Practical Use of Strategic Planning

 In this writing, I will describe the similarities and differences of planning versus strategic planning, and I will use these concepts to compare and contrast two very different strategic organizational plans within the health care industry. In my view, strategic planning should be bold, effective, prescient, and ethical, and the reader should keep these attributes in mind when considering the plans for themselves.

Planning is described as the directed implementation of the “blueprint for the future” (McConnell, 2012), or the means of expressing the organizational vision in order to achieve the organizational goals; whereas, strategic planning institutes planning with a consideration and focus towards the forces, whether or not controllable, that might both help and hinder the desired outcomes (Casciani, 2012). One example of an uncontrollable force, especially in health care, are the expectations of the patient or client. Crawford et al. (2002) provides a discussion on the increased propensity to involve patient views in the strategic planning of health care organizations, though at the time of the writing, there was no evidence as to the effect that the involvement of these views provided. Caution must be exercised when eliciting input from the client or patient. For instance, many patients complain about the amount of time that it takes at emergency departments for test results to be returned. As impressive as it would be to have test results returned within just a few minutes, this should not be attempted to the detriment of the accuracy of the tests. Perhaps, in this instance, considering the role of point-of-care testing might be more beneficial than attempting a costly overhaul of the laboratory processes. Approaching problems as they apply to an open system, looking from outside in, provides a better perspective than regarding the organization as an isolated microcosm.

To be effective, strategic planning must be all-encompassing and address the goals of each functional unit, or microsystem, to bring them into alignment with the plans of the macro organization (Kosnik & Espinosa, 2003). To wit, as an organization can only be measured by the outcomes of the integrated microsystems, an analysis of each or any functional unit can tell much about the goals and visions guiding the organization.

Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center

The Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center (Children’s; 2006), located in Seattle Washington, provides the first of two strategic plans I will review. On the opening pages, as with most strategic plans, the organization defines its mission and vision, and they are certainly bold statements including the elimination of pediatric disease and being the best children’s specialty care center. The only thing that I wish was stated on these first pages is some sort of organizational value statement. The value statement does much to intertwine an ethical approach to the mission and vision. However, I do not doubt the ethical approach Children’s relies on, which is evident by the whole of the plan.

Children’s (2006) is a true regional medical center that serves much of the northwest portion of the United States, including Alaska. An argument could be made that Children’s serves such a vital role to the region that it is too important to fail, yet the organization still seeks to ensure financial stability and “secure Children’s financial future” (p. 5). In health care, especially in today’s political climate, the future of funding sources are unclear, and the most ethical approach to the organizational delivery of health care is to provide it without burden to the community it serves. Children’s exemplifies this approach by maintaining charitable foundation to “expand philanthropy to the community” (p. 16), as well as ensuring sound and responsible investments and maximizing efficiency under cost controls while still ensuring quality and safety improvements.

Additionally, Children’s (2006) focuses its efforts at being the best, which means attracting the best clinicians, performing cutting-edge research, and providing the best care to achieve the best outcomes possible setting the standard for health care across the nation. Children’s holds a bold, effective, prescient, and ethical strategic plan that outlines some goals of many of the microsystems within the organization.

U.C. Davis Health System

The U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan, unlike the Children’s (2006) plan, immediately outlines the values, or “guiding principles” (p. 3), of the organization. Financially, however, U.C. Davis Health Systems seems less focused on self-reliance, financial security, and community involvement than Children’s and more focused on their stated goal of socially responsible environmental stewardship.

Although the U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan uses the word bold on the front cover, I find it to be less so and without many specifics and, instead, relying on generalized language that might promote the vision but does nothing to engage it.

It is apparent in the U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan that they wish to become a leader in many different areas while attracting the best workforce. This is a commendable, bold, and ethical position that helps to ensure quality and safety in the delivery of health care at U.C. Davis Health Systems.


Many different variables drive the production of strategic plans, including politics, community, workforce, investments, geography, and the current status quo of health care delivery. Many of these differences can be seen immediately when comparing various strategic plans, yet by virtue of being a health care organization, many of the stated goals will be similar. Without being informed as to the climate of the organizational operation, it is difficult to appreciate the potential each plan has in regard to success or failure.

As a health care manager, the strategic plan is an obvious resource when deciding on possible employment. As a potential administrator, the strategic plan offers a view into how the administration seeks to direct the operation of the organization. Being responsible to help implement these plans, one must consider the alignment of his or her personal values with those of the organization. A manager might find it difficult to lead in an environment that demonstrates and promotes a different value system.

Strategic plans offer a significant advantage to organizations during their growth providing a clearly written prescription as to what is important to the organization so that it may guide decision-makers to develop and enhance programs to provide a cohesive effort towards future prosperity and relevance.


Casciani, S. J. (2012). Strategic planning. In S. B. Buchbinder & N. H. Shanks, Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.; pp. 3-23). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. (2006). Our children deserve the best: Laying the foundation for the next 100 years (Strategic plan overview). Retrieved from

Crawford, M. J., Rutter, D., Manley, C., Weaver, T., Bhui, K., Fulop, N., & Tyrer, P. (2002). Systematic review of involving patients in the planning and development of health care. British Medical Journal, 325(7375), 1263-1267. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7375.1263

Kosnik, L. K. & Espinosa, J. A. (2003). Microsystems in health care: Part 7. The microsystem as a platform for merging strategic planning and operations. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety, 29(9), 452-459.

McConnell, C. R. (2012). Planning. In S. B. Buchbinder & N. H. Shanks, Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.; pp. 131-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

University of California, Davis Health System. (2011). 2011-2016 strategic plan: Creating a healthier world through bold innovation. Retrieved from strategicplan/2011StrategicPlan.pdf