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Stakeholder engagement will transform your organization

The origin of the quest for stakeholder engagement began as a step in the process of developing a new strategic plan. The treasure found was unexpected and not immediately recognized. Like many treasure discoveries, it took a bit of sifting to see the shiny nuggets found.

The organization featured with the bravery to embark on a journey as difficult as a best practice strategic planning journey is the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency (LAORA), one of the nation’s 58 organizations entrusted with changing lives through organ donation. Their story is shared with permission.

The best practice strategic planning approach the organization adopted is based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Criteria. An overview of some of the steps in the process are as follows:

  • Stakeholders and Employees: Identification of current satisfaction and engagement levels for all key stakeholders and employees. During these sessions, factors contributing to exceptional partnerships were identified and integrated into strategic planning efforts.
  • Internal and External Analysis: In-depth study was conducted to determine the state of the internal organization and the external environment. Common tools like SWOT, Environmental Analysis, and results outcome analysis were used. The difference with this process is that the information gathered in this step is not simply documented, it becomes one of the key inputs into the development of long and short term goals and objectives.
  • Development of Strategic Plan Elements: For the long-term component, vision, mission, core values, goals, objectives and measures were developed. These will be the guiding principles of the plan for the next five years.
  • Development of Tactical Plan Elements: These provide focus areas for the organization each year of the plan. The tactical plan is translated into implementation plans providing timelines, resource allocation, and expected outcomes.
  • Monitoring and Governance: A disciplined process for leadership review is identified, ensuring the plan is monitored appropriately and providing meaningful opportunities to address unexpected challenges and to change priorities. Measurement outcomes are reviewed and the plan is adjusted as needed.

Treasure Found

Some unexpected things happened with LAORA’s stakeholders starting with the initial announcements of the information gathering sessions. Each of the items below would be considered positive, all together they provide a view of a highly engaged set of stakeholders, which is an enviable position to be in. It is simply not typical to have stakeholders rabidly engaged from the beginning.

Here’s the course of events:

  • LAORA announced their intent to complete a robust strategic planning process that would include opportunities for stakeholders to provide input. Within a week, there was a waiting list for several of the groups.
  • Some of the stakeholder groups are typically hard to get time with. Trauma surgeons, hospital executives, and other key hospital personnel are busy people, yet they showed up. Not only did they participate in the sessions, they came with content they specifically wanted to provide. They were prepared, and they were passionate. They wanted to be part of the development of the future for LAORA. A full day session was scheduled for them to be able to help prioritize the future strategies (at their request), and they showed up. These incredibly busy people took a day out of their schedule to be engaged.
  • LAORA shared the report developed as an outcome of the stakeholder sessions with all who attended and with key stakeholders, providing a level of transparency unexpected by those attending the sessions.
  • Almost immediately LAORA started getting referrals from hospitals that had been inactive. The inclusion of these hospitals in the stakeholder sessions had an immediate impact on daily work.

The act of simply embarking on the plan started the chain of reaction toward improved outcomes. Strategic plans are frequently criticized for the length of time to show result, LAORA’s example shows results can start happening immediately.

This article shares a story of an organization adopting best practice strategic planning approaches. The path is not easy, and it takes fidelity to the process and a willingness to be transparent. There is a reason why textbooks and organizational success courses stress the importance of strategic planning. The outcomes can be a key differentiator between world class success and mediocrity.

Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency (LAORA) is one of the nation’s 58 federally designated organ recovery agencies certified and regulated by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Life Alliance is a tax-exempt, nonprofit service organization that has the unique role of saving lives through organ donation and transplantation, as well as providing organs and tissues for research to advance medical science.

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