Women’s College Hospital

Project Description

Start Date:

End Date:




Presenting Need

Following a complex history with a merger and demerger from Sunnybrook and the re-establishment of Women’s as an academic, ambulatory hospital, multiple innovative initiatives were underway across the organization, but there was limited interdepartmental connection, no overarching vision, and very limited understanding of the role of Women’s in the broader healthcare system. We were retained to create a comprehensive five year strategy that would move the organization into an energized future.


Phase One:  Develop Core Plan (internal focus — February to May 2011)

1. Scoping and Planning

2. Exploring Positive Core/Opportunities and Wishes with Stakeholder Groups, including interviews with Board of Directors and Foundation members and 21 sessions with leaders, clinicians and staff

3. Planning Summit #1 with 100 leaders, staff, Board and Foundation members

Outcomes: Draft Statement of Purpose, Defined System Impact, Three Focus Areas and Six Streams of Innovation; highly engaged community now able to see their work in a larger context.

Phase Two (June to September 2011)

4.  Initial mapping of work and partnerships already underway that contribute to Strategy

5.  Interviews between Senior Leaders/CEO and other System Partners

6. Meaning making sessions with Board of Directors, Senior Leaders and Managers


Outcomes: Finalized Articulation of Core Strategic Elements and Initial Mapping of how different work across the organization fits into and drives the desired vision; Board approval of the Strategy; greater understanding across the system, including the University, of the systemic role for Women’s to incubate, teach and disseminate innovative care that bridges Acute and primary/community care with better outcomes and system usage; shared understanding of the evolving aspect of women’s health in an ambulatory context.

Phase Three (October 2011 to May 2012)

7. Targeted Retreats with Board of Directors, Clinical Innovation Leads and Senior Leaders to establish high level goals

8. Cross-organization Communication, including Town Halls with CEO

9. Goal-setting with Directors and Managers

10. Meaning making and goal setting with each Department, providing opportunities for group conversations about the strategy for everyone who works at Women’s.

Outcomes: Four senior leadership goals guiding objectives and goal setting in every aspect of the organization; creation of novel initiatives such as the Women’s College Institute for Ambulatory Innovation; crafting of strategic plans for parts of the organization that hadn’t done planning.


Phase four (2012 – 2014)

As needed, we continued to work with different pockets of Women’s College to advance specific aspects of the strategy, including ensuring that the Board of Directors, Foundation and Executive Leadership are fully aligned and collaborating on bringing the strategy to life, several Clinical Innovation Intensives to advance system change on specific topics, coaching executive leaders, working with the Senior Leadership team to set annual strategic goals, and developing an integrated Breast Health Strategy.

Overall Outcomes

At the start of this work, there was tension about how to “reconcile” the two distinct aspects of work at Women’s, and little shared understanding of collective impact. While there were multiple pockets of deeply innovative work underway at Women’s College, there was no organizational alignment around how these pieces of work contributed to a collective whole.  All of this work was synthesized in one statement of purpose:  We advance and advocate for the health of women and improve health care options for all by researching, evaluating, teaching, disseminating and delivering new treatments and models of system-integrated care

Through the course of this planning process, the overarching narrative about the organization became much more energized, and Women’s was re-positioned as a leader in the development of innovative health system solutions that create superior, integrated care outside of the inpatient environment and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the health system. Initiatives such as the Virtual Hospital, the critical decision unit and the transformation of inpatient surgical procedures to outpatient were seen as a set of activities that drive innovative care that meets everyone’s needs. Essentially, ambulatory care, particularly in the arena of women’s health and other targeted populations, was better understood as carving out a new, needed arena for care “between” acute and primary.

2016-2017: In 2016, WCH re-engaged our firm in the design and orchestration of their next strategic plan. Over the past 11 months, we engage the organization in our Strategy HiveTM methodology that brought together 30 groups for pollination sessions, 8 Strategy HivesTM and multiple sessions with senior leaders to explore the role Women’s can plan as a leader into the future. We are working with leaders at WCH to finalize the plan elements and seek board approval in October.