Every ASC should create a strategic plan that becomes the guidepost to every major decision.

  • Make it a three-year plan and keep the mission statement to one sentence, easily memorized.
  • Create several values for the mission statement and divide each value into a few key goals.
  • Each goal should feature two or three objectives, and each objective should feature two or three strategies.

Strategic planning is a little-recognized talent that surgery centers should develop if they hope to achieve their goals and prepare for future growth.

After developing a strategic plan, it becomes the pilot, steering every major future decision.

“Most strategic plans are three-year plans,” says Colin C. Rorrie, Jr., PhD, FASAE, CAE, president of CCR & Associates in Dallas.

“It should be focused with a mission and three to four key values,” Rorrie says. “Keep the mission short and focused with 10 words or less; you should be able to remember it.”

Once the strategic plan is in place, ASCs should ask before each major decision or change, “How does this relate to our strategic plan? Does it really help to implement the mission?”

The next step is to write three or four values that drive the ASC. These can be things such as collaboration and cooperation, and they’re each divided into two or three key goals, with two or three objectives per goal, and two or three strategies per objective.

“Once you put that together and it’s approved by the board of the ASC and senior staff, working together, I recommend outside assistance,” Rorrie says. “Have a third party help you work on the plan.”

Outside experts can help an organization stay on top of regulatory and industry changes.

“How do you make sure you are constantly looking forward?” Rorrie asks. “Every time there’s a board meeting of ASC leadership, a progress report on implementation of the strategic plan should be on the board meeting agenda.”

Then, ask the following questions:

  • “How is the implementation working out?”
  • “Are we on target to implement those objectives and strategies?”
  • “If we’re not on target, what is the issue and what can we do to get back on track?”
  • “What changes have occurred over the year since the strategic plan was established?”
  • “What is the effect on your ASC?”
  • “Do you need to make any changes in your current strategic plan, based on the environmental assessment that has been completed?”

It’s also wise to ask staff to attend a meeting with leadership to present their assessment of the environment in which the ASC is operating, Rorrie says.

The following are some additional ways to create a useful strategic plan:

  • Continuously update the plan. “We recommend the strategic plan be a constant, living document, continuously updating — not an evergreen process,” Rorrie says. “It’s not a static document you develop in 2015 and then in 2017, you say, ‘It’s been three years — let’s update it.’”

Instead, it might need to be altered each time the ASC adds a new service or when the market changes, such as new ASC competitors opening in the same service area.

“You update it based on the environment and then identify the key priorities to be budgeted for in the next year’s plan,” Rorrie says.

  • Match budget to strategic plan priorities. “The budget developed by an ASC should reflect the key priorities identified in the strategic plan for the coming year,” Rorrie says. “If you put a committee together to work on a particular activity, then the charges and specific things to work on should tie back to the strategic plan.”

For instance, there are legacy committees that have been around for years, such as a bylaws committee, but no one can say exactly what they’re doing. With a strategic plan, the answer should be clear: that the committee’s work ties back to the strategic plan, Rorrie says. “The plan drives the budget for the ASC, and it drives the committees and the work they’re doing.”

Performance objectives, deadlines, and finance goals all are tied to the strategic plan.

“The performance objectives the administrator is held accountable for ties back to the strategic plan of the organization,” Rorrie explains. “Those are the ways we really emphasize making the strategic plan the driving document of the ASC, and it remains relevant by being on the board agenda for every board meeting.”

  • Detail components of the strategic plan. The mission statement can be as simple as providing quality patient care or providing cost-effective, high-quality patient care. It should be simple enough to repeat to someone in an elevator.

“It should be something everyone in the ambulatory surgery center can remember,” Rorrie says.

From there, the goal is to write several value statements that reflect the ASC’s culture. These typically are single-word points, accompanied by definitions. Examples might be “quality,” “collaboration,” and “teamwork.”

“We tell people to limit these to four to six, so it’s not a laundry list of things,” Rorrie says. “If a particular action is being proposed, the first thing you do is say, ‘How does this help us implement our mission statement, and does it reflect the values of the ASC?’”

The goals, which follow the values, are broad-based statements that, usually, are not measurable. They have a future focus to them and are unlikely to change during the three-year strategic plan. “So you might have one in the area of finance that says the ASC will remain fiscally viable,” Rorrie says. “This is the foundation for your strategic plan.”

The next step is to move from the broad-based, non-measurable goal into a more strategic and measurable objective to implement that goal. Based on a goal of remaining fiscally viable, the objective might be to budget for a surplus each year to build the reserves.

“When we start working on objectives and strategies, we implement smart methodology,” Rorrie says. “With objectives, we’re getting into the specific things we need to do to achieve that goal.”

Objectives should be:

  • specific,
  • measurable,
  • achievable,
  • relevant, and
  • timely.

“So to budget for a surplus each year — is that specific? Yes. Then is it measurable? Yes. Then is it achievable?” Rorrie says.

If all five adjectives apply, then it stays as an objective. For each objective, the next step is to write strategies for implementing them.

“Strategies are what you’re going to do,” Rorrie explains. “If we want to budget for a surplus each year, then what are we specifically going to do to make sure we have a surplus? Are we going to make sure our revenue exceeds what our expenses are going to be?”

A strategy could be to plan to raise rates by X percent for certain procedures, which will help the ASC ensure that revenue exceeds expenses.

“You start with the goal of remaining fiscally viable. Then, you implement the objective of budgeting for a surplus each year, and use a strategy to increase rates by X percent in order to help achieve the objective statement of budgeting for a surplus,” Rorrie says.

  • Leave some space for future details. Although it’s important to create concrete strategies, it’s not necessary to provide every single detail in advance.

For instance, if an ASC expects to raise rates that year, it’s OK to indicate in the strategic plan that the rates will increase, but to leave the amount undetermined.

“We suggest people put a place holder in there and write, ‘raise rates by X percent,’” Rorrie says. “Oftentimes, the thing that happens is people want to put a figure in there of ‘Let’s raise it by 10%,’ but we might need to do a background analysis and have the finance staff take a look at it to see what would be the right percentage to increase our rates so we don’t wind up with something that is too expensive or too little.”

Strategic plan experts know that some details require advice and more data.

“Sometimes, in order to fully develop an objective or strategy and to make the right decision, it will require you to do some background work,” Rorrie says.