The beginning of a new year naturally feels like a fresh start, when all things seem possible. It’s tempting to get caught up in the excitement and make long lists of tasks and goals to accomplish, only to find enthusiasm waning (or completely gone) by the end of January. One technique to avoid this rollercoaster is to limit yourself to a single big practice goal for the year. Consider it your annual BHAG (“big hairy audacious goal”-a term coined by the authors of Built to Last, a popular business book from the mid-90s.) Declaring a BHAG doesn’t mean you won’t also achieve additional smaller goals throughout the year, but having one major intent for the year can help keep you focused and more likely to experience success.
Consider these questions as you think about what your 2012 BHAG should be:
- What one goal, if achieved, would have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people?
- What have we been putting off because it has felt too huge or overwhelming, but really does need to be done?
- What goal, if achieved, would set our practice apart from our competitors in the most positive way?
- What would we do as a team if we knew we would not fail?
Spend some time with your entire staff on these questions to determine what deserves your time and attention next year. Having everyone involved early in the process will bump up the odds that you’ll achieve your major goal.
Once you’ve decided on your goal, break it into smaller steps, and map out a timeline. For example, if your BHAG is to never have a patient wait (either in the reception room or in an exam room) for more than 10 minutes, your first step might be to thoroughly evaluate where the bottlenecks are now that hinder patient flow. Perhaps you decide that you’ll conduct a study over a two-week period in January. What you learn through that process would then dictate your next steps.
Let’s say your BHAG is to move to a newer, larger office by year-end. Your first steps might include coming up with criteria for the ideal new space (by January 31), interviewing real estate agents (during February), and beginning the process of purging files and storage closets in preparation for moving (March and April). Having a clear plan with dates attached makes a big goal feel more doable.
Set up a system to ensure that everyone involved in the BHAG process is held accountable to contribute to the process. That might mean weekly or monthly meetings to discuss the goal and how it’s moving along, or it could be a chart on the wall in the break room that outlines the plan and to-date progress. Consider building in incentives along the way to keep your team motivated. For example, if the goal is to decrease A/R by a certain amount each quarter, have lunch catered for the staff each time a milestone is achieved.
Getting started on a BHAG can feel a bit daunting. But remember the old saying-nothing ventured, nothing gained. Or, as businessman Charles M. Schwab once said, “The difference between getting somewhere and nowhere is the courage to make an early start.” How about starting this January?