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The 12 steps of launching a new program

May 1, 2007
by C. ELIZABETH LEACH, MSW and ROBYN MARKS, CPS
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A guide for introducing a new service to your community

Launching a new service can be an exciting endeavor for an addiction treatment facility. “If you have always done what you always did, you will always get what you always got” is a standard line of thought in many addiction treatment programs. Moving beyond clichés and rote thinking is critical to the creative process necessary to develop an integrated new service line. Just renaming an existing program does not make a new, original program. Original programming reflects a response to a new question, a fresh beginning, new staff, and an added structure. Meeting an identified but previously unmet community need gives the program its purpose. Progressive and innovative thinking adds “branding,” which offers program identity and sparkle.

Let's review the “12 steps” that are needed to make a new addiction program work:

1. Identify a community need.In planning a new program, determine what you could offer the community that would fit with your organizational mission. There may be a need for road repairs in the community, but if you work at an addiction treatment facility, this is not your area of expertise. Thus, stay true to your mission and ask yourself what populations are not being served and what issues are going untended in the field. Be sure to network as you seek this vital information. Attend local professional society meetings and speak with governmental and professional leaders to assess critical areas that need to be developed.

2.Apply progressive thinking.If the need is unmet, there are probably some considerable challenges to overcome if you are to identify and implement the right set of solutions. Thinking these points through and identifying innovative approaches are the hallmark of programmatic success. Planning a new program is an exciting, stimulating time to take stock of what has worked in your other programs. Drawing on the expertise of your in-house experts is a valuable way to begin to find new solutions to difficult issues.

This process starts with creative, open-ended brainstorming involving your core senior team members. Begin with a series of free-flowing and free-thinking meetings, in which key players openly discuss (and do not criticize) ideas. One team member should be the scribe and try to capture all of the ideas generated from these meetings. The brainstorming sessions should explore how to overcome potential obstacles and opportunity costs. Once a particular idea catches the group's collective interest, there also should be a focus on how this new service will mesh with existing services.

3.Determine how to make a difference.Once you have applied progressive thinking, you will need to assemble the solutions that make the best sense in your organization to solve the problem and meet the need, taking into account available resources. Considerations will include all funding, operational, and marketing aspects of the program. These are the core factors that belong on your initial program road map.

4.Establish internal buy-in and manage change.Employees will add momentum to the new program if asked to walk together on the path of a new challenge. They will need to buy into the project from its inception. If not involved at the project's beginning, employees could become more inclined to resist or even sabotage the new project. If employees at all levels can be engaged in early idea sharing and implementation, they will experience ownership and pride in the program, which add to a positive cycle of program momentum and development. Your employees also can help to identify potential snafus before they happen, if you ask them.

5.Assemble a core team of committed professionals.This team will represent the project's prime movers, and team members must be committed to its success. The right players will bring not only expertise to the project but also energy and enthusiasm. They should generate a creative process that all employees benefit from. Their involvement will help to instill the energy that generates the program's success. This process is closely tied to step six.

6. Bring passion to the project.Passion in this context is an intense enthusiasm for the project, a keen interest in the new program. This step involves harnessing the drive to make this project happen.

Each member of your newly identified team will bring a special topic and/or expertise that usually corresponds to his/her core interests. Aligning assignments and areas of responsibility with this in mind is a key way to energize the team. In this way, momentum is established to bring the project to life.

7.Determine your marketing plan.Here are some core questions whose answers will help keep you focused on reaching your goal:

  • What is the program's key message?

  • Who do you need to reach to generate referrals?

  • Which target audiences, existing relationships, and advertising/PR venues will support this initiative?

  • What new relationships and audiences will you need to address for the program to launch?

  • What marketing strategies will you employ and why?

  • How do you anticipate that these strategies will work?

  • What kinds of results do you expect?

  • What is your rollout timeline, and how do you plan to measure your results?

8. Establish your service brand.Branding involves conveying a consistent, meaningful image and message in your marketing materials and efforts. As you develop a brand strategy, you will need to define the images that you want to portray in relation to your new service and refine the core messages and themes of what you do. What makes your service unique? What will be the hallmark of your activities?

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