Strategic Planning-Aligning Resources and Capabilities for Competitiveness

Mar 6, 2015 10:58 AM
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This article was written by Brendan L. Ashby, MBA, MPH, MCHES, FACHE, Dean of Health Sciences and Service Programs, Saint Paul College, for the “Networking News” monthly newsletter. The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.

            Having been involved in the development and leadership of rural based healthcare networks in Minnesota and health workforce training in post-secondary academic institutions has shown me the importance of strategic planning.  As network leaders, our charge is to assess the viability of the current or emerging network, gauge if the network is tactically positioned to meet its goals and objectives, and identify which strategic concerns and challenges warrant immediate leadership attention (Ashby, 2014). However, as important as strategic planning is, I have found it useful to adopt a mindset of strategic process that involves strategic thinking, acting, and learning that are just as important if not more important than any approach to strategic planning (Ashby, 2014).  To help foster that mindset of strategic process, I want to share two of the tools that have helped my stakeholders and me-the Business Model Canvas and Strategy Change Cycle.   

Business Model Canvas

When I was preparing for strategic planning sessions with my network, I wanted a novel approach and a colleague of mine suggested I try to develop business model canvases that she had effectively incorporated into her strategy sessions.  The Business Model Canvas is a strategic tool developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur as a way to visually capture and describe a network’s business model.  I have had great success when using the business model canvas, especially when engaging reticent stakeholders that might have limited experience in any type of strategy planning or experts who appreciate the pragmatic framework.  This unpretentious but powerful tool can demonstrate what is happening within a network and its value proposition in nine key areas:

  • Key activities: What are the most important activities that your network does or is planning to do?
  • Key resources: What resources are necessary for the network and its stakeholders to experience success?
  • Key partners: Identify all of your network’s critical partners such as hospitals, clinics, vendors, community-based organizations, academic partners, insurance companies, and other stakeholder groups.
  • Value proposition:  What makes your network the best value for your stakeholders?  Why would a patient, customer, or partner organization participate in your network’s services?
  • Costs: How many resources and types of resources does your network need to be sustainable and successful?
  • Customer relationships:  How does your network establish and maintain relationships with your customer segments?  On a one-to-one relationship, mass market, or niche?  What are the costs of those relationships?
  • Customers:  Who are your customers?  Think beyond the healthcare partners, funders, or health consumers. 
  • Revenue:  How do you bring money into your network?  Through grants, training, services, shared savings?   What else?
  • Channels:  How do you communicate with your stakeholders?  Face to face meetings? Social media?  Web conferencing? Printed materials?  Think about all of the channels that your network currently uses or could use. 

Using the business model canvas helps network participants to discover areas of strength, minimize network weaknesses, and potentially discover opportunities for additional funding and increasing services (  For example, the business model canvas was an instrumental tool used in my former palliative care network to develop new relationships with other likeminded rural based healthcare systems across nine counties in northern Minnesota that resulted in increasing interdisciplinary training for health providers involved in palliative care, growing patient participation, and improving patient education.  The business model canvas is an effective, interesting, and enjoyable method for network participants to begin to review their efforts from diverse perspectives.      

Strategy Change Cycle                     

            The Strategy Change Cycle developed by John M. Bryson can assist network leaders to figure out what the challenges are and provides ten steps to work through the strategic planning process. The strategy cycle will help network leaders think about your stakeholders and who needs to be part of the discussion; what details does the network leadership need and if you are missing any information; how you are going to implement this strategy process; if this is realistic; and lastly how can we create the highest enduring value for the people that your network serves (Ashby 2014). 

The ten steps are as follows:

  • First your network leaders have to agree on the strategic planning process
  • Identify the network’s mandates
  • Review and gain understanding on the network’s mission and vision
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis
  • Discover the strategic issues facing the network
  • Frame tactics to address the challenges
  • Review and approve the strategic plan
  • Reaffirm alignment with the network’s vision
  • Foster a successful implementation process
  • Revaluate strategies and the strategic planning process

(Ashby, 2014).

     The final steps of using both the Business Model Canvas and Strategy Change Cycle will occur when your network reassess your identified strategies and remember to be agile, change when necessary, and make corrections as needed.  You need to constantly be thinking strategically.  Remember, this is a process and not a one-time project.  If you keep that in mind then you will be successful.



Ashby, B.L. (2014).  Topic Based Essay.  Creighton University, Omaha, NE.
Bryson, J. M. (2011). Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations. San Francisco, CA, USA: Jossey-Bass.
Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business model generation. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons.
Thompson, A. A., Peteraf, M. A., Gamble, J. E., & Strickland III, A. J. (2014). Crafting and executing strategy: Concepts and readings (Vol. 19th ed.). New York, NY, USA: McGraw-Hill Irwin.


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