Creating the Future through Bold Decision-Making: ONS Leaders Employ an Innovative Approach to Strategic Planning

By Fennimore, Laura | American Nurse Today, October 2019 | Go to article overview

Creating the Future through Bold Decision-Making: ONS Leaders Employ an Innovative Approach to Strategic Planning


Fennimore, Laura, American Nurse Today


DEVELOPING and articulating a clear vision that drives action for an organization are key leadership competencies for executive leaders in every sector of healthcare. Our systems, educational institutions, and professional associations are challenged to "look into their crystal balls" to determine what the future will bring and how they can design programs to meet the needs of the people we serve. For professional membership associations, each volunteer board member has a limited time to govern the organization through its stewardship, fiduciary, and strategic responsibilities. Frequently, board members don't see the results of their decisions until well after their term is complete. As a long-term member of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) and the current president, I'm awed by the bold decisions made by our past and present boards.

ONS (www.ons.org) is the professional home for all nurses who care for people with cancer and has more than 37,000 members dedicated to advancing excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care. As our current strategic plan was ending, the ONS board of directors and senior staff made forward-thinking decisions, recognizing that the rapid changes occurring in our specialty will have profound effects beyond the typical 3- to 5-year plan. We undertook an innovative process using design thinking to create possible future scenarios that oncology nurses might encounter--not just in the near future, but 10 years from now. ONS partnered with Bridgeable, a strategic design firm, to inform the direction of its 2029 strategy and determine the capabilities required to support oncology nurses until then.

This unique process challenged each of us to think outside of our comfort zones and to respect our past, but not revere it. Most strategic plans extend the present, but in a co-creation process, we were imagining 10-plus years into the future. Innovative design thinking encourages collaborative input from multiple stakeholders with divergent views, creating possible scenarios. …

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