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In the summer of 2021, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) Advisory Board and senior staff management team began a process to evaluate ASHE’s current strategic plan and develop a new one. With significant changes in the health care landscape and new challenges facing facilities managers and other ASHE members across the nation, the Advisory Board knew a lot of work was needed to address the challenges ahead.
ASHE member and staff leadership enlisted the help of Energetics, a consulting firm headquartered in Columbia, Md., to support the development of an impactful strategic plan. Emmanuel Taylor, Ph.D., senior energy consultant with Energetics, led the strategic plan development process.
“Energetics had the privilege of working with the Advisory Board and senior staff to update the ASHE strategic plan,” Taylor says. “We implemented a series of strategic exercises and conversations to work toward collective clarity about the ASHE mission, vision, status and path forward.”
There were key stakeholders involved in the entire strategic planning process, including ASHE senior staff representing membership, advocacy, education, publications and communications, and sustainability. Other teams across ASHE contributed to the process by conducting research and meeting planning, and more. With the expertise of the Advisory Board, the development of the new strategic plan would be a collaborative initiative.
New challenges, new approach
Given everything that has happened over the past two years and how individuals and organizations have endured significant change, it was clear from the beginning that a new approach to strategic planning was needed. “We took a fresh look at everything and focused on how ASHE can help members succeed in today’s rapidly changing environment,” says Deanna Martin, MS, CAE, ASHE’s executive director, who is moving to a new role as vice president of professional membership groups at the American Hospital Association (AHA).
The first step was to assemble as much data and information as possible to inform the specific goals, objectives and milestones of the new ASHE strategic plan. This collection of data included the AHA Environmental Scan and the most recent comprehensive ASHE membership survey.
Next, ASHE staff mobilized an existing member volunteer group, the Healthcare Executive Leadership Council (HELC). Comprised of health care facility executives, the HELC was able to carefully digest the collection of data and create a report of takeaways on its impact to facilities managers and other ASHE members. This included a list of challenges ASHE members will be facing in the next few years, predictions on which opportunities lie ahead and how members might address these challenges and predictions.
Using the report from the HELC, the AHA Environmental Scan, the ASHE membership survey, and the previous strategic plan as starting points, Advisory Board members and staff got to work. There were face-to-face meetings, numerous conference calls, and a significant amount of “offline” work to be done.
“Our success was in part due to the ASHE team’s enthusiasm and willingness to challenge past assumptions and ways of operating,” says Taylor. “Through this process, Energetics gained a greater appreciation for ASHE as an organization — and its important role in our society.” Taylor walked the team through several key planning phases that ultimately culminated in a series of goals, objectives and milestones that together make up the comprehensive strategic plan to carry ASHE through the next three years.
Two major themes continued to arise during every strategic plan discussion: advocacy and diversity. The questions before the team were: “How do we support these two important elements in our strategic plan?” and “How will ASHE continue to ensure that advocacy and diversity are incorporated into everything our staff and member leaders do?” The planning team agreed unanimously that diversity and advocacy should be spread across all the work ASHE does, so it incorporated these concepts and supporting tasks woven throughout many goals and objectives in the plan.
As staff and member volunteers move forward with implementing the plan, there will be an emphasis on representing all member views, including various levels of experience, areas of expertise and historically underrepresented groups. The ASHE strategic plan is designed to support these elements. In addition, advocacy is a large part of the plan foundation and will be integrated throughout. Each goal and milestone provides advocacy opportunities, including advocacy for regulations to support quality patient outcomes based on good science, and advocacy for member education and career advancement.
Goals, objectives and milestones
Four main areas of focus identified during the strategic planning process were operational excellence; member inclusion; career advancement, succession planning and workforce; and capital planning. Each goal is supported by a series of objectives, and each objective’s performance is measured by a series of milestones. Each element type represents a different level of work ranging from strategic and abstract (goals) to specific, actionable projects (milestones).
One of the benefits of the strategic planning process with Energetics is that the team followed a step-by-step process to develop goals, objectives and milestones. This enables ASHE staff and members to work with a structure that includes high-level strategic goals and more concrete objectives. This will make subsequent staff and member volunteer work clear and easy to achieve, and it will tie directly back to the higher-level elements of the strategic plan.
- Optimization of health care facility operations. The deliverables for this goal will provide members with the resources, tools and content they need to optimize health care facilities operations. Some areas of focus include supporting the field with environmental sustainability and decarbonization initiatives. This goal also will involve developing resources and tools for technical staff and facilities managers so they can run facilities efficiently and effectively.
