Aaron Crane, FHFMA

If you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there.
If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
If you are not moving forward you are moving backward.

These simple quotes with unclear origins contain significant wisdom for our personal lives and the organizations we serve.

I became the Secretary for the Oregon HFMA chapter in 2011, which, among other things, meant I would be President in three years. I also have a passion for strategic thinking and planning. This was my role as Chief Finance and Strategy Officer at Salem Health where I was studying lean principles and tools applicable to strategic planning.

I saw a terrific opportunity to bring this thinking to the Oregon Chapter while updating its strategic plan. I believed this approach would create more energy and commitment among the membership in executing the plan.

In the Beginning

Our planning journey began in February 2012 with a visioning session and culminated about a year later with a CAT visit. At that time the existing strategic plan for the chapter was a document that had been in existence for who knows how long. It would receive the cursory annual edits and a small amount of board attention. It would get approved, be posted on the chapter website, and then ignored.

The chapter was strong according to the measures in the Chapter Balanced Scorecard (CBSC). It has enjoyed high-quality leadership, financial strength, and solid programming. The chapter was a national leader in certification and has a high percentage of provider involvement.

Every year the Shelton winner was announced and we compared our numbers to them and we said, “Why not us? Our numbers are just as good." These conversations compelled to us to focus forward and find opportunities for improvement.

The 2013 CBSC results indicated that the chapter had leveled off in several areas including membership, education hours, and certification. The chapter had also experienced a 9% decline in member satisfaction from 2012. This was the first decline in satisfaction in five years. Additionally, the chapter did not have a formal plan for leadership development and succession planning that would ensure continuity of successful practices and engage prospective leaders early in its vision and strategy.

Every year heroic efforts had been required by one or more members to cover some void in the leadership team and to hit the membership target. The annual process of filling committee chair and co-chair positions was ill-defined and reliant on the cajoling skills of a few leaders. As President-elect, I initiated a process to establish a clear vision, develop focused strategies, and build a commitment to execution.

Goals and Objectives

  1. Understand the key ingredients of chapter excellence from our broader membership.
    • Facilitate a chapter feedback session to solicit key characteristics contributing to excellence in member value.
    • Understand the relationship between each of these characteristics and baseline success of the chapter.
    • Select highest leverage characteristics to inform the strategic plan on highest priorities.
  2. Develop an updated strategic plan that current and future leaders are engaged in executing.
    • Secure the two succeeding presidents’ support and involvement in developing the strategic plan.
    • Produce an updated strategic plan that identifies the three-year tactical roadmap to sustained excellence.
    • Include metrics, targets, and timelines for each strategy and set of tactics in the plan.
  3. Implement actions that will increase member satisfaction, which should improve member retention and attract new members.

The First Steps

The first step of our process was to use an affinity tool to solicit member feedback during an in-person meeting that occurred in February 2013. About 30 members participated in the 90-minute session.  They were asked to answer the following question with as many ideas as possible: In five years our chapter is wildly successful. What do we look like and how did we get here?

105 specific suggestions were generated!

Participants then grouped responses into seven key characteristics that define excellence for the Oregon chapter, as detailed in Figure 1, below. An interrelationship diagram was used to identify the four characteristics that drive excellence in all seven.

Figure 1, the product of that exercise, depicts the key ingredients to the members’ vision of an excellent chapter. The arrows indicate which ingredients contribute to or drive the others. Those with the most arrows pointing out can be leveraged to improve the others. They are the key drivers of improvement.

Figure 1 – Interrelationship Diagram

CAT Corner Figure 1

























Our next step was to use a radar chart (Figure 2) to understand the areas of greatest concern. Each participant was asked to place a dot on each of the seven spokes of the chart. There is one spoke for each characteristic of excellence. The center of the chart is the beginning of the spoke and represents poor performance while the outer edge of the spoke represents excellence. Our chapter indicated that our poorest performance was in creating value for our sponsors. It was about a five on a 10-point scale. The second area of concern was education content with about a 6.5 on the same scale.

