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Developing an Organisation Strategy: More Than Just a Piece of Paper

What do we mean by strategic planning? And how do we get it right, so that it does not end up with just another document, that sounds good but in reality makes very little difference?

These are some of the questions that we have been grappling with at the Royal College of Practitioners as we work to produce a new strategic plan for the next three years.

For those not familiar with us, we’re the professional body for GPs with more than 52,000 members. As a membership body representing a diverse profession, we are a complex organisation, and can struggle to decide where to focus our resources and energies. So one of the key things that we have said from the outset is that for our new strategy to be successful, it needs to provide us with much greater clarity about where our priorities lie, and what are – and are not – going to do.

To get there – and crucially to come up with something that will stick – we know that we need to engage widely, and to look across the whole range of functions that we carry out an organisation, both internally and externally.

On behalf of our Chief Operating Officer, I’ve been working with colleagues across the College to come up with a draft set of strategic priorities and we are now at the stage of putting this out to consultation with our members, staff and other stakeholders.

In so doing, we benefited from having a clear view of the challenges that general practice is facing, and how we wish to see it develop in future – spelt out in our vision document Fit for the Future, published earlier this year.

We have a good track record of being the voice of the profession and achieving positive change for GPs and their patients. But we know that this is not enough. Our members must be proud of being a part of our College and see and experience the positive difference that we make to them. That’s why we are calling our proposals for the new strategy “Putting our members at the heart of everything we do”.

There’s also the opportunity for us to become more effective as an organisation by better joining up what we do. Since starting to work on our new strategy, I’ve been struck by just how much scope there is to better integrate what goes on across different parts of the organisation, so that we eliminate duplication and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, having agreed our priorities for the next few years, we intend to develop an annual business plan for the organisation. And as part of the new strategy, we will set out clear success measures, that we will use to bring greater focus to our activity, and against which we will hold ourselves accountable.

Finally, alongside the development of our strategy for the next three years, we are taking the opportunity to refresh and rearticulate our values. If our vision is about the future that we wish to arrive at, and our strategy is our route map for getting there, then our values are our principles for how we travel on the journey. As such, they form a critical part of our identify, and we want to ensure that we communicate them in a way that is as meaningful and as relevant as possible, so that they truly form part of our cultural and organisational DNA.

It’s easy to be sceptical about strategy development, but over the past few months, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement that we’ve seen with in the RCGP, and a real sense that this is something that – if we get it right – could bring genuine benefits.

We’re not there yet, but it certainly feels as though we are heading in the right direction.