Not “All Skilled Nursing Providers Lack For Imagination”

Last week, Tim Mullaney in an op-ed for Senior Housing news, invoked the “confessions of an unnamed Chief Strategy Officer” of an unnamed CCRC, who posited that the “Senior Housing Industry Lacks Imagination.”

Of course by inference and by extension, this ‘school of thought’ (if such a description is indeed appropriate) was applied to the Skilled Nursing and Post-acute Rehab industry, where we happen to operate (and thrive).

On so many levels, I would disagree with the entire premise of the article/interview and point out that its author (clearly) never visited one of our NJ based Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

Mullaney Interview (with unnamed CTO):

Too much so-called senior living innovation is not innovative at all. And unless the industry becomes more imaginative and nimble, it could be “toast,” despite the huge coming wave of aging baby boomers.

That’s according to one chief strategy officer with a senior living provider company, who is featured in this latest latest installment of Senior Housing News’ “Confessions” series.

The goal of this series is to share candid perspectives that might be hard–but helpful–for readers to hear. To encourage this level of honesty, the chief strategy officer has been kept anonymous.

Do you think senior living providers pay enough attention to long-term strategy, or have a firm understanding of what good strategic planning involves? Do you think there are enough chief strategy officers in the industry?

I think it’s less a question of paying attention to strategic planning and more an issue of doing the right kind of planning. Strategy isn’t about goals and objectives—it’s about identifying a clear, coherent set of actions that an organization needs to implement in order to achieve its reason for being. And that reason for being, as Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen says, is to do the job customers hire us to do.

Based on the undifferentiated, cookie-cutter products our industry is selling in the marketplace, we have a very limited understanding of what customers actually want and need.

Developing a deeper understanding of our customers, their needs and desires, and then turning those insights into an actionable strategy should result in a rich array of solutions focused on different sets of demands. Instead we have an entire industry pretty much executing from the same unimaginative playbook. It’s depressing.

Beyond bolder strategic thinking, we also have serious issues with our tactical execution. There was an interesting article recently in the Harvard Business Review about the strategy-execution gap. I think everyone can point to examples of planning where the blame was put on implementation—“We had a great plan but we failed to execute it.”

But the article suggests the bigger problem is flawed planning—too many companies still following the old “plan-then-do” approach. There’s just too much rapid change and uncertainty in the world today for this kind of approach. One of our biggest problems as an industry is that we are soooo slow to change. If we don’t start to adopt a more agile, test-and-learn approach (“decide-do/refine-do” in the article), then we’re going to be screwed.

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