On the cusp of entering an endemic state, organizations are deciding what to turn their attention to “after COVID.” Wise leaders will recognize that this is not as simple as carrying on with their pre-COVID strategies. No organization has been immune to the shockwave of disruption that the pandemic has caused (Lagasse, 2020). This is especially true in the healthcare field. Hospital staff and resources are strained from bearing the weight of pandemic changes and regulations as well as the loss of skilled staff in the Great Resignation. You simply cannot “pick up where you left off” strategically when your workforce—the essential piece to actually accomplishing any strategy—is burned out and struggling. Something has to give.
Traditionally, at the beginning of a strategic planning activity, the organization establishes a vision focusing on the desired future state. This future state is usually based upon understanding the current state, forecasting, and looking for opportunities to excel among a playing field that is familiar. Yet today, the healthcare, business, chain supply, workforce, economic, governmental, state, and regulatory landscape is far from familiar. The past two years have been an extended “strategic resilience test” of sorts (Diedrich, Northcote, Röder, & Sauer-Sidor, 2021). While all organizations understand the importance of strategic planning and implementation, only those with high levels of situational awareness will thrive post-COVID. Put simply, situational awareness is “knowing exactly who you are, where you are, where you are going, and how you will get there, within your rapidly changing environment” (Afterburner Team, 2022).
Situational awareness requires a dynamic review not just of your strengths as an organization, but your limitations within the current environment. In healthcare, a years-long pandemic and a decimated and tired workforce presents organizational limitations that demand organizations to rethink their old, all-ambitious strategic plan that requires numerous detailed sub-plans, resources, funding, and metrics. Instead, the strategic plan needs to be narrowed, unifying, well-paced, and focused. Today, the biggest strategic decision for healthcare institutions will require boldness, but it isn’t about doing something new. Rather, it is about doing something less.
The landscape we find ourselves in is unfamiliar. While healthcare organizations could push through and aim to succeed in their myriad pre-pandemic priorities, this transition period from pandemic to endemic is an opportunity to consider what would be most advantageous to focus on, what needs to be done and what does not. This is an opportunity to prioritize and deselect, rather than to add.
Sg2, a healthcare consultancy company that focuses on healthcare trends and unique solutions, states:
“The ability to prioritize the most impactful initiatives the organization is positioned to execute over the short-term, while simultaneously deselecting those that could derail it, will be essential to ensure sustainability” (Sg2, 2018).