Transformation within a health care system requires environmental services leaders to become strategic-thinking experts. Strategy formulation is about crafting a long-term vision for an organization while maintaining a degree of elasticity about how to get there. Traditional strategic-planning approaches are archaic, in part, because they assume the future is predictable and specifiable in detail.

The health care industry is anything but that. The base step in designing a progressive, competitive advantage is having a solid strategic-thinking infrastructure. Within this infrastructure, the leader must possess mental models of the complete end-to-end system of value creation; a laser focus on intent; an ability to link the past, present and future; sound hypothesis-generation methods; and a process for testing and considering alternatives.

Strategic thinking begins with a clear understanding of the organizational mission, values and vision. Vision provides guidance about what core elements to preserve and defines a clear path forward. A thoughtful vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future. The evolution of technology has created a more sophisticated workforce and decreased the need for control and command leadership. The atmosphere has shifted to one based on a human capital perspective and reflects a changing view of what strategy is and how it is crafted.

Traditional planning assumes that the manager need only know his or her own role. By contrast, managers who think strategically move beyond this limited view to an understanding of the larger system, how their roles function within this system and the interdependence among the various roles. The easy but time-consuming process of communicating internally and across departmental lines is a powerful tool. Goals and objectives will emerge from the strategic planning process and ensure that the envisioned future is financially feasible. Budgetary priorities emerge from the planning process, and capital and operating budgets are connected to the strategic plan.

The ability, or lack thereof, to make strategic decisions can promote or inhibit an organization’s success. A strategic thinking analysis produces valuable information, such as threats and opportunities within the external environment and the competitive capabilities of the organization. The strategies that emerge during this process should align with the organization’s core purpose and guiding ideology, and leaders must identify milestones to guide their course and chart their progress. The strategy is successful if it satisfies the necessary conditions for achieving the system’s goal and realizes the goal itself.

Noel Clinton Feik is director of environmental services at Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, N.Y.


Practice guidance available

Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, second edition, helps to define and advance the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities. This manual provides evidence-based research, guidance and recommended practices that should be considered for inclusion in health care environmental services departments. Because each facility has its own needs, this resource has been designed to enhance an existing program. For more information, visit

Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician Certificate

This certification focuses on critical areas of competency for front-line technicians, including infection prevention, quality of care, patient outcomes and experience. For more information, visit

Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program

AHE has launched a certification to acknowledge the environmental and ecological sustainability efforts of environmental services departments. For more information, go to