Strategic Planning in Health Care

Strategic planning is widely perceived to be an important aspect of managing a health care institution. It identifies both the external and internal stimuli that the organization must respond to in order to achieve its vision, mission and its goals (Comerford, 2007). The role of strategic planning, however, differ in structural contingency theory, which places importance on strategic planning if an organization were to deal with change. On the other hand, complexity science, places virtually no function to strategic planning in situations and contexts of change!

Structural contingency theory recognizes that organizations do not operate in a vacuum. Rather, they operate in a dynamic environment, which is often beset by numerous changes. As such, the organization’s structure must adapt to the changes in its environment. For the organization to deal with the dynamics of change, it has to anticipate such changes and put measures in place to deal with such occurrences and ensure the environment-fit of the organization as well as the people working in it (Hollenbeck, Moon & Ellis, et. al. , 2002).

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Complexity science also recognizes that organizations operate in a dynamic environment but contrary to the view that an organization is a well-oiled machine, complexity thinking views the organization as a coherent system—it goes against the extreme compartmentalization of organization prevalent nowadays. As such, complexity science sees an organization as an adaptive system that could respond to various stimuli in its environment even without conscious strategic planning, thanks to the concept of generative relationships, which binds the organization in responding to the challenges posed by its changing environment (Plsek & Wilson, 2001).

Structural Contingency Theory “feels” more correct. I feel that structural contingency theory is more correct than complexity science in identifying the role of strategic planning in a healthcare organization. While both schools of thought recognize that the organization operates in a dynamic environment, the structural contingency theory equips it with the tools of analysis to deal with such changes. Through environmental scanning and the identification of key performance indicators, this theory helps the organization become more “organized” in dealing with change.

This theory also helps ensure accountability by delegating tasks to the appropriate departments and employees more suited to deal with the tasks at hand. By identifying key results areas and performance indicators, these personnel can also be held accountable. Without such measures in place, the organization may become more chaotic and panic-stricken in the face of important changes in its environment.

Furthermore, structural contingency theory helps enhance the effectiveness of teams under stress brought about by the changes in the environment (Drach-Zahavy & Freund, 2001). Perhaps what the structural contingency theory needs to avoid is too much bureaucracy and red tape that organizational processes tend to engender. In times of change, flexibility and the ability to turn challenges into opportunities may be built into the organization by delegating responsibilities more than the tasks at hand.

This will also make the teams in the organization more cohesive and united in dealing with the changes and the difficulties in the situation of the organization. The leaders of the organization may also do well to introduce streamlining of communication and processes to facilitate faster response to the issues that arise in the organization and in its environment (Grandori & Soda, 2006). But all these could be integrated into the organization by good strategic planning, contrary to what complexity science contends.

The article and my views on strategic planning. The article written by Begun, Kaissi and Sweetland (2005) helps put the role of strategic planning into perspective. While they did not conclusively show whether structural contingency theory or complexity science is the better school of thought, they highlighted several important aspect of this debate. My view of strategic planning have been enriched and I have gained a better understanding of how it is being used in the field right now.

The leaders and managers of healthcare organizations appear to have been going through strategic planning sessions through the years and they feel that it is extremely important to the organization, their instinct may not be backed by empirical research. For some managers, probably, strategic planning sessions have become routine. As such, its use and potentials are not being fully maximized. Where strategic planning is concerned, I realized that key performance indicators must be included in the planning so as to determine if the plan is working or not.

Otherwise, the planning session may become nothing more than an organizational tradition that is not really supporting the goals, aims and objectives of the organization. On the whole, empirical research must be done, as the article suggests, in order to verify the anecdotal evidence suggesting the effectiveness of strategic planning in the healthcare organizations. In this time where technological breakthroughs seem to be norm, the organization must be always ready for change.