Strategic Planning Services
We provide strategic planning services to help leaders achieve outcome breakthroughs that include:
- External Analysis
- Internal Organizational Analysis
- Performance Evaluation
- Risk Analysis
- Scenario Planning
- Cost Benefit Analysis
- Resource Analysis & Management
- Planning, Programming, Budgeting
Strategic Planning Keys and Challenges in Government
We understand the keys and challenges to developing and successfully implementing a strategic plan that delivers the desired mission outcomes. Looking to the future, defining desired outcomes, identifying which programs will lead to desired outcomes, and evaluating performance on an ongoing basis is difficult.
Stakeholders (e.g., elected officials, cabinet members, other appointees) change frequently and so do their priorities. There are growing changes in the domestic and global environment. Threats are becoming more diverse and interconnected and more difficult to predict. However, anticipating and effective planning is more critical than ever.
Government organizations engage in a complex planning process that can be difficult, especially in the context of a diverse stakeholder environment with numerous and often divergent interests and priorities. They engage in an annual process of planning, programming, budgeting, and execution – or a similar process. The planning involves setting strategic planning goals and priorities for the organization. This is followed by programming or translating the plans and priorities into time-phased resource allocation requirements. Budgeting entails develop budget submissions to OMB and Congress. Execution continues throughout the year and involves reviewing and reporting on cost and performance.
The strategic plans should have goals, defined outcomes, and strategic objectives. Federal agencies are also required (by GPRA Modernization Act of 2010) to establish, update, regularly review an agency performance plan. These focus on performance goals designed to ensure that the strategic objectives are actionable, objective, quantifiable, and measurable. The performance goals are the major means for gauging progress toward the strategic goals of the organization. Actual performance is tracked against targets.
Performance-based budgeting will become a growing priority. It is not a new strategy for managing performance – and has been a top priority in government. It is a tool used to determine if programs are producing a return on investment and which ones aren’t and to fund programs according to performance. The challenge has been in tying performance to funding decisions in an effective way. As data, evidence-based practices, and analytics, and mature, performance-based budgeting will become increasingly common-place.
Problems with Strategic Planning
Common problems with strategic planning include:
- Hubris: Top leaders are often overconfident and have strong opinions and agendas. They can be resistant to other perspectives, insights, and data, and make costly decisions.
- Isolation: Frequently plans are developed by a narrow group in isolation. Key people within and outside of the organization are not identified and consulted with.
- Inadequate External Analysis: Often insufficient analysis or due diligence is conducted to understand stakeholder requirements, citizen needs and expectations, evidence-based practices, risks, trends, technologies, and political, economic, social, legal, and other key factors.
- Weak Internal Analysis: There is frequently a lack of in-depth understanding of the organization and its performance levels (e.g., outcomes, objectives, programs, operations), its strengths and weakness, the people and culture, and the organization’s readiness for change.
- Poor Strategy Development: Frequently the planning process is nothing more than a budgeting exercise with limited focus on alternative strategies, scenarios, goals, objectives, and programs that improve outcomes.
- Faulty Assumptions: There is a poor understanding of root causes, facts, and what solutions will best improve results – leading to weak resource investment decisions.
- Lack of Evidence-Based and Best Practice Research: There is inadequate time dedicated to determining what has proven to work best and what hasn’t worked and why.
- Insufficient Experimentation: Not enough resources are dedicated to research and experimentation to discover and/or develop the best solutions for problems. Because of this, in the end, substantively more money is spent on initiatives that fail.
- Poor Execution Planning: Most top leaders report that poor strategy execution is the biggest risk and challenge they have. Developing outstanding strategy execution takes considerable planning, collaboration, and work.
- Unreliable Programming and Budget Estimates: Government organizations struggle to provide accurate estimating costs and schedules. The GAO and OBM emphasize that nation’s fiscal path is unstainable and reliable cost and schedule estimates are more important than ever. A reliable estimate is one that is comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible.
- Poor Change Management: Most programs fail to meet their desired outcomes because of poor change management. Stakeholders, citizens, managers, and employees struggle when change is imposed upon them and they have not been engaged appropriately.
How We Help
We help leaders and their teams to improve their success in developing strategic plans that deliver desired results. We do this by focusing on:
- Objectiveness: Gathering and providing information to decision-makers to help them understand various perspectives, insight, and data within and outside of the organization.
- Inclusion: Engaging and gathering input from all relevant players to improve decision-making and generate commitment.
- Strategy Development: Helping leaders to adequately explore strategy and program alternatives, scenarios, and the strengths, weaknesses, benefits, and costs of each.
- Comprehensive External Analysis: Conducting due diligence to ensure decision-makers have the information they need to understand stakeholder requirements, citizen needs and expectations, risks, trends, technologies, and political, economic, social, legal, and other key factors that could impact the strategic plan.
- In-Depth Internal Analysis: Carrying out an in-depth analysis of the organization and its performance levels (e.g., outcomes, objectives, programs, operations), its strengths and weakness, the people and culture, and the organization’s readiness for change.
- Root Cause Analysis: Uncovering root causes and defining solutions that best improve results.
- Evidence-Based and Best Practice Research: Research what has proven to work best and what hasn’t worked and why.
- Experimentation: Identifying where experimentation and testing are needed and layout plans accordingly.
- Strong Execution Planning: Making certain that execution plans are developed to deliver desired outcomes.
- Reliable Program Budget Estimates: Ensuring program budget estimates are comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible – to improve success.
- Outstanding Change Management: Developing effective change management plans for those involved and/or impacted by the plans.
We have substantive experience leading strategy, execution, and organizational improvement initiatives, as direct reports to top government, non-profit, and commercial leaders producing breakthrough mission results and billions in improvements.
We are passionate about strategy, execution, and improvement. We published a popular website on the topic. We served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Strategic Planning helping to promote and strengthen the field. Additionally, we chaired and led World Strategy Week for two years. We brought together thought leaders to discuss critical forces changing global economies. These included top government advisors (e.g., U.K. Prime Minister, U.S. White House), scholars from top universities, best-selling authors, and top executives.