Janine Marin - communications expert

High Impact Strategic Planning in the Public Sector

Direction. Mission. Goal. Objective.

These are all buzzwords that can describe the same thing – an organisation’s strategic plan. But a strategic plan is more than just goals – it is the process of defining an organisation’s strategy and allocating resources to actively pursue the execution of this strategy. 

Strategic planning has long been important in the private sector and the public sector is gaining speed with development and implementation of it. A quick Google search shows strategic plans published by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australia Academy of Science and the National Library of Australia, among others. And state and local councils are realising the benefits as well – Brisbane City Council is just one example.

The importance of a strategic framework

In fact, research shows there is a positive relationship between strategic planning and improved organisational performance in the public sector. Moreover,  substantial evidence shows that having a strong strategic framework within an organisation helps produce desired outcomes for the long-term.

One way a strong strategic plan does this is by helping government manage four modern challenges.

Four modern challenges faced by government agencies

Complex operating environment. Owing to increased scale and pace of change, much of which is driven by rapidly advancing technology, today’s operating environment has become highly complex. A strong strategic framework reinforces an organisation’s overall sense of purpose, providing critical direction and energy for the whole organisation.

Increasing stakeholder involvement. Finding solutions to challenges in the public sector requires the involvement of more stakeholders than in the past. A strategic plan helps communicate clearly and efficiently with staff and stakeholders across all levels of the agency. This cascading narrative directly contributes to ownership, problem-solving and improved organisational performance.

Erosion of public confidence. Strategic planning helps boost public confidence by providing a concise vision, an efficient plan for achieving that vision and a methodology for measuring outcomes. It also addresses the need for openness and transparency, integrity, accountability, due care and public defensibility.

The challenge of limited resources. Today many government agencies are feeling the squeeze on budgetary limitations. A strong strategic plan helps set clear priorities and ensures that the organisation is making the best use of their resources, both financially and staff-wise.

So how can government agencies implement a high impact strategic plan?

Four-step approach to high impact strategic planning.

  1. Promote a strategic culture. Start with the head of the organisation, and involve all levels of management and staff. When individuals are involved from the start it helps address the risk-adverse mindset and promotes a feeling of ownership over the strategy and its outcomes.
  2. Leverage purpose to mobilise action. Use the organisation’s mission to mobilise action by setting clear strategic priorities to achieving the vision and communicating this strategy throughout the organisation.
  3. Transform outdated operating models. Move away from the hierarchal and rigid public sector operating model and towards integrated processes and policies. Create opportunities for developing interrelated portfolios of programs and encourage cross-program engagement.
  4. Implement systems for execution. Develop tools, processes and data that can be used to execute strategic objectives and measure progress. When strategy isn’t integrated into day-to-day actions, staff can focus too much on programs that aren’t relevant to strategic priorities. 

Government agencies must adapt to the changing environment in which they operate, or risk becoming irrelevant or losing purpose. Establishing a strong strategic plan that identifies its mission and drives problem-solving and resources to support that mission is the best way forward for all government agencies.

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