Purpose of Strategic Planning:
Planning is an integral part of organizational development and leadership. As well, it is well known that people tend to lend greater support to those things that they have help to create.
Strategic planning is a process that requires engagement and input from a range of stakeholders. It uses a basic methodology of assessing the present and emerging environment in which an organization is operating. The goal is to establish a series of directions that respond to what the environment dictates as important themes.
It begins by discerning the organization’s internal strengths and limitations through input from a variety of stakeholders. It also considers the external opportunities (positive) present and the possible threats (negative) that the organization may be facing into the future.
Paying attention to the best interests of the people receiving services is always essential, but strategic planning also incorporates other aspects of organizational life that require response or establishment of direction.
The process must also include the confirmation or adjustment of the agency’s mandate or mission as well as its vision of the future. Both of these elements are crucial in terms of the methodology. Following the creation of a planning document, implementation planning occurs and activities begin in earnest. Implementation planning is essential to future success in realizing the goals or benefits of the plan.
Community Living Fort Erie undertook a major strategic planning effort of this type in both 2008 and 2010. After almost three years of activity and hard work, most if not all the objectives from the most recent plans have been completed. As such, the Executive Director and Board determined in the Fall of 2012 that it was time to establish yet another plan.
The timeframes for this effort have been reduced somewhat to a two year versus three year window. As such, the plan will run from April 2013 to March 31st, 2015.
Key Strategic Issues; Factors at Work and Responses :
- Challenges to the Inclusion Approach
- The core inclusion agenda of CLFE has been challenged in the face of other forces at work and confirmation of our fundamental direction in this area is necessary.
Factors at Work:
A number of developmental service agencies in the Hamilton/Niagara Region continue to offer segregated program approaches in spite of the Transformation policy agenda of MCSS, which places a high value on an inclusion based model of support. These long standing programs continue to be supported by many families, who appreciate the ease of the arrangements in meeting their day to day needs, despite their largely segregated and group based criteria.
CLFE worries about the potential impact of these trends in terms of its ability to continue to attract families to purchase services in the future, given that CLFE no longer offers segregated approaches in deference to its inclusion vision.
When families have the education system to fall back on, they are typically supportive of inclusion-based approaches. However, this can change when they face the prospect of not having a full day alternative, once their son or daughter turns 21. There has been some resistance to a less than full time method of support that is also exclusively community versus agency-based.
Some staff members also are feeling uncertain about the agency’s inclusion focus, given the above factors. The organization has not yet achieved full 100% buy-in internally. There are also concerns at times about the perceived limitations of the local community in terms of support, resources, employment, attitude of acceptance, etc. that are necessary in an inclusion-based model.
People don’t always fully understand the meaning of inclusion and may largely see the risks versus the rewards.
Strategic Responses: (April 2013- September 2013)
CLFE will respond to the concerns of staff by re-educating its employees including long-time as well as part time staff as to the core meaning and philosophy of inclusion. We will reiterate that an inclusive approach is fundamentally sound and fully in line with the Ministry’s Transformation policy agenda.
Further, our message will indicate that service contracts between CLFE and the Ministry continue to be provided for all existing services and that no change to this arrangement is foreseen. (April/June 2013)
Success stories involving people supported by the organization and based on the positive impact of inclusion in their lives will be widely shared with families and staff alike.
We will build greater trust accordingly with families in terms of the fundamental soundness of the inclusion approach. We will reach out and educate to overcome the resistance.
CLFE will also remind all staff that the inclusion agenda is expected to be responded to in all service areas of the agency and at all levels.
All success stories related to inclusion will also be shared internally with our community developer for use in our communication strategy.
Inclusion will be a standing item for discussion at all staff meetings on a monthly basis and at all levels of the organization.
- Eroding Financial Base
- Our financial base continues to decline based on zero increases in funding for the past three years and the rising cost of labour and overall cost of living.
Factors at Work:
MCSS has provided no increments to the base of the agency since 2009-10.
Fear of possible agency consolidations and loss of employment continues to exist as a result.
The agency has virtually no financial flexibility at this time. A 2% cost of living adjustment represents expenditures $80.00 per year.
Salaries and benefits consume 87% of the agency’s overall budget.
An aging workforce means that increasing costs related to sick time backfill are more likely, which can be followed by higher WSIB premiums for workplace injuries.
People supported are also aging and this results in increased costs in areas such as lifts, beds, additional staffing, etc.
Paid hourly rates remain competitive with other DS organizations in the area.
Service demands continue to be made by the local DSO, but little if any new funding is available.
SSAH funding will likely not be transferable to the adult DS system as of April 2013.
Strategic Response: (June 2013 – October 2013)
CLFE will explore any shared service opportunities that may develop with other organizations related to potential consolidation of back office services, senior level staff retirements, expertise that may be available from other sources, etc.
- Internal Planning Process
- The internal agency planning process now in use for people supported is viewed as cumbersome, unwieldy at times and is being resisted by staff due to its perceived burdensomeness.
Factors at Work:
With accreditation success in 2012, the agency strengthened considerably its metrics regarding support to individuals and overall accountability. Planning has improved as a result.
The Ministry’s Quality Assurance Measures have brought increased requirements for documentation in many service areas including person centred planning. Policies and procedures are stronger and more streamlined internally as a result. However, the planning effort may be perceived as intrusive at times, depending on the individual circumstances and level of need of each person.
The process also tends to recapture information as part of the annual review process that is often already known. There is also typically an annual vs. “as necessary” review of the plan.
As a result of these various factors, the agency is gathering much more data, monitoring many more individual items than in the past and requiring staff to spend much more time in documentation activity.
