Facing the Future

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Five steps towards accomplishing a better future from Helen Bessell.

One outcome of the rapid changes brought on in the last few years by the COVID-19 Pandemic is that we’ve all become accustomed to living in the moment. Responding to new instructions and guidance as our understanding and response to the situation became normal behaviour. Whilst living in the moment can be a very good thing from a mindfulness perspective, it’s important from a business perspective to always be looking ahead. We need to have a clear vision of where we want our organisation to be in the next 6 to 12 months if we’re to have any hope of getting there.

In the business world, it has become more and more common to create a vision board as a tool to solidify and visualise shared goals tangibly. The practice of creating vision boards can effectively serve this purpose in healthcare as well and the exciting thing about it is that it’s a practice grounded in neuroscience! The human brain relates more to images than it does to words and, in fact, sees little difference between something actually happening and a strongly imagined vision of it. If you believe in something and can fully visualize it as a reality, then you’re more likely to remain open to possibility, create positivity around that area, and become empowered to bring your vision into the real world.

Therefore, being able to create a strong vision of where you want your business—or medical practice—to be in 6 to 12 months for example visualising what a great day looks like for the practice, for the patients, for each member of the team, is a huge leap forward in terms of actually making it happen. This also creates a massive opportunity for primary and/or secondary disciplinary healthcare teams to come together to create a shared vision for the future to pursue as a common goal.

Simply speaking, a vision board is a collection of images that can include pictures, objects, motivational words, sayings, etc. Interestingly enough, when Oprah Winfrey wanted Barack Obama to become president of the United States, she created a vision board of him as president that actually included the very outfit she would later wear to his inauguration in real life! Some people like to think about this as “manifesting the future” as well as a process through which we are better able to create a vision for what the future we desire could actually look like.

First and foremost, the vision board can be anything and, when used in primary or secondary care, must be created together as a team. This is a great opportunity for a team-building event that will engage every member of staff. What “wonderful” or “great” looks like to one person may look totally different to another, so, it’s very important that a vision board be a collective outcome where everybody’s views and ideas are shared and understood. For primary care practices that have patient advisory groups, this is also an opportunity to link patients to the creation of the vision board and find out what “great” looks like for them!

Secondly, it should be placed where everyone in the practice will see it every single day to reinforce that positive, future goal and vision for the whole organisation. For example, a vision board in primary care could be constructed on a whiteboard in the staff room. The placement is important not only to keep the shared goal forefront of the mind but also to serve as support and encouragement when times get tough. When things aren’t going well, the vision board can help the practice refocus on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Being reminded of what that future “great” looks like can provide both motivation and inspiration to persevere.

There are 5 steps to creating an effective vision board:

  • Step 1: Reflect on what you’ve already accomplished this year.

So often, when looking at what needs to be done, we spend so much time focusing on the gaps thinking “if we had just done this other thing we didn’t think of, everything would be so much better!” With year-end reviews, etc., this way of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we tend to focus on one or two areas that need improvement and often forget to focus on all the things we’ve done well! With a vision board, it’s really important to recognise and capture what has gone well. For example, what is the practice most proud of over the last 6 to 12 months and what do you want to nurture and carry forward into the next year as well? This can be an opportunity for celebration and recognition, which is hugely motivational from a team perspective.

  • Step 2: Think about what you want to change.

The second step is to have a really clear idea of where you want to get from where you are right now. You need to know what you want to do differently and be able to visualize it on your board. This goes back to what “great” looks like for everybody and what “great” actually looks like from a change perspective. Does it mean happier patients? Does it look like a thank you card, or patients being more understanding of the daily pressures and showing more patience towards practice and staff? Does it mean streamlining processes to make them more efficient? Does it look like a patient being able to get a same-day online call? A vision board can be both a great way of setting realistic, tangible goals as well as a way to remain un-restrained by limiting assumptions of what is or isn’t possible.

  • Step 3: Decide on your next big goal.

This is where you can apply your best “Blue-Ocean Thinking”, I.e. brainstorming with no limits! This is an opportunity for big ideas and for the whole team to be really creative as they spend time cutting out images from magazines, collecting inspirational quotes that mean something to them, and bringing it all together to create a collective vision of what they see as the next big goal.

  • Step 4: Think about the direction you want to take the practice and/or the patient experience.

This means thinking in terms of the direction you need to go to get from where you are now to where you want to be. What does that look and feel like? This is where you will design practical action steps to move you toward your goal.

  • Step 5: Decide what is going onto your vision board.

The final step is just to get down and do it. Let’s create that vision board! Most importantly, let’s think big! Let’s not be restrained by the things we’ve tried before and failed or the things we’ve been told are impossible.

At Xytal, we have a strong focus on creating efficient processes and helping practices map out where they can start to make improvements as well as how to make those improvements. If you’d like some support in helping your practice face the future, please click here and complete this form to enrol in our Care Navigation and Enhanced Communication Skills programme.

We need to have a clear vision of where we want our organisation to be if we’re to have any hope of getting there.