- Member inclusion. ASHE’s membership is made up of a diverse group of professionals, and these various segments of members often have different needs and challenges. The member inclusion goal will focus on understanding these different segments, such as professional active members, associate members, young professionals and early career professionals. The next steps are to ensure that member benefits and services meet each segment’s needs.
Some of the objectives in this goal include a deeper focus on recruiting and engaging young professionals and seasoned professionals transitioning from other fields. There also is a strong focus on improving the relationships with and support of ASHE’s affiliated chapters. Because partnership with chapters is critical to ASHE’s success at the local level, it was clear that a strong emphasis on chapter support was needed.
- Career advancement, succession planning and workforce. Many ASHE members have expressed concern about the future with respect to workforce. Now, more than ever, facilities managers and other ASHE members are struggling to find talented, experienced and knowledgeable employees. With a significant portion of the workforce preparing to retire, it was important to include this goal in the strategic plan.
This goal aims to provide training and certification programs, and other tools and resources to help ASHE members secure career advancements and ensure effective succession planning at their organizations. This includes providing relevant and aligned training and certification opportunities and educational resources for all levels of experience. In addition, ASHE will be developing succession planning guidance, resources and training. Not only will these initiatives help to secure a strong workforce going into the next few years, but they will help ASHE members stay strong and vibrant.
- Capital planning. The capital planning goal focuses on helping members optimize the condition of their health care organizations’ buildings, the functional lives of those buildings, and available ﬁnancial resources. This is achieved through proactive identiﬁcation of deﬁcient conditions, eﬀective capital budgeting, and maintenance management based on accurate, objective data. By providing education, resources and content on capital planning, ASHE aims to help members eliminate deﬁcient conditions within buildings to sustain the total functionality of the facility and to identify codes issues that could or should be addressed.
Eye on measurement
Being data-driven and outcomes-oriented is critical to everything ASHE does. Therefore, measurement will be an important part of each strategic plan goal. The Advisory Board and senior staff honed in on ways to measure success with each step. In addition, continuous measurement will allow staff and members the ability to improve or change projects and programs as needed to make them more effective.
Member satisfaction and usage measures are good examples of data that can be collected and analyzed to ensure projects are on track and meeting member needs. Members can be surveyed to determine levels of satisfaction, and digital asset usage can be determined through web analytics, downloads and lead generation. Verification metrics will also be implemented to validate the value and impact of the tools and resources created.
Of course, one of the most important measures of success with the ASHE strategic plan will be long-term member recruitment and retention. Even though success in these areas might be hard to tie directly back to the strategic plan, overall recruitment and retention rates are directly tied to ASHE’s ability to meet member needs. Because the plan was developed with member needs in mind, it’s clear to see how success with membership is related.
Lastly, the planning team had to establish a solid process for monitoring progress and keeping everyone on track, including all member volunteer groups involved. To do this, the planning team created dashboard and tracking tools.
“There is a lot of excitement about our new strategic plan and appreciation for the hard work that the Advisory Board and ASHE staff put into such a well-thought-out approach to meeting the needs of our members,” says Gordon Howie, MSPM, CHFM, CHC, ASHE president-elect. “The plan will allow us to utilize the expertise of our members to achieve our goals and it also provides guide rails to keep us on track.”
Members play a critical role in ASHE’s success on every front. They are the engine that drives education, content development, idea generation, innovation and implementation. With the new strategic plan comes opportunities for members to volunteer their time and expertise to not only deliver on strategic plan milestones but enhance their own careers, fulfill the mission of ASHE and advance the health care physical environment. To meet the needs of a new strategic plan, it was important for ASHE staff to rethink the way member volunteer groups are mobilized and supported.
ASHE will be introducing new volunteer opportunities in key areas such as membership, sustainability, advocacy, publications and more. Members that have expertise in any area of health care facilities and skills in writing, speaking, collaborating, social media and more will be called upon to serve. There will be opportunities on committees and councils requiring time and possibly travel.
In addition, ASHE members will be able to contribute no matter how much time they have available. These include the chance for micro-engagement, where members can give one-to-three hours per month doing short, simple tasks such as social media posting or article writing and reviewing.
ASHE members can visit the My ASHE online community to create a member profile, opt into the volunteer pool and view the volunteer opportunities that are available.
