The Minnesota Board of Physical Therapy had used the early framework of the BAR to assess board performance during strategic planning to improve operations, orientation of board members and staff, and retention of information. This article is based on a 2020 Annual Meeting Webinar presented by Steven Scherger.
The Minnesota Board of Physical Therapy was founded in 2000 after breaking away from the Board of Medical Practice. It consists of eleven members: three public members, one medical doctor, and physical therapists. The governor appoints the members, and they serve a four-year term. The board meets six to seven times a year.
While the board has many strengths, including effective committees and collaborative relationships with some state services, a few years ago, it was a bit "in the wilderness" in terms of self-assessment and strategic planning. The Boards Assessment Resource Tool (BAR Tool) helped the board understand what they were doing right and what they could improve on.
The BAR tool is an FSBPT member-driven product. The FSBPT Board of Directors formed the Board Assessment Task Force (BATF) in 2018 to respond to membership's concerns regarding deregulation, board consolidation, and criticism of occupational licensing boards. The FSBPT Board charged the task force members to explore the development of an assessment tool for member boards that would help demonstrate the value of boards and the role that boards have in protecting the public. After a productive dialogue, expanded research, and implementation efforts, FSBPT launched the tool in 2020.
Self-assessment is a vital component of strategic planning. Strategic planning is a board's process of defining its strategy or direction. The plan helps set a framework for making decisions based on available resources. Where is the board planning to go, and how are they getting there? How do they ensure they are on the right path? To answer these questions, a board needs to have a firm grasp of where they are currently compared to where they want to be.
The development of a strategy includes both processes of formulation (imagination) and implementation (doing). Strategic planning helps coordinate both of these. However, strategic planning is analytical in nature (i.e., "finding the dots"), whereas strategy formation involves synthesis (i.e., "connecting the dots").
A board cannot jump into strategic planning without first being prepared. The assessment tool helps boards gather and organize resources:
Checklists help ensure preparation, consistency, and completeness in tasks. They range in strength from task and procedure lists to "Clinical Practice Guidelines." When creating a checklist, it is essential to be thorough and to include instructions on attaining any missing items. The BAR tool helps by supplying checklists specific to the needs of each board.
In 2016, the Minnesota board initiated strategic planning. The board brainstormed and asked themselves, "is this where we are really going?" Fortuitously, at around the same time, the 2016 Leadership Issues Forum had a table activity for the assessment tool pilot that helped expand dialogue on what this tool should do. This exercise helped clarify the four pillars of board assessment:
The Minnesota board created a survey for the board members assessing their thoughts on these pillars—specifically the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) around each pillar. The survey also asked members to rank the pillars in terms of importance to the board’s ability to accomplish its mission. In 2019, the board analyzed the results pillar by pillar and identified the potential weaknesses. The results spurred a robust dialogue and a concrete plan to help know where to focus efforts.
The BAR tool helped take the board to the next level in its self-analysis. The board followed these steps:
FSBPT carefully worded the questions to get at the heart of issues and elicit helpful responses. It is important to note that the data generated by the tool is the perspective of the individual submitting the answers, which is why having all board members take it can be so helpful. With each board member completing the tool individually, the results focused on individual board member's knowledge bases. The tool allows real-time analysis and "scoring." Combining and comparing those scores between board members revealed discrepancies and similarities that helped focus the discussion. For example, some board members were unaware of existing board resources and practices.
However, the BAR assessment tool's real strength is that, depending on how the user answers the questions, the system generates different advice and resources. These resources point the user in the right direction so they can successfully improve their areas of weakness. The resource list is a place to start, not a complete catalog of all applicable information to apply to an identified area of opportunity. Boards can handle the advice in different ways. They can decide to take smaller steps, identify and rectify low-hanging fruit, or make significant grand steps. Please note, FSBPT does not save the data—jurisdictions are not able to compare answers nationally, regionally, or against any other jurisdiction.
By going through this exercise, the Minnesota board realized that it could apply the data to many areas of strategic planning. Additionally, current and future board members and staff can review it regularly and retake the tool to assess progress and maintain board engagement. Another benefit of the BAR specific to new members may be as a way to orient them to the range of board activities and pinpoint areas where they may not have knowledge or full understanding of board activities.
FSBPT hopes that, like the Minnesota Board of Physical Therapy, other member boards will find that using the FSBPT BAR tool can improve individual board member knowledge and engagement, stimulate discussion between board members, boost board performance and help track changes and improvements. .
Steven Scherger has been a physical therapist for over 26 years. He is currently a manager in the nation's fifth largest rehabilitation provider, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. In this role, he has engaged for over ten years in strategic planning and process improvement for over 200 outpatient physical therapists successfully improving patient outcomes therapist performance. He also serves as the Chair of the Minnesota Board of Physical Therapy. When not working, he enjoys being on the cutting edge of relaxation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.
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