Over the past two years, the EMS Agenda 2050 project, a federally funded initiative, worked to
produce a vision for how the profession of EMS could evolve over the next 30 years.
Our company was selected to facilitate the process for creating that vision, a fairly daunting task. We would need to engage a wide variety of public safety stakeholders, who are sometimes at cross-purposes, and gain consensus. We’d need to get people to forget about the problems and obstacles of today, and think about what the future could be—to think about change that could literally take generations.
For two years I had the opportunity to closely watch this unfold, through calls for information, the selection of 10 members of a “technical expert panel,” to four regional meetings and dozens of conference listening sessions, to the creation of the final document.
So what could this possibly mean for you, a leader of an organization serving public safety and health care? Here are 10 things I think all leaders can take away from this experience when developing a vision for an organization, an initiative or even an industry:
1. Size Matters. Our official work group represented a wide variety of experience, diversity and insight, and 10 turned out to be a good number for this process—small enough to manage and to be fully engaged, and big enough to reflect the diversity of the profession.
2. Get Commitment. While industry associations were not directly represented in the work group, any organization could name a representative to be an official liaison to the project, ensuring they got timely updates on the project and special opportunities for comment.
3. Move Fast. Rather than try to wordsmith a perfect vision that would satisfy everyone, we created a “straw man” document that put forth ideas designed to spark a reaction and allow us to quickly reset if we were obviously on the wrong track.
4. Bring Expert Facilitation. Get someone who is seen as an honest broker, skilled in the art of not only bringing together people, but moving the work product forward.
5. Build Trust. As inconvenient and hard to schedule as they might be, in-person meetings are essential to build trust, relationships, and ultimately the dialogue and give-and-take needed for collaboration.
6. Get the Most from Public Feedback. Our public comment meetings were open to anyone and geographically diverse, regularly drawing nearly a hundred people. To get maximum engagement and feedback for large groups, we used a modified “world café” process where members of the project team each facilitated a roundtable gathering of a 10 or so participants. Each table would debate the same question for 25 minutes, and then report out their conclusions, allowing us to quickly see where there was consensus—and where there wasn’t.
7. When Needed, Park the Debate. When you know you can’t get consensus, don’t get stuck in an endless loop of frustrating conversation. Put the topic in the parking lot and come back to it later, or simply let it go.
8. Choose Your Words Wisely. Putting forth a vision is meant to motivate. The words we choose to articulate the vision need to be clear, graceful and memorable, as does the format in which they are presented.
9. Create a Communication Strategy. The most moving vision in the world isn’t of value if people haven’t heard it. Bake in a communications strategy targeting different audiences from the very start of the process.
10. Inspire Action. If people accept your vision, challenge them to get started. Show them what success might look like in concrete terms, and what could be first steps forward, even if small.
If you’re interested in seeing the results of the EMS Agenda 2050 process, you can download the document and view a brief video here.