Every student and professional involved in planning, designing, constructing and managing the health care physical environment is encouraged to join ASHE and become engaged in the ASHE mission and the work of the new strategic plan.
ASHE’s new approach to member volunteerism includes other improvements such as the utilization of virtual collaboration, focused charters with specific deliverables, and stronger guidance to ensure committee, council and task force work is strategically aligned.
Lastly, ASHE intends to improve how member volunteers are recognized. Increased recognition to clearly communicate ASHE’s gratitude for members’ time and contributions will be an integral part of ASHE’s member volunteer program.
ASHE will continue to update members as work on the strategic plan moves forward. ASHE leaders will be regularly updating members via established channels such as Advisory Board member chapter presentations, articles in Health Facilities Management magazine, and the ASHE website.
Communicating this work will help inform the field about new membership value, benefits and services available, while also helping to promote the work of ASHE volunteers and recognize their contributions.
ASHE members should watch their email and check the ASHE website for news on strategic plan progress. As Gordon Howie states, “The energy around this plan is profound and we are thrilled to get it rolled out.”
Facilitation was critical to ASHE’s strategic plan
Developing a strategic plan can be a daunting process. Many organizations don’t know where to start, much less how to go about implementing a process. There are many best practices available, and many can be industry specific. Ideally, an organization will enlist the help of an external facilitator. This helps establish new ways of thinking and can help eliminate bias and subjectivity. In addition, professional facilitators are trained in the specific area of strategic planning facilitation.
At the start of the process, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) strategic planning team knew a strong facilitator was critical to success. As a result, a short list of candidates was developed and vetted. After interviews and discussions, Energetics emerged as the consulting firm of choice. Chad E. Beebe, AIA, CHFM, FASHE, deputy executive director at ASHE, suggested including Energetics on the short list. “I learned about Energetics when we facilitated workshops for [the National Fire Protection Association] on some fairly technical issues with a diverse audience,” says Beebe. “I was impressed with how they were able to pick the issue apart and get us to respond to different pieces of the issue in a manner that was extremely effective.”
For ASHE, Energetics used a variety of techniques to get the job done. Two in-person planning sessions were held that included team-building exercises, breakout groups and brainstorming sessions. There were shorter, virtual meetings and assignments between sessions such as survey completion, reading background material, and reviewing and reacting to plan drafts.
“The ASHE Advisory Board did a great job keeping the member needs at the forefront of our planning,” says Deanna Martin, MS, CAE, ASHE’s executive director, who is moving to a new role as vice president of professional membership groups at the American Hospital Association.
ASHE’s mission, vision and purpose at heart of its new strategic plan
The American Society for Health Care Engineering’s (ASHE’s) mission, vision and purpose are at the heart of its new strategic plan.
“The strategic plan speaks to our mission and vision directly, clearly outlining how we can make health care and the world a better place to live,” says Shay Rankhorn, SASHE, CHFM, CHC, ASHE president. “Many of our objectives are specifically aimed at enabling our members to positively impact the lives of those with whom they work and live. I am excited to share the strategic plan with our membership and engage them in the process of accomplishing this.”
- ASHE mission: Dedicated to optimizing the health care physical environment.
- ASHE vision: To engage stakeholders in the creation of health care physical environments that are optimal for healing.
- ASHE purpose: To advance members’ ability to design, build, operate and maintain a physical environment that supports excellent care; quality service; safe, efficient and effective operations; and financial success.
While ASHE’s mission, vision and purpose are clearly reflected in the new strategic plan, it was imperative that ASHE’s core values were also considered as part of the foundation for all work moving forward:
- Integrity: Demonstrated by uncompromised dedication to being a trusted, unbiased and honest source of fact-based information and expertise while actively supporting and encouraging equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Innovation: Demonstrated by continuing commitment to achieving the best of what is possible and serving as a trusted and respected source of evolving knowledge and practices.
- Fellowship: Demonstrated by professional and personal pride in being part of a diverse community of excellence with a common passion for good thinking, shared experience and collective action where all members are respected and valued.
- Stewardship: Demonstrated by the profession’s acceptance of responsibility for success of the built environment and leadership’s accountability for effective use of ASHE members’ involvement in their society.
- Capacity: Demonstrated by the resources, relationships, decision systems and work processes that ensure members receive the support they need.
- Advocacy: Demonstrated by engagement on behalf of ASHE members, in matters of interest to members.
Tina Morton, CAE, is director of member engagement for ASHE. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.