Don’t spread yourself too thin, however, or you’ll accomplish little of value. “The facilitator will help to differentiate between topics that belong in a strategic planning session versus those that belong in an executive committee or an ad hoc committee,” said McCaslin, who has facilitated 25 practice retreats this year. Typically, he structures retreat agendas to cover key topical areas, including mission/vision/values, physician issues, growth strategies, alignment opportunities, quality measures, operations excellence and facilities planning.
Explore this issue:December 2011
Select a Venue That Fits Your Group
Once you define the scope of the agenda, select an appropriate venue. To limit distractions, suitable locations may include a local restaurant, hotel meeting room or conference center. For large groups, consider a facility large enough to break into subgroups. “Select a location close enough that someone could get home in case of an emergency but far enough away from everyday life that it would require an emergency for someone to leave,” Eicher said. “Get another practice to cover your calls.”
Attendance should be mandatory. A practice retreat doesn’t work unless all of the partners and employed physicians commit to attending the entire meeting, sources agreed. Whether to include other participants depends on the size of your group. Typically, the practice administrator and the group’s legal or tax adviser also attend. Some practices also include physician assistants and top-line managers such as the chief financial officer and clinical nurse manager.
Conclude the retreat with an action plan that provides the group with achievable goals and objectives and an implementation timetable that is specific and measurable. The list should include the issues, actions required, responsible parties, resources needed and due dates. “Your action plan becomes a permanent agenda on your monthly meetings, and you should make progress on that action plan,” Tinsley said. “A strategic planning retreat is the glue that holds the process together.”
Once a group has conducted annual retreats for several consecutive years and mapped an effective strategic plan, future retreats can be scheduled every two to three years, Watson added. “At that point, incorporate those annual goals into your partnership or executive committee meetings,” he said.