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By Monica E. Oss

February 1, 2011

“How can I lead my organization if I can’t tell where we’re going?” Does that sound  like you? If so, think again.

Admittedly, the headlines this week are full of court challenges to health care reform’s individual mandate provision and Senator McConnell’s plan to call for a vote to repeal health care reform in the Senate. And the natural reaction of executives to all of this is to say that they can’t develop a clear plan because the road ahead (or at least the health care reform road ahead) is unclear. But that is not entirely true – there are many elements in the future of the health and human services field that will remain the same—whether health care reform remains intact or somehow comes undone.

This is why you should be using scenario-based strategic planning to develop your organization’s strategic roadmap. Developed by the petroleum industry to create multiple strategies based on the changing price of oil, scenario-based planning has now been adopted by other industries – and has been adapted by the our team at OPEN MINDS for use in health and human services field.

Scenario-based planning is not a way for your organization to predict or forecast of what will happen; but rather, it is a way for you to consider a number of market situations, understand your options under each, and develop a situation-specific set of plans.

When I facilitate the development of a scenario-based plan, I utilize a few key steps:

  1. Determine scope and time frame of your market scan

  2. Identify divergent but plausible market scenarios (with underlying assumptions for each)

  3. Analyze the organizational impact of the key variables in each market scenario

  4. Develop strategies and tactical plans for the most likely scenarios

  5. Identify the tactical initiatives common to most scenarios (and develop specific implementation plans for those

  6. Recalibrate your organization’s market intelligence monitoring for early identification of those market factors that would signal a shift from one scenario to the next

The advantage of scenario-based planning is that it allows your team to identify the tactics that are common to all likely market situations – and to move ahead. With regard to the current health care reform situation, what do we know? Repeal or not, we know that there will be more use of managed care; that value-based and risk-based contracting will increase; that unit cost pressures will increase; that new technologies will cause “technological substitution” in the care delivery system; that there will be increasing competition for consumer referrals; and that competency in data-driven decisionmaking will determine the winners from the losers. There’s a lot to do – with or without health care reform.

To learn more about how you can prepare for all of the market changes affecting your organization, join us this June in Baltimore at the 2011 OPEN MINDS Planning and Innovation Institute. In the meantime, send us your questions and comments at


Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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To read more from Monica Oss about strategic planning, see: Health Care Reform Means More Managed Care (And New Provider Opportunities) all members 

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