This is an excerpt of Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc’s “Governance for Regulators” handbook. To view additional sections of the handbook, click here.
3. Setting the Mission, Goals and Strategies
Most Boards find it important to establish the overall direction and priorities of the organization. Doing so creates the framework for all of the other decisions of the regulator. To some extent this is often set out in the enabling statute for the regulator. Typically the objective of most regulators is to ensure that practitioners act competently and ethically in order to further the public interest. However, within that general direction, the regulator should identify priorities that set out more specific goals and describe strategies for achieving them.
For example, for many health professions, eliminating the sexual abuse of patients remains a high priority. For the legal profession, improving access to justice has gained increasing importance. Other professions have refocussed on addressing conduct that causes significant financial, physical or mental harm rather than on seemliness (e.g., in advertising). For many professions, reconciliation with indigenous peoples and promoting equity, diversity and inclusion is being emphasized. With yet other professions, enhancing use of technology by both the regulator and, more importantly, practitioners is significant. There are many other illustrations.
Many regulators formally prepare a strategic plan approximately every three to five years. This can involve retaining an expert facilitator, conducting research on trends affecting the profession, evolving public expectations and general regulatory trends. Sometimes various individuals and groups are consulted for input on the relevance and effectiveness of the regulator and what changes the regulator should consider. Various tools, including risk management tools, are frequently employed. After extensive preparation, it is common for the Board and senior staff to engage in a strategic planning retreat. This is followed up with a written strategic plan and, often, a separate implementation plan including performance indicators. The Board should expect reports at each meeting from the CEO on the implementation of the strategic plan including on the performance indicators. Occasionally this will result in a modification of the strategic plan. The strategic plan should be referred to by the Board at each meeting when making decisions.
Even without a strategic plan, Boards should evaluate each decision against its statutory objects and at each meeting should measure the regulator’s performance against those objects. For example, the Board could review data on complaints including:
- The number and nature of complaints;
- Changes in the number, nature of disposition, timeliness of disposition, appeal rates, and success rate of appeals;
- Characteristics of practitioners who are the subject of complaints, especially repeat complaints, such as length of practice, gender, practice type (e.g., solo, group), etc.;
- The impact of any proactive measures to address certain types of complaints (e.g., Has a mentoring initiative for solo practitioners reduced the number of complaints? Do remedial measures reduce repeat complaints?).
Perhaps the most important work a Board can do relates to clearly identifying its mission, setting priorities and developing a plan to achieve those priorities.
Mission, Goals and Strategy Scenario
Ernie Eager sits on the Registration Committee of the regulator. Ernie is excited to hear that the Committee is reviewing the success of internationally trained practitioners. Through a combination of surveys, file reviews and data analysis of the various program areas of the regulator, the Committee learns the following:
- About 50% of internationally trained applicants who begin the registration application process are successfully registered.
- International applicants are 40% more likely than Canadian-trained applicants to be the subject of complaints. However, most of those complaints are about communication issues. In fact, Canadian-trained applicants are 25% more likely to be referred to discipline than internationally-trained applicants.
- Except for gaps in record keeping, internationally-trained applicants score 30% higher on inspections than Canadian-trained applicants.
The Committee reports to the Board that it appears that the registration process is unduly stringent for international applicants. The process should be reviewed to make it more equivalent to the process for Canadian-trained applicants. However, international applicants should be encouraged to participate in a communications and record-keeping program upon registration to reduce recurring concerns in those areas.
This scenario illustrates how a Board and its committees effectively direct and oversee the performance of a regulator.