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Why strategy is king in aged care boardrooms


Michael Goldsworthy outlines why aged care boards are adopting new approaches to their strategic thinking and decision making.

Given the seismic shifts underway in the aged care policy landscape, directors, chief executive officers and senior managers are adopting a more rigorous and focused approach.

MIchael Goldsworthy

MIchael Goldsworthy

From how they arrive at the planning, implementation and monitoring of strategy to the determination they make of their business model and its alignment to a renewed vision – executives are becoming increasingly strategic.

The new world of aged care and healthcare services is upon us. The two key drivers causing boards, CEOs and senior managers to adopt these strategic approaches are the introduction of customer choice and control, and the creation of a highly competitive marketplace in which private, public and community organisations will operate.

Six principles that support these approaches are worthy of consideration.

1.  Directors as strategists

Dynamic and proactive board directors should strategise, which is a way of thinking, not a framework or set of exercises. In fact, traditional strategic tools are giving way to scenario planning and new, more powerful processes that provide directors with strategic insights on industry and potential competitive advantage.

Strategic thinking enables boards to understand several key areas including the emerging industry big picture, which is the backdrop against which the organisation is currently positioned; the state of their organisation and the critical issues that need to be addressed to ensure future sustainability; and the agreed desired future of the organisation.

2.  Strategists don’t just rely on reports

Gone are the days of voluminous reports and presentations being provided to directors in preparation for an annual strategic planning workshop, or to assist them with coming up to speed on the organisation or the sector.

Short and sharp strategic reports and presentations should paint a snapshot that enables directors to quickly come to grips with the industry and organisational situation, as well as the associated issues and potential opportunities.

Strategic foresight, insight, creativity, innovative thinking and entrepreneurship are but a few of the human qualities and processes that some directors can provide to a board that is pursuing development of a new strategy. Whilst not commonly acknowledged, it is worth considering that the personality type of each director is just as important as the skills, knowledge or experience each director brings.

3.  Industry insights assist boards to strategise

Many directors struggle to understand the dynamics and trends of the aged care sector in which their organisation operates.

Up-to-date sector information and understandings can provide critical contributions to strategy formulation, but this relies heavily on individual directors adopting such a mentality.

Smart boards are getting out of the boardroom. Tours and visits, industry forums and conferences, joint board dinners, and innovation tours are just a few of the ways directors are informing themselves about the sector and what other boards are doing.

4.  Past, present, future

Creating the future for one’s organisation is not just about individual directors being strategists or putting forward new ideas and opportunities. Directors also need to recognise past events, processes or learnings that arise, the critical issues the organisation is facing, and its desired future.

If individual directors do not acquire this knowledge they, more often than not, develop flawed organisational strategies.

Boards must recognise the crafting of realistic and practical strategies that are founded on recognising the past, understanding the present and creating the future, is an art form developed by directors over many years.

5.  Leadership teams

An increasing number of boards are recognising the value of forming a leadership team – the collegial approach that harnesses the skills and wisdom of the directors, CEO and senior managers.

These teams focus on both the internal organisational and external industry challenges and opportunities. They also utilise the organisation’s mission, values and core business as a touchstone against which they can confirm or refute their strategy.

Typically this approach to strategising will only be adopted by a more sophisticated board of directors.

In so doing, each leader not only recognises their own and others’ respective roles and responsibilities but, most importantly, proactively contributes to this methodology of strategy development.

6.  Talk is one thing, action is another

As many veteran directors can attest, “talk is one thing, action is another.” Fulfilling both halves of this mantra is critical if documented strategies are to be properly implemented and monitored.

It is on this basis that an increasing number of boards do not just have a strategic plan but have also obtained and customised a strategic planning system. In essence, they are utilising a strategic planning framework and process to plan, implement and monitor their strategies.

Michael Goldsworthy is principal consultant of Australia Strategic Services.

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One Response to Why strategy is king in aged care boardrooms

  1. Vicky May March 11, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    A focus point in this article is the adoption of a strategic mindset that enables a board to transition from a body receiving reports to an active arm of the business using entrepreneurial skills.
    A similar transition occurred when many operators successfully adopted a continuous improvement mindset (plan do study act) which has taken successful organisations to an advanced level of coherency and competency across many facets of their businesses.
    The marriage of entrepreneurial and CI thinking is synergistic. Boards that struggle with the new world order of strategy that is consistent and sustainable may benefit from a connection being made between their already established CI model and the initial steps towards the strategies required for a business where clients drive desired outcomes. Morphing CI thinking across to strategic thinking should be a simple process using the PDSA (plan so study act) tool or as called in clinical circles APIE (assess plan implement evaluate).

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