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Contingency Planning: Be Ready for the Unexpected

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 9:00 AM

Expert Advice, Practice Operations

Written by: BSM staff

Editor's Note: In last week's blog post, Four Business Principles for a Prosperous Future, BSM founder and CEO Bruce Maller touched on how practices that remain flexible are better poised for success. This post outlines how organizations can proactively prepare themselves for change.

Allan Walker
Former Director of Publication Services

Contingency planning is only as good as the foundation on which it is built. A good contingency plan — which meets a challenge or takes advantage of an opportunity — is built on the same sound business principles that eventually lift one organization above another. To help ensure that your contingency plan will “work” when you need it, embrace the following success elements in your everyday practice:

  1. Adopt the right mindset. It is important that an organization’s management team understands that change is inevitable and relatively constant. While change is not something management wants to face daily, it should not be feared. Adopt a proactive, adaptable mindset and look for opportunity in the face of change.

  2. Be a strong, proactive leader. Look for ways to make an uncertain future feel more manageable and clear. Staff wants management to provide leadership and guidance. While you may not have all the answers, manifesting confidence in your direction and decision-making will carry a great deal of weight with a staff that is generally eager to participate in the journey.

  3. Gather good information. The more you know, the better decisions you will be able to make. You will feel more confident if decisions are based on current, accurate information about the global and local economy; your local marketplace and competitors; your organization's financial and productivity results; your patients and offerings; and industry trends and technology.

  4. Embrace strategic planning. Use the good information you regularly gather as a base for a comprehensive strategic plan. Management will be able to cope with change better if it requires adapting an effective plan that is already in place (and working).

  5. Be fiscally responsible. Spend where you should and must but be prudent and practical. This is not to say that a well-constructed strategic move should not be actively pursued or that every potential opportunity should be put on a back burner. However, erring on the side of fiscal caution is probably the right thing to do in a challenging business climate.

  6. Empower staff. Anticipating that today’s business climate will continue to dictate that health care organizations “do more with less,” it makes sense for management to target the ways and means for staff members to expand their personal responsibility and accountability. This mandates that managers encourage self-reliance and personal growth by providing employees with training opportunities and tools that will give them the practice- or facility-specific knowledge they need to accomplish assigned duties and tasks to the best of their ability.

  7. Cross-train staff. Versatility and adaptability are two highly valued employee attributes in today’s dynamic workplace. Organizations should encourage and facilitate the sharing of job functions and responsibilities. Cross-training should take place when jobs and roles overlap or are related.

  8. Know where to cut or downsize, if necessary. This is an area management likes to ignore if it can; it cannot. If an organization does enter this distressing arena at some point, it needs to act based on sound reasoning and thoughtful pre-planning, with quality-of-care factors in mind.

  9. Make good hires. The best way to avoid or minimize staffing issues is to have good recruitment and hiring processes in place. If a key employee leaves unexpectedly, or should some level of downsizing become necessary, a diligent approach to the recruitment/interview/hiring process generally will ensure an organization has quality employees who likely will be able to fill or cover the vacated role on a permanent or temporary basis.

Embrace the Future

Organizations that embrace forward-looking business principles and take the time to develop and implement proven processes and systems will be in the best possible position to meet the unforeseen challenges and opportunities that result from an uncertain business climate.

YOUR TURN: Besides developing a contingency plan, what other ways can an organization prepare itself for an unexpected challenge or opportunity? We'd love to hear your suggestions. Please leave your response in the comment section below. Thank you.

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