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Case Study: Strategic Planning

Responding strategically to changes in Healthcare


The Chief Financial Officer at a large, complex healthcare organization approached Wellesley Partners while preparing for an annual planning retreat. Based on the hospital’s goal to reduce cost of services and increase effectiveness and efficacy of care, the CFO was focused on improving the ability of his organization to enable organization-wide success. In short order, he realized that he had real barriers within the Finance department to overcome.

Wellesley Partners worked with the Finance management team to build a strategy with measurable goals and a roadmap while improving teamwork within the department. Execution of the plan led to improved efficiency within the department, improved teamwork, and enabled the surfacing of a severe shortcoming in finance technology infrastructure. The most surprising outcome was the initiation of a multi-year project to build a data warehouse and improve data management within the organization.

Background/Major Issues

The CFO was beginning to face some internal pressure to better assist the organization make measureable changes to reduce cost and increase effectiveness, something that had rarely been needed.  He needed help to address three key factors:

  • Service Line Planning
  • Improving the Value Proposition of the system
  • Preparing for a future payment system

Added to the goals for change, three major barriers presented themselves in addressing these goals.

  • Lack of a long-term strategy
  • Management is unsure that the team has the right skill set
  • Lack of teamwork and collaboration

Organizational goals had not been met and issues of communication, reporting structure and staffing needed to be carefully assessed. Because of Wellesley Partners’ experience and skills in finance and change management, the CFO felt comfortable with the WP team building a program to enable sustainable improvement.

Program Description

The Wellesley Partners process revolves around aligning teams to clear values, effective processes and roles that are aligned with organization-wide goals. In this case, Wellesley Partners focused on two of the three major barriers: lack of strategy and lack of teamwork. (The skill set required would be based on strategy.) Wellesley Partners created a program consisting of the following components:

  • Team Dynamics Assessment
  • 1-Day Planning Workshop
  • 5 Post-Workshop Planning Sessions

Pre-Planning Phase (Team Dynamics Assessment)

The purpose of the Team Dynamics Assessment was to define current state for how the team works together. This step is also critical to gaining the trust and respect of the team with which we will be working.  We build personal relationships of trust prior to gathering the team together.

Joint Planning: Workshop

The workshop addressed team functioning, strategic context, implications and challenges as well as concrete action planning. Over the course of the day, the team accomplished the following:

  • Identified tactics to improve as a team
  • Reviewed the high level challenges facing Finance for the following 2-3 years
  • Identified implications and responses to these challenges
  • Defined next steps

The team also developed team norms and a change map that would enable a more strategic approach to defining change, including conflict management, communications, collaboration and priority setting. The workshop was a success and the team left with a 3-year strategy and goals to move forward.

Planning: Fleshing out Workshop Deliverables

Following the workshop, Wellesley Partners continued to work with the Finance team to create the operational plan to support the strategy, including a roadmap and requirements for success. Additionally, team effectiveness and dynamics improved dramatically and there were some changes to the structure of the team to further enable efficiency.

Summary & Conclusion

The CFO was extremely pleased with the outcome of the planning process as the team had developed a newfound trust for him as their leader. Not only did the team feel as though they had a plan to move forward with, but they were actively engaged in creating the plan, which led to improved motivation, teamwork and commitment to the success of upcoming initiatives. Additionally, the COO and other members of senior leadership felt increased confidence in the CFO due to the relevance and dedication to reaching goals that drive towards the organization’s value proposition.

The most significant, yet unplanned finding throughout the planning process was the need for an improved financial data warehouse platform. In its current state, data management was extremely manual and hindered members of the team from being strategic due to the intensive human interaction required to pull requested data.

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