Staff are somewhat frustrated with these expectations and with planning documents that can exceed 20 pages in length. Some feel that the current approach reduces the amount of time spent with people supported. Supervisors feel that at times they have to “chase” staff for reports that are overdue.
Relationships with the local secondary school regarding planning are excellent for youth who are in school or transitioning to adult living.
Planning requirements differ for people in residential settings versus those living independently or at home. The former is more detail-oriented given the 24-hour custodial care responsibility. As such, the community support version feels intrusive at times for both the individual and the community support worker. They would like a more customized version that respects this important difference.
CLFE will establish a new Task Group to review the current planning experience and to reduce any unnecessary or duplicated information. The intention will be to retain necessary data for quality assurance purposes, but to lessen the time requirements and be more user friendly. This work will be completed by October 2013.
The new process will be simplified and every attempt will be made to reduce the level of intrusion, where it is not warranted. What the person wants will however be fully appreciated. Only the priorities, as regulated by the QAM’s, will be required in each person’s plan.
The planning methodology will also be altered to differentiate between people supported at home versus those living in residential settings. The attempt will be to keep the planning process as streamlined as possible.
In the interim, a moratorium will be placed on the use of the current PDP methodology, as the agency works towards a more strategic outcome.
CLFE will also explore the potential purchase and use of AIMS, an automated case management software system developed exclusively for Developmental Services.
- Application of Core Competencies
- CLFE needs to determine what approach it will take towards the development and use of Core Competencies, which are being introduced to Developmental Services across the province at this time on a voluntary basis.
Factors at Work:
2007 – Expert Panel recommended a sector-wide DS training strategy including a consistent, provincial agency-based training program & the use of core competencies in HR recruitment, development & training.
A DS Human Resource Strategy (DSHRS) was then initiated (2008) by the Provincial Network on Developmental Services (PNDS) and MCSS to guide the process.
Core Competencies have now been piloted in 16 agencies. 107 organizations in total are now involved at varying levels in implementing core competencies.
A number of valuable Tools have been created to complement the work of CC implementation.
The management of this undertaking will take considerable time and resources.
CLFE will begin to use Core Competencies in all of its recruitment and hiring processes in 2013.
CLFE will form a Core Competencies Task Group, comprised of both union and non-union staff to discuss the introduction of the approach into the organization as a tool for staff growth, development and agency success.
Training in Core Competencies for all staff will begin in Fall 2013 accordingly.
CLFE will educate staff in advance of training and become more fully engaged in the province-wide initiative now underway.
CLFE will also become involved in the new Agency Based Training curriculum, made up of 31 Topics and offering a wide range of supports for agency trainers.
- Development of a new IT Plan for the Agency
- CLFE requires a compelling IT plan in place for the further development of the agency.
Factors at Work:
Limited financial resources have diminished the capacity of the agency to remain current in this area.
Staff require training in various software programs to communicate more effectively.
Current hardware in the agency is in need of replacement.
CLFE’s payroll and financial software are not integrated resulting in extra work being required to bring these two vital areas together.
CLFE has computers in all of its homes at this time; however, continual redevelopment needs to occur in this area over time.
All staff now have individual E-mail accounts. The agency also has more desk-top computers in place than at any time in its history.
A good service contract is in place with a local IT vendor.
CLFE does not have an automated case management system.
Many of the older staff within the organization require knowledge and training support to increase their comfort level with technology generally.
The agency would like to have more notebook and tablet technology in place that would increase portability and flexibility as well as replace older technology.
Younger staff are very comfortable using “texting” features on their cell phones as a way of communicating with one another.
The new IBEX system (scheduling & payroll) will be implemented in Spring 2013 and assessed over a 3-6 month period. It may create additional staff capacity that can then be used elsewhere.
CLFE will develop a formal IT plan in 2013-14 taking into account the key areas of software, hardware, training, communication and networking. This will include a careful review of all existing software and hardware available.
Case management and the ability to link financial/HR and payroll systems will be required components of any service upgrade.
- One of the keys to successful strategic planning is to ensure a successful transition from strategic planning to strategic management. This includes determining whether the organization has the necessary human resources to realize success. It will be essential to assign leadership roles to each manager and assist them to acquire any additional support needed to ensure that things get done and the plan is fully realized, as has been the case in the past.
- Detailed action planning is essential once the Board has confirmed the strategic directions and larger goals. Implementation requires that the action planning establish the proper priority of things to be done.
- Resource requirements must also be fully considered. Change will cost money in some areas and save money in others. The organization will determine how to ensure that the resources necessary are available.
- Monitoring of the progress of the plan diligently is also essential to reaching the outcomes stated. The Board of Directors will exercise its oversight responsibility fully to ensure accountability and success. Indicators of progress will be built in to ensure that progress can be seen and maintained on a regular basis.
- Implementation will lead to new learning as adaptation to new challenges occurs. Even more important will be the increase in the satisfaction level of each individual supported by the organization. Current limitations will be addressed and attitudes will be favourably impacted both internally and in the community.
- The process of engagement which guided the development of this plan will continue throughout the course of implementation. Successful change will be marked by involvement, persistent communication with stakeholders and well planned processes.
- Action steps will ensure clarity of responsibility, timelines for completion of tasks and a rationale for decision making. Lastly, sufficient time, resources and attention will be paid to each strategic theme to ensure success.
- The Strategic Plan will be shared with all stakeholders and those who were involved in providing input to its development.
- CLFE’s leadership team will develop a strong Implementation Plan to ensure a coordinated response to the plan.
- CLFE’s leadership team will develop a Communications Strategy to educate all staff, families and other community stakeholders regarding the directions.
- CLFE’s Board and leadership team will monitor the implementation of the plan on a monthly basis.
- Leadership will also adjust the plan fully after twelve months of experience.