USE StratEgic Planning tOalign YOUr OrganiZatiOn WhitePaperBy Jim PicardA simple definition of strategic planning is tional environment with established mission“a process to determine where an organiza- requirements, selective planning can betion is going over a defined period of time carried out once a year, focusing on projectand specify how it intends to get there.” and program plans, objectives, responsibili-Despite the simplicity of that definition, ties, timelines, budgets, and the like. In anyeffective strategic planning remains for case, strategic planning should be conduct-most large government organizations a dif- ed at least once a year to identify the orga-ficult and at times frustratingly elusive pro- nizational goals to be achieved during thecess, producing noticeably mixed results. next fiscal year and the resources neededWhile most strategic planning efforts to achieve them. Supporting program andinvariably result in a strategic plan, the vast project plans should be updated annually.majority of those documents will fail to beproperly communicated, implemented, or There is no perfect strategic plan, and theeven referenced after they are published. odds are low of “getting it right” the first, second, or even third time. The key is to getFrom an organizational standpoint, strategic started: keep it simple in the beginning andplanning is an evolutionary process and improve it with each iteration by leveragingshould be part of a continuous manage- lessons learned.ment life cycle. It is important to under-stand that the real benefit and value of a While the plan is being implemented, thestrategic planning process is in the process, progress of the implementation shouldnot the final documented plan. be reviewed at least on a quarterly basis by senior management. The frequency ofStrategic Planning: Why and When review depends on the extent and rate ofWithout exception, large government organi- change in and around the organization.zations are mandated by policy, regulation, engaging in Strategic Planningand/or law to engage in some form of stra-tegic planning resulting in a strategic plan. How an organization engages in strategic planning will be determined by a variety ofExactly why and when an organization circumstances and factors, many of whichengages in a strategic planning process will be beyond the control of the actualshould be driven by the needs of the orga- planners. And while there is no single rightnization and its immediate operational way to execute a strategic planning processenvironment. In an organization with a as noted previously, there are a few essen-rapidly changing operational environment, tial tasks that must be successfully accom-mission requirements, or resource pos- plished to avoid failure:ture, comprehensive and detailed planning Assemble the right planning team.should be performed once or twice a year,with attention to mission, vision, values, Ensure the team has representa-the environment, issues, goals, strategies, tives from all key stakeholder groups responsible for executionobjectives, responsibilities, timelines, bud- of the plan, as well as representa-gets, and so on. In a fairly stable opera- tives from organizations that will be affected by the plan. Solutions used:
While the team should be inclu- Acceptable to all stakeholder 3. Strategy development—This phase sive, it also needs to be right- groups, especially those responsi- involves developing strategic objectives sized. Smaller teams tend to be ble for the work leading to success as building blocks to reach goals and more nimble and flexible in their thinking. Realistic in terms of the resources the “to-be” state. The objectives are at hand and capabilities of the identified by performing a gap analysis The executive leadership should staff to determine the actions needed to be included in the planning group, and should drive development Balanced as far as time frames for transform the organization from the and implementation of the plan. implementation and delivery, orga- “as-is” to the “to-be” state. Strategies At least one person from this cat- nizational priorities, and quality are developed by a cross-functional egory should have the authority to results (in other words, it is more important to do it right than to do team to coordinate interrelationships make strategic decisions for the leadership team. it fast) toward achieving the overall strategic goals. Establish clear role and responsi- Extensible into the future bility guidelines for membership. Reviewable by higher and external 4. Strategy mapping—This phase involves For example, specify those directly authorities. involved in planning, those who establishing the linkages between the will provide key information to the Properly factor the organization’s need objectives and the desired outcomes process, those who will review the and capacity for transformation and to produce a strategy map. A strategy plan document, those who will implementation. authorize the document, etc. map shows the cause-effect relation- Fully align organizational projects, pro- ships of processes and activities to Designate a planning coordinator grams, and resources to support the desired outcomes. The result of this with responsibility to facilitate and strategy. manage the process, including phase is a business model for how arranging meetings, helping to Ensure adequate executive involve- actions interrelate to drive desired record key information, helping ment, leadership, and organizational changes. with flipcharts, monitoring status discipline. of prework, etc. The planning coordinator should plan, schedule, 5. implementation planning—This phase The major components of a strategic plan- and document the major steps in involves developing performance mea- the planning process to move the ning exercise should include the following sures and initiatives for implementing process forward and help the orga- phases: the