Remember Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life? It takes you on an unpredictable journey filled with twists and turns and new adventures grounded in reality.

The same could be said for leading senior living companies. In this customer-focused environment, leaders often are involved in the unpredictable challenges of the business. Each day brings a new family with concerns, a new regulatory challenge or a new organizational issue. Although these easily can derail your focus, a well-designed strategic plan, followed by a successful rollout, will keep you moving in the right direction.

Leaders of senior living organizations face unique challenges, and opportunities, in strategic planning.

Consider the following important steps:

  1. Build a senior living vision. The industry is fortunate to have demographics on its side when thinking about the future. Certainly, plenty of unknowns still exist — what customers will want or need, who else may enter the market, and other strategic concerns. Yet the nature of the industry makes it possible to envision further out than some other industries. Challenge yourself, your senior leadership team and your board to think through possible future scenarios and decide how your company will differentiate itself in the future.
  2. Make future-based choices. As you build your roadmap to achieve the desired future state, understanding how your organization fits into the continuum of care is an important consideration. Where are you playing in the healthcare landscape now and in the future? What are the synergies between the different parts of your business, and how do you leverage them? How do you expect the nature of care to change in the future, and how will your company be ready to adapt to those changes? The assumptions you hold about the future and the vision you have for the company must influence the choices you make today.
  3. Align your leaders. Align your leaders at the next few levels, especially those running the communities. They are managing the bulk of your workforce. It’s not uncommon for each community to operate as its own kingdom, so when you’re trying to roll out a strategy, it can be a challenge. Your leaders must have an understanding of the overall enterprise strategy and how it impacts their communities or part of the business. Involving them in the strategy development helps create connection to the strategic plan, and it inherently builds a shared sense of ownership in its successful implementation. Engaging this level of leaders could be accomplished through working sessions or meetings-in-a-box, for consistent rollout.
  4. Be creative in engaging your employees. As your leaders introduce the strategic plan to the majority of your workforce, the way in which they do so makes a difference. Webinars and town halls may be your default to share important all-staff information. If you’re looking to create a groundswell of support from those who will be implementing the plan, however, consider alternative approaches. Create experiences for them to understand their shared purpose and how their work fits into the plan.

One of our clients was challenged with finding ways to reach all of the employees in its far-flung communities in a meaningful way. Each community received a simplified Game of Life board game with instructions to play the game in a specified time. People loved it! Rather than a dry presentation from corporate, they had a chance to play and learn about the company.

This creative rollout was memorable and relatable, and it helped solidify employees’ sense of purpose. This shared experience connected each team to each other and to the strategy. The vision was created, leaders were aligned and the strategy was well-received and well-understood at every level of the organization. In any version of Life, we can consider this a win.