“We are a team of overachievers, I guess.”
This was the response given to me by a hospital CEO when I asked why their 350 item list of strategic priorities for the next fiscal year could not be pared down to a more manageable number. While it certainly was true that this team was high performing, the idea that leadership could create focus with their operational teams necessary to move 350 strategic initiatives forward is a bold one.
It’s a common struggle for a leader. Oftentimes, there is so much to get done and oh so little time. Why wouldn’t you throw everything under the sun in your strategic plan?
With a refined strategy that focuses in on a handful of priorities the team can develop more focus and more momentum than would be possible if they focused on all ‘perceived’ priorities brought to the table during the planning process.
There are many different ways to prioritize a list of initiatives and settle on a few focus areas. Below, I present a few key elements to consider when prioritizing your process improvement agenda.
- Identify and Weight Criteria for Prioritization: It may include cost, quality and/or customer experience. In addition to identifying the criteria, assign a weight to each element and define it. For example, cost may have a weight of 10%, quality a weight of 50% and customer experience a weight of 40%. Then in each category assign a low, moderate and high rating (1, 3 & 9) and define what each state may look like. For cost, this may mean setting thresholds between each level. For quality, it may mean setting categories by the number of expected ‘defective’ outcomes. Whatever the criteria may be, make sure that the list is identified early on; preferably before the brainstorming begins.
- Capture as many initiatives as possible: This can be done by conducting stakeholder interviews, brainstorming in a group, taking a value stream focus, considering budgetary goals, reviewing strategic planning priorities and in various other ways not listed here. The point is not to limit the identification of ideas during this phase. Having the team identify as many opportunities as possible is a worthwhile exercise. The process is completed by separating the vital few from the many.
- Host a Group Session to Rate Initiatives Against Each Category: The team may be tempted here to perform the rating of each initiative individually and turn in their responses via email. Resist the urge! There is an unspoken benefit to completing this task in person in a group setting.
- Take the 3 Highest Rated Items: Once the initiatives have been ranked and each one has a ‘score’, identify the three highest rated items. Verify that the group has identified the most relevant and critical initiatives to the organization’s success. Next, begin the action planning process to place an intense focus on these priorities over the next 12 months.