As an oncology practice manager, some of the key responsibilities you are tasked with include assessing the performance of your team members and identifying opportunities for improvement. To accomplish this requires the use of effective tools to measure key performance indicators, which will allow you to determine the health of your practice’s operations. Equally important, you must be able to manage and influence change when these key performance indicators are in need of improvement. Having a sound action plan in place to help you chart the course of any new initiatives is critical, as this can mean the difference between success and failure. An effective strategy for ensuring that your action plan will contribute to meaningful improvements in your practice is the development of goals using the SMART model.
What is the SMART Model?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.1 This model can help you guide your efforts toward an effective solution related to any areas of opportunity that you have identified within your practice. In this article, we will walk you through the 5 goals of the SMART model and provide some examples of how each one can be applied.
Your goal should be specific. This is critical for charting a course for the plan that will get you to where you want to be. Similar to having an end destination in your travels, being specific with the goals you set forth will guide you and your team toward what, specifically, the intent of your action plan is while you are deciding how to manage what needs to be done. For example, if your goal is to decrease patient wait times in your practice, noting specifically how much you hope to improve these wait times will provide the clarification necessary to assess performance and achievements.
It is critical that your goal is measurable, as this will provide insights into how performance is trending throughout your journey, thereby allowing you to objectively determine whether your efforts are effective for achieving the goal. For example, if you are setting out to improve the patient experience, having a surveillance program in place to assess the performance of your practice in this area will provide the insights needed to guide your team toward success. A point scoring system or metric-driven initiative that can be surveyed and that will allow reference to previous, current, and expected performance will help you monitor your program as you employ tactics to influence the change you are working towards.
Your goal also needs to be achievable. Equally important to your desire to achieve intended change is the ability for your team to execute and achieve the initiative you are working to accomplish. If the goal is not achievable, it may prevent your team from fully engaging with the action plan. Setting a reasonable goal will provide the encouragement your team needs to remain engaged and enthusiastic about accomplishing it. For example, if you have a desire to grow patient volume in your practice, a goal of doubling this volume may not be reasonable. However, scaling a 5% improvement over staggered periods of assessment may provide the success and momentum necessary to reach a longer term accomplishment down the line.
Your goal needs to be relevant to the ultimate mission of your practice. Pursuing action plans that are critical to your success in providing quality care to your patients should be the focus of any goals you have established for your team. Whether it is increasing revenue so that you are able to expand your practice, improving access so that you can provide care to more patients (or provide more timely care to existing patients), or decreasing your staff attrition rate to ensure that you have trained and engaged employees, goals should be relevant to the reason your practice exists.
Setting a timeline for when you expect to achieve the goal you have set forth provides an expectation of when the work will be done. This timeline must be realistic. Change takes time, so it is important to realistically examine the steps involved and make sure that the timeline is neither too rushed nor too slow. Similar to the goal of being specific, having a built-in time component to what you are hoping to achieve will guide your action planning and the specific tactics you will use, as well as ensure that everyone is held accountable to complete the work in a reasonable amount of time.
Practice leaders are continually striving to identify and improve the culture and operations of their practices. Regardless of the types of changes you are hoping to achieve, using SMART goals can be instrumental in setting you team up for success and positively impacting your practice’s ability to deliver high-quality care to patients.
- Doran GT. There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review. 1981;70:35-36.