constitution” – a testament to its importance and to the direction that it provides for them. Others have referred to their vision statement as their “roadmap” for navigating their future or the “compass” by which they determine their future direction. Using the vision statement in these ways contributes to defining the desired “brand” the group aspires to promote and the desired culture the group aspires to exhibit and share.
In summary, incorporating the vision and associated strategies into daily operations advances and strengthens all three desired outcomes – engaging providers; establishing a common purpose, identity, and culture; and driving positive change in the organization.