strategic objectives. A gap analysis nization conduct its own planning in the future. is performed on the current portfolio of 1. assessment—This phase requires projects to determine if there is align- Different team members will be conducting some type of assessment ment to the strategic plan. Planners needed more at different times in the planning process. The planning or review of the organizations “as-is” are required to detail implementation coordinator should ensure the mix state. The nature and extent of the schedules, roles, and responsibilities is right at the right time. assessment or review will vary by orga- and publish the strategic plan. Define and communicate in simple nization. In any event, planners must terms the mission and purpose of the have a clear understanding of the vari- 6. cascading—This phase involves com- organization. The mission and purpose ous strengths, weaknesses, opportuni- municating the plan throughout the statements should be: ties, and threats (SWOT) relative to the organization. Each business unit devel- Unambiguous organization. During this step planners ops a strategic plan that aligns and should also assess or measure the supports the objectives of the corpo- Easily understood and recognized health of major organizational projects, rate strategic plan. Strategic objectives Effectively communicated programs, and systems. can be further cascaded to teams and individuals to align their contributions Universally accepted. 2. Strategic foundations—This phase to the overall goals. Establish realistic goals and objectives involves defining the mission, vision, consistent with the organizational mis- and values of the organization based 7. Measurement—In this phase, results sion and purpose in a defined time frame or schedule. Goals and objec- on understanding customer and stake- are measured against the targets set tives must be: holder needs. It answers the critical forth in the strategic plan. Performance questions of, why do we exist, and measures that were identified during Specific in nature and understood by all parties what do we want to be in the future? the implementation planning phase are During this step planners identify the used to assess results toward achiev- Measurable in relation to progress organization’s high level strategic goals ing strategic objectives. Measuring against an initial baseline and quantifiable upon accomplishment that clarify the “to-be” state. and monitoring performance can be
automated through the use of sched- lack of an internal resource with suf- uled progress reports, executive dash- ficient facilitation or strategic planning boards, and scorecards. skills—Nothing takes the place of experi- ence. Consultants bring a store of knowl-8. Evaluation—Leading and lagging indi- edge to each planning effort, built over time cators of performance are analyzed to as they move from organization to organiza- judge the effectiveness of the imple- tion. Good consultants will share the knowl- mentation. The analysis reveals areas edge and insights gained through years of that are not meeting expectations and experience. By definition, good consultants allows for management interventions. are good communicators and analysts. This phase will pinpoint problems with Good communicators not only send infor- specific initiatives or problems with mation—they also receive it and validate the strategic model itself. The phase it. They realize that there is more than one enables the organization to make type of stakeholder associated with a pro- refinements to the strategic plan and gram—for example, the CEO’s perspective adapt its business model to changes in and insights are going to be different from the environment. those of software developers—and seek to validate assumptions.JumP-Starting Strategic Planning the benefit of having an objective view-Getting started is often one of the most dif- point from a party who does not have aficult parts of a strategic planning exercise. strong predisposition about the organi-This is especially true if your organization zation’s strategic plan or direction—Theand team are undertaking such an effort most important benefit of hiring consultantsfor the first time or have failed in previ- is the objectivity they can bring to projects.ous attempts. In cases like these, you may Without any “skin in the game,” consultantswant to seek outside assistance. There are can impartially analyze an organization andmany other compelling reasons to obtain monitor progress toward implementation ofassistance in developing a strategic plan or the strategic plan. Of course, the organiza-direction. tion must engage a firm with a reputation for the highest integrity, along with the cour-lack of organizational consensus about age and conviction to provide frank advicestrategic planning and current organi- and support. A trusting relationship andzational issues—No one wants to tell his good rapport between the contracting orga-or her boss bad news. An independent nization and the consultant is a must.contractor, however, has no incentive tocommunicate anything other than the unvar- It’s never too early or too late to begin ornished truth of an organizational assess- reassess your organization’s strategic plan.ment or SWOT analysis so the organization If your organization needs help, considercan get on the right path toward its to-be an outside consultant with the skills to planstate. Of course, the final decisions rest and to implement a strategy to foster suc-with the hiring organization. Seeking assis- cess.tance to develop a strategic plan does notmean that the organization is abdicatingits responsibilities. Rather, this assistanceis a means to achieve corporate goals andobjectives. The job of consultants is to pro-vide an honest assessment so the organiza-tion knows where it is and what it has—andwhat it will take to achieve its goals. Inessence, consultants have advisory roles—not executive ones.