The implementation of the Living Longer Living Better: Aged Care Reform Package has changed the landscape of the provision of Aged Care Services in Australia markedly. A change like this should cause aged care providers to bring forward any intended revision of their vision and strategy.
To get a snapshot of where aged care service providers are at in response to the changes that are underway, I reviewed 20 published vision statements and strategies, and then built a couple of checklists designed to allow you to check the health of your own vision statement and strategy.
The purpose of a vision statement is enable your key internal stakeholders understand what your aspirations are for the way in which you want to be perceived. Therefore, a vision statement should be about the experience that people have when they interact with you or the final outcome, and less about what you do (i.e. not about specific actions you are going to take).
A vision statement particularly enables your staff and contractors to know what they are striving to create or deliver, and informs discussion and decisions to be made around strategy and policy, and process and performance indicators. Vision statements which are used more for external stakeholders are more like a brand strapline in purpose, rather than a vision statement.
It is helpful, if vision statements contain a short memorable phrase that encapsulates your vision and what those aspirations are. Some good not-for-profit examples are:
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: A World Free of MS.
- Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
- Oxfam: A just world without poverty.
- Save the Children: Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.
- Amnesty International: Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
However, a vision statement does not need to be only the short sharp statement. We want the vision to be memorable, not necessarily memorisable.
One of the issues for organisations creating their own vision statement is that they create memorisable statements, which lose clarity as they are wordsmithed down to a predicated maximum number of words. The meaning of the words that are retained is often open to interpretation, as there is not enough context to bring clarity to the meaning. Even taking a look at our good examples above, the word ‘just’ in Oxfam’s vision is open to interpretation. What is just to me may be unjust to others. To avoid this issue, Oxfam would need to have spent some time and effort defining what ‘just’ is for them, and communicating that internally.
Vision statements which serve the purpose of providing context for decision-making need to communicate more than can be achieved in one sentence of ten words. If the vision statement itself does not go beyond the ten words frequently desired by consulting wordsmiths, then there is a need for further embellishment by way of guiding principles or philosophy. I’ve always found it sensible just to include those ‘extras’ in the vision statement itself.
An example of a vision statement, which will win no plaudits as a strapline equivalent, and is not memorisable, but clearly demonstrates a view of what the outcomes of the future are like, is The Myer Foundation vision statement (2020 A vision for aged care in Australia, 2014).
Repeated in part below it is understandable by most, if not all that read it, and provides clear guidance for decision-making by all those who would seek to adopt this vision.
“Reform of Australia’s aged care system is the key to meeting the care needs of a growing population of older Australians in 2020. By then, we want older Australians to be confident they can access the care and support they need, when they need it.
“Aged care services will reflect the fundamental changes in the nature of the Australian population, in which one in four older Australians will be from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“From 2020, we hope older Australians will find it easy to access care. Effectively coordinated services by all levels of government will make it simpler for older people to know what services are available and how to access them.
“More Australians will be living in their own homes as they age, supported by dramatically improved community care services and more ‘age friendly’ housing.
“There will be more housing options for older people. Modifications to building design and advances in new technology will ensure that the physical environment accommodates people with disabilities. Cluster housing arrangement, often close to amenities, will enable people to have safe, manageable environments within the general community.
“The coordination of care will be fundamentally reformed, with clear responsibilities for each tier of government within a national framework. Resources will be distributed equitably across regions, with local flexibility to adjust the mix of community, hospitals and residential services. This will be made possible by unprecedented co-operations between governments and among providers across the private (for profit), charitable and public aged care sectors.”
So while it spends a few more words and is not memorisable, it is memorable.
Compare that with the vision statement for an aged care facility in Victoria.
“To provide high quality aged care services that respond to the changing needs of the community.”
It fails the test of being a good vision statement by being open to interpretation; for example ‘high quality’, ‘aged care services’ and ‘changing needs’ are all phrases wide open to interpretation. This means that whenever a decision is made based on the vision, then interpretation is required. When that interpretation is done by individuals, the results are nearly always fundamentally different. Which, in turn, gives rise to different decisions. Strategy rapidly becomes incoherent.
It also describes what the age care provider does, not the outcomes or what people experience, opening up the organisation to the risk of being internally- rather than externally-focused.
Most vision statements reviewed (>80%) were of the short memorisable variety rather than memorable variety. However, more than 50% of vision statements of the memorisable variety contained further explanation by way of a statement of philosophy of principles.
Assess your vision statement using the following checklist:
|My organisation’s Vision statement:||Y/N|
|is memorable rather than memorisable.|
|has a short summary statement.|
|is written in present tense.|
|describes outcomes and experiences, not what you do.|
|is supported by further statements which leave little room for interpretation of words.|
|provides the context for people to make decisions on strategy and tasks.|
|is distinguishable as being your vision, not a generic vision for any organisation in the aged care industry.|
If you scored fewer than 5 out of 7 your vision statement may need some work to fulfil the purpose of a vision statement.
Strategy needs to be, in essence, the result of making choices between two or more good options. The vision should provide the context in which those decisions are made. Strategy should take into account the external environment using tools such as a PESTLE analysis, and the internal environment using a tools such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. Note: Many other tools may be used. The two mentioned are the simplest tools associated with analysing the internal and external environments.
In addition, a strategy should concentrate on, say, three to four strategic platforms. The tasks involved in realising those strategic platforms should be then prioritised over a timeline based on the ease of doing each task and how well completing the task contributes to the overall goal of the strategy.
A strategy must also take into account any changes required to the structural, financial, and cultural foundations of the organisation that may be affected as part of executing the strategy.
Much of what I have reviewed on the internet as strategy in the aged care sector seems to fail the test of analysing the external environment. For instance, few of the strategies mention anywhere the means by which organisations will cope with the:
- implications of changes in funding models;
- increased focus on community care;
- competition in the market place between residential, community and disability services for skilled staff; and
- the implications for data and information management in an environment where clients, prospects and regulators have increasing needs for access to transparent information.
To that end, they appear to be a continuation of an existing paradigm of thinking rather than proactively taking into account known external issues in making strategic choices.
None of the twenty or so strategies that I reviewed seemed to have a segmentation of clients in mind. In some cases, particularly rural and regional areas, this is understandable, but in metropolitan areas, with the drive to have consumer choice at the forefront of government policy, I found this puzzling.
There also seem to be many strategies that do not have a timeline for completion, or a view of what success in completing a strategic task or tasks might look like.
Assess your strategy using the following checklist:
|My organisation’s strategy:||Y/N|
|takes into account external changes brought about by the Living Longer, Living Better reforms.|
|seriously evaluates our internal weaknesses and strengths.|
|can be seen to be a result of making choices between good alternatives in the context of the vision.|
|is limited to around four strategic platforms.|
|has a goal which is measurable and time bound and contributes directly to the achievement of the vision.|
|prioritises the tasks based on their ease of doing and contribution to the goal of the strategy.|
|has KPIs for each task.|
|has a timeline for completion.|
|takes into account the capability-building required to complete the tasks to implement the strategy.|
|takes into account the costs of implementing the strategy on the financial foundations of your organisation.|
|takes into account any change in culture which may be required to implement the strategy.|
Your strategy should display most, if not all of these characteristics; after all, it’s your strategy that is the guiding light for your organisation for the short and medium term. Take away any one of these characteristics and you will either be building in unnecessary risk, or implementing your strategy with only half of the standard toolkit.
2020 A vision for aged care in Australia. (2014, October 14th). Retrieved from Myer Foundation: http://myerfoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2020-A-Vision-for-Aged-Care-in-Australia-Outcomes-Review.pdf