Figure 2 – Radar Chart

CAT Corner Figure 2

The chapter was telling us that we needed to develop a consistent supply of great leadership, deliver high value to our sponsors, and provide outstanding education along with great networking opportunities to achieve excellence. This feedback was incorporated into the work of the current leadership team beginning at its LTC planning session.

The leadership team reflected on the feedback from the visioning session as well as the most recent member satisfaction survey during its LTC planning time. They committed to improving education based on member feedback, increasing chapter awareness of leadership responding to its concerns on education, and increasing visibility on member satisfaction and the annual survey.

In July 2013, the chapter president conducted an open forum during the chapter meeting to solicit feedback from vendors and sponsors on items and programs that would increase value. The list of suggestions informed the leadership team on its best opportunities to improve sponsor packages to drive greater value and increase chapter sponsorship.

In the fall of 2013 we secured a CAT advisor to facilitate a one-day leadership retreat. Thirty-three members of the chapter leadership team (including the next three chapter presidents) made the commitment to participate. The vision conversation and consistent engagement of the board over the next several months were key in motivating this level of participation.

Our CAT facilitator conducted a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis with each individual on the board prior to the retreat. The agenda and meeting outcomes are provided as Figure 3.

Figure 3 – Retreat Agenda

Time              Topic  Leader
9:00 a.m. Welcome/Objectives Chapter President
9:15 a.m. Introductions/Ice Breaker CAT Facilitator
10:15 a.m.  Break All
10:30 a.m. Review Results from Visioning Session (Feb 2013)       Chapter President
10:45 a.m.  Review SWOT Analysis Results CAT Facilitator
12:00 p.m. Working Lunch — Develop Goals CAT Facilitator
1:00 p.m. Review goals, develop objectives and strategies CAT Facilitator
3:00 p.m. Break All
3:15 p.m. Plan of action, assign owners, tasks, deadlines CAT Facilitator
4:00 p.m. Adjourn Chapter President

Developing Goals and Objectives

The key outcomes of this retreat were to produce four strategic goals, and establish three objectives for each goal:

  1. Develop great leadership in the Oregon chapter.
    • Create a process for recruiting volunteers for co-chair positions.
    • Establish a succession planning process.
    • Develop a structure to support leadership in accomplishing objectives.
  2. Increase sponsorship value.
    • Study other chapter best practices in delivering value to sponsors.
    • Survey current and potential sponsors to understand needs.
    • Develop a new sponsorship package program based on findings.
  3. Increase opportunities for members to network.
    • Charter a new committee to expand the responsibility of current activities committee.
    • Establish a committee that focuses on facilities and logistics for conferences.
  4. Provide outstanding education for chapter members.
    • Evaluate education opportunities beyond traditional conferences.
    • Develop a quality assurance process for speakers.
    • Evaluate the program committee structure to address resource needs.

Four sub-committees were chartered from the CAT facilitation to finalize three-year tactical plans for each strategic goal. These plans were reviewed by the full Board in May followed by approval and launch at the board meeting in July.

Gathering the Results

Results from our membership satisfaction survey published in January 2014 were very encouraging. Survey participation was up 13% over the prior year. Satisfaction improved 4.7% with major improvement noted in most of the areas discussed in this article.

In addition to all of the activities described above, the chapter submitted four Yerger applications in 2014. All were approved. For the first time in years the chapter exceeded its target for membership. The Chapter Awards Dinner in June brought the chapter an overwhelming amount of recognition.

  • The Robert M. Shelton Award for Sustained Excellence
  • The John M. Stagl Silver Award of Excellence for Education
  • Gold Award of Excellence for Membership Growth and Retention
  • Helen M. Yerger Special Recognition Award:  Improvement (3), Innovation (1), Multi-Chapter (2)

I am amazed at the outcomes this leadership team delivered while also contributing so much energy to vision and strategic planning. The most rewarding outcome of this process for me is the level of commitment of the next three presidents and the broader leadership team to execute this plan. This work will continue and the chapter will continue its journey to sustained excellence.

Aaron Crane, FHFMA, began his term on the Chapter Advancement Team in 2015. He is past-president of the Oregon Chapter and one of five chapter presidents who accepted the chapter's 2014 Shelton Award for Sustained Chapter Excellence.