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The 21st CENTURY OPTICIAN

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT
For The EyeCare Professional, Part 1

This month we will begin to evaluate a management process that is future focused, strategic management.

Many of you have played some level of sports, and will remember your coach developing a strategy that would allow your team to be successful. That is our topic for the next few months, developing techniques to assist the Eye Care Professional in the development of similar strategies. Most ECPs receive little to no education in management, but are expected to run million dollar organizations by the seat of their pants. It takes more than luck to succeed in today’s competitive environment, and I hope we can provide a better understanding of the processes involved in the strategic management process in the next few months. And always remember, it is a process, and not a one time activity.

One of my favorite authors, Steven Covey, wrote a book most of you have read called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). His book has been utilized by organizations and individuals countless times to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and this series of articles will attempt to use the concepts Covey described to provide the contemporary ECP with tools to help them better understand the need for not just effective operational management (day-to-day activities), but strategic management as well. Strategy is what we use to help us to be successful into the future, and we all want our organizations to succeed beyond today. To get there requires the use of effective strategy to accomplish the goals we develop for ourselves, and it takes the entire organization to accomplish the task.

The 7 Habits

Covey studied highly successful people for many years prior to writing the 7 Habits, and found some similarities of those highly successful people that are just as important today as they were in 1989. A summary of each of the habits are:

Be Proactive- Organizations and individuals that wait for something to happen will never be successful. Covey found that the thousands of people he studied were all people who made things happen. They did not wonder what happened, or just took what came down the pike……they were proactive, and made their own luck!

Begin with an end in mind- All of these folks had a thing we call “VISION”. They were able to see down the road to what could be, not what used to be! They developed an idea of where they wanted to go and went there.

Put first things first- These highly successful people prioritized, and accomplished the major goals, rather than become bogged down in little details that actually caused them to detour from the path they wanted to walk down.

Think Win-Win- Covey noted that all of the subjects he studied attempted to be fair in all their business and professional relationships. They did not take undue advantage of those they did business with, but were ethical in their dealings. Important for any organization is that long-term customers remain with the organization for a long time. This win-win concept allows us to better maintain our current patient/customer base and their referrals.

Seek first to understand and then to be understood- We must listen to those we serve. We can learn exactly what the customer wants if we just listen. If not in their best interest, then we can persuade them to go in another direction with the right explanation, but often we spend a lot of time telling patients what they need without a clear understanding of their wants. In many cases, we lose them to our competitors who may take the time to more effectively hear them. 

Synergize- In organizations, there must be synergy. All the parts must work together to provide maximum efficiency. Individuals who can provide that synergy are the most valuable people in the organization. Highly successful people had that ability.

Sharpen the saw- Covey found that all those he studied took time to renew. They spent time with family and friends, and renewed their personal life through activities outside of work, such as church. He found that the most successful continually renewed their knowledge, and maintained the competitive advantage that up-to-date training provides. 

Notice that the first three of Covey’s habits are individual in nature. The second three have to do with our interactions with others. And the final…requires the wisdom to know when to renew, either as an organization or an individual. Yes, organizations should renew themselves as well. Organizations may be unable to take a vacation, but they can do many things to put a fresh face on the day-to-day operations. Good leaders take the time to celebrate victories and recognize individuals, helping to renew their organizations. They allow employees to gain new knowledge through support for continuing education, another way organizations can renew themselves. Many of us never take time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Covey’s 7 Habits provide a framework for success and I will base this series of articles on his writings, and try to provide the ECP with methods to help guide their future development. Aristotle wrote many years ago that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”. If we can think about Covey’s 7 Habits, and realize that if we follow them, we are not guaranteed success, but put ourselves in a much better position to succeed.

The Nature of Strategic Management - What is It?

The health care marketplace is in flux now more than at any other point in my 56 years, and I suspect more than at any point in the history of the United States. The Health Care Reform debate rages on, and many think we will see some kind of reform this coming year. Most agree it is necessary, but the debate on the methods used is significant. That leads us to the tremendous need to a greater strategic focus for all ECPs…..large and small. If we are to even survive, much less thrive, we must strategically view the landscape. We must prepare for changes even before they arrive, and strategy is how we accomplish that task. It is our “crystal ball”.

Strategic Management: The Beginning

Early on, the term long-range planning was used to describe this process. For many years, health care was a stable environment. Things did not change much. Hospitals did 10-year plans and often they saw little change, if any. After WWII, the economy became more volatile, and we looked more towards strategic planning. The difference is simply this; long-range implies more of a time period approach, while strategic planning implies more of a “readiness for change” kind of view with periodic evaluation of the services and products we provide. 

Then we began to view the process more as an organization-wide function, and the term strategic management took hold. All facets of the organization, from accounting to engineering became a part of the strategic focus of the organization, versus just the planning department of old. Now this is not a new term. In fact, it has been used in health care for over 20 years, but in today’s environment, we must remember that strategies are now ultra-important to our staying power. Through these series, we will investigate the process of strategic management in-depth and hope that it provides some assistance to you in better managing your organization. Look out for more next month.

References on request

Warren G. McDonald, PhD
Professor of Health Administration
Reeves School of Business / Methodist University

Warren G. McDonald, PhD

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