If one runs anything without a plan sample, more often than not, they will only run that thing to one destination the ground. This is true for organizations too. And like any other organization, running a hospital needs careful planning to ensure its sustainability. Without a proper plan, a hospital could fail to deliver its purpose to help people no matter how great their intentions are or how badly they want to help.
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Planning is the process of managing all your resources to make sure that they are efficiently used with little to no waste in reaching a specific objective. In most organizations, there are two kinds of planning: strategic planning and operational planning.
Hospital Operational Plan
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Operational Planning VS Strategic Planning
Operational planning and strategic planning may all be plans but they differ in a lot of aspects.
- Vision – A strategic plan is usually done for a long-term vision of the company (in this case, a hospital) while an operational plan’s scope can be for a shorter term like on a yearly basis.
- Focus – The focus of a hospital’s strategic plan is the direction for the health sector while for the operational plan, it is a concrete plan of the activity implementation.
- Time-frame – As it is envisioned for a longer term, the strategic plan has usually a time frame between three to five years. Meanwhile, the operational plan can have a time-frame ranging from one year or even shorter.
- Flexibility – A strategic plan is more rigid than the operational plan and as such, it is unlikely to change during its duration. An operational plan meanwhile is at the mercy of the whims of the different circumstances surrounding it thus, it is easily adapted and modified depending on the given situation.
For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing more on operational planning.
According to the World Health Organization’s Strategizing National Health in the 21st Century: a Handbook (2016) “Operational planning is the link between strategic objectives of the national health policy, strategy or plan (NHPSP) and the implementation of activities.” In shorter terms, an operational plan is a plan that brings the strategic plan into action. Although planning might be a daunting task especially in bigger organizations like a hospital, anyone can make an operational plan. Even a simple to-do list, a calendar of activities or a planned daily routine in one of the hospital’s department can be considered an operational plan. For the hospital as a whole, the operational plan determines the day-to-day operation of the organization, this includes the allocation of resources and the schedule of the manpower involved. Finally, an operational plan is a practical plan of activities that can be easily understood by manpower at each level to specify what things they are responsible for. The best operational plans are usually created with the people who will carry them out.
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When to Create an Operational Plan
Creating an operational plan is dependent on the budget. As such, it should either take place along with the budgeting process or after it. The flexibility and adaptability of the operational plan are one of its greatest assets as although it is usually a vision for a year’s term, it can also be done more frequently, like in every three to six months, depending on the political, social and financial standpoint of the organization. With a steadier circumstance, an operational plan can also be done in a biyearly basis.
Who is Involved in the Operational Planning
Ideally, operational planning should be done by all people involved in the implementation process. These people will be directly affected by the operational plan thus, it is important to listen to what they have to say. However, having everybody head the operational plan can be detrimental to the process, after all, too many cooks can spoil the broth. It is a good idea to have a manager that can head the operational planning process and a good manager will source from different departments on things to factor in developing the plan. Furthermore, major stakeholders, investors, and people involved in the budgeting process should also be involved.
What to Include in an Operational Plan
- A description of the activities to be done and statement as to which major objective of the strategic plan it aims to accomplish
- Timing, sequencing, and scheduling of those activities
- The person responsible of the activities
- The resources required for the activity and the source of the resources (this should also include financial resources)
- A way of monitoring the progress
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Steps in Creating an Operational Plan
Just like in creating a strategic plan, creating an operational plan involves a few steps
- Identify the situation – This includes the position of the organization. Are there enough resources and manpower? Is the budget done and has it been allocated? Before proceeding with the planning process, one must know where they are as to learn which aspects to prioritize and which to maintain.
- Setting Priorities – When the situation has been evaluated, it is now time to set up priorities. Priorities should be set according to the given situation. Certain aspects of the organization could have been left out of the previous operational plan and as such, they would need to be remedied. It is important to prioritize them. If building an operational plan from the start, one should take note of the key aspects that need to be done and prioritize them too.
- Building the Plan – When the priorities have been set, it is time to put together the operational plan. The operational plan should be made with the budget in mind. It should also be created in cooperation with other departments as to not create conflicting plans. The templates embedded on this page can help you identify what to put in your plan.
- Implementing the Plan – As the operational plan can be a list of activities that strive to accomplish an objective set about by the strategic plan, it is possible to break these activities into smaller sub-plans. Also, depending on the situation, not all smaller plans should be approved. This step is usually more about managing rather than planning.
- Monitoring and Evaluation – Though usually written together, monitoring and evaluation are two different things. Monitoring operational plans is usually done continuously during the implementation period. Through monitoring, the problems of the operational plan can be easily identified and changed accordingly. It is through constant assessment of the plan that managers and implementers can identify if the plan is on schedule and what are its bottlenecks. Evaluation meanwhile seeks to determine the impact of the activities, whether they are effective or not. This is usually done after a fixed period in time and it will tell if the targets have been accomplished efficiently and effectively.
Other Factors and Issues to Consider
Aside from the above mentioned, there are other factors to consider when creating an operational plan. These factors can include things that can be outside of the organization’s control. Figuring in these factors can be key to having a successful operational plan.
- The absence of a useful strategic plan – Although the operational plan is a plan concocted to bring the strategic plan in to fruition, there will be times that a strategic plan is unavailable or it is inadequate to an organization’s purpose. One might ask the question if there will still be a need for an operational plan in such cases. The answer would be yes. In fact, in the absence of a strategic plan, the operational plan becomes doubly essential. The operational plan becomes a necessity in these situations. It becomes the management tool in which the sustainability of the organization depends.
- Level of detail – Operational plans are a guide to the day-to-day operations of an organization in a given time frame. However, it does not need to go into detail on how an action should be taken. If one puts too much detail in the plans it could be too much of a burden and can become useless. Too much detail can overwhelm and may cause paralysis. As such, it should be up to common sense and experience as to how much detail should be put in the plan.
- Flexibility – Being the day-to-day operations manual and being that day-to-day situations are as volatile as the weather, an operational plan should be flexible. An operational plan must be able to adapt to the ever-changing factors of daily situations. An operational plan should be able to adapt and change depending on the results of the evaluation and monitoring process. It is the greatest asset of an operational plan to be flexible.
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To summarize, the importance of an operational plan could not be stressed enough. They are essential and necessary tools for management. The operational planning should factor the people affected by the plan, especially those that will implement them. It is also important to remember to not swamp the operational plan with details and run the risk of rendering it useless. Finally, an operational plan should be open to revision depending on the current situation needed.