Prior Proper Planning …

… Prevents Poor Performance

I am in the midst of planning an ad hoc merger of a number of local emergency medical service agencies into a single regional provider to reduce overall costs while maximizing revenue, improve training and the delivery of care, and to streamline the operational processes that support our providers in the field. Unfortunately, I have found that there are many obstacles that need to be dealt with at every step before moving on to the next. My research has certainly opened my eyes to developing a useful approach to these problems.

Planning “[provides] the appropriate focus and direction for … organizations” (Zuckerman, 2006, p. 3). Without planning, organizations risk stagnation and obsolescence. For any organization to succeed (and continue to do so), the strategy needs to focus both on the contemporary traditional needs as well as those anticipated in the future, but this focus needs to be comprehensive. Bartling (1997) writes of 25 different pitfalls any health care organization might face when considering strategic planning. These 25 pitfalls are just some of the issues I hope to avoid.

One of the largest difficulties in planning for emergency medical systems, however, is the sense of ‘fiefdom’, or an assertion of organizational ownership — in a truly feudal sense. A fiefdom is a literal power trip. In this area, there are 10 towns with an average of two ambulances each, and each department’s administration will fight tooth and nail to keep the organization from outgrowing them. What is interesting about the area is that many of the members of one department work for at least two of the other departments, also. This is because the pay is so meager they have to work as many hours as possible, and there is no chance of working more than 32 hours at any one service in any given week. The pay is low as is the quality of care. This needs to change, but how do I create an amalgumated organization from the bits and pieces that I have to work with? Add to that my lack of formal authority in this process. My vision is to reduce the number of ambulances by staffing eight ambulances at all times and tactically positioning them around the region. This alone would create 48 well-paid jobs, using the same 40 people who currently job share across organizational lines.

In reviewing the available resources, I have learned that there is no particular process or flow-chart pathway to effective planning (Bartling, 1997; Begun & Kaissi, 2005; Zuckerman, 2006). Critical forward thinking is needed, instead. Some of the particular issues that Bartling (1997) discusses and I foresee might be particular to my planning process are: inadequate planning, short-sightedness, underestimating the complexity of the process, post-merger angst, analysis paralysis, and lack of evaluative criteria, to name a few. Politics plays a large role in many of these issues I mention.

Inadequate planning, short-sightedness, and a lack of evaluative criteria are closely related. I see in the present that the system does not work as well as it should (short-sightedness), and I want to develop a plan that can be implemented immediately (probably suffering inadequate planning). This would leave me with a fragmented system devoid of vision and, therefore, crippled from improving (lacking that evaluative criteria). These are pitfalls that I need to avoid. These issues would give rise to the others dooming my effort to failure and, possibly, leaving the system in even worse shape than it began.

Perhaps, my only chance of fulfilling this process is to first perform a limited situational assessment by identifying the mission, vision, and values of all of the stakeholders and show how a streamlined process can better fulfill their visions (Casciani, 2012). By gaining stakeholder support, I might better leverage my idea against those who fear change.


Bartling, A. (1997). 25 pitfalls of strategic planning. Healthcare Executive, 12(5), 20–23.

Begun, J. & Kaissi, A. (2005). An exploratory study of healthcare strategic planning in two metropolitan areas. Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(4), 264–274.

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

Zuckerman, A. (2006). Advancing the state of the art in healthcare strategic planning. Frontiers of Health Services Management, 23(2), 3–15.