With all that has occurred over the past few months, many of us are left wondering what the future holds.  One way to add a degree of certainty during uncertain times is to engage your brain, and your team members in a strategic planning process.  There may be more questions now than previously, but by definition the future is uncertain, and yet we must create plans if we want to accomplish our goals.

Not long ago I oversaw a strategic planning meeting for a large dental practice. Levin Group conducted this all-day meeting, which resulted in the identification of 11 key strategies that the practice would like to achieve within the next three years. It took an entire day to work through identifying the practice’s core values, mission, vision, and ultra-specific strategies to support all their efforts.

Strategic planning days are some of my most enjoyable workdays.

Watching a group of dentists and office managers identify what they want to accomplish for their future is exciting and invigorating. Strategic planning isn’t a group of people sitting in a conference room picking ideas out of the air. These meetings create the opportunity for people, often for the first time, to look ahead, make plans, and believe that they are achievable.

  1. Strategic planning is a thorough process that starts by identifying a practice’s core values.  These are the underlying principles of the practice that will never be violated and allow the practice to make great decisions.
  2. We then perform a SWOT analysis where every pertinent practice issue is identified by the team, written down, categorized by strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and then put into priority order. The top three from each category (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) become the driving force behind the ultimate strategies that are selected.
  3. Lastly, we create a series of statements on where the practice will be in 5 years.

Select realistic strategies

With all of that “pre-work” complete, we have an excellent picture of where we stand and where we want to go, and it’s time to start selecting specific strategies to get there. The good news is that the strategies become amazingly obvious based on the work the group is already done.
One quick word of caution:  At this stage in the exercise practices often become excited and there is a tendency to try to cram strategy deadline into the next 12 months, but this will not work. It’s unrealistic and simply can’t get done. Instead, we recommend that you stage the strategies out over the next five years, establish deadlines, and then assign responsible parties.

Keep the momentum going

We conclude these strategic planning sessions by reinforcing that the practice must have a strategic plan update meeting each month to maintain accountability and keep the momentum going. The worst thing to do is to go through this whole process, stick the strategic plan on a shelf, and never look at it again. You want it to be living plan and therefore will need to update it every month to determine if you’re on track and decide if changes must be made.