Since the GPRA Modernization Act in 2010, agencies across the Federal Government have raced to establish new Strategic Plans in response to incoming Presidential Administrations and agency leaders. Developing a new Strategic Plan is incredibly exciting for an agency. Leaders can redefine priorities, frontline managers can improve mission performance, and employees can better engage with the mission.
Strategy, however, is so much more than just a Strategic Plan. Too many Federal Strategic Plans find themselves on the shelf within a year, discarded due to more pressing mission challenges, budget constraints, and leadership changes. Agencies need to reinvent the way they do strategy and put their bold, strategic ideas into action.
Strategic Plans must transcend from a static, standalone document to the communication of a flexible strategy that addresses a rapidly changing mission environment. It is time to reinvent strategy for the Federal Government. Here are a few ways agencies can reframe and rethink the way strategy works:
Treat a Strategic Plan as a means to an end, not the end itself – A Strategic Plan is not a strategy. A clean, well-designed document is simply a communication tool from your agency to employees and the public that outlines your agency’s goals, objectives, and initiatives for the coming years. Take time to develop a strategy first. Decide on your priorities for the coming years with your agency’s leadership and employees. Then, use the Strategic Plan to transparently communicate those priorities and hold the agency accountable to perform against the Plan
Get leadership buy-in first, but don’t forget your middle management team – The hardest part of strategy is implementing a Strategic Plan. Leaders come and go. While it’s important to make sure leaders set strategic priorities, middle managers at the GS-14/15 level and the staff level will likely outlast those leaders. Therefore, it is critical to get these other staff levels on board with a new strategy, as they will undoubtedly be the ones executing it at the mission level and providing continuity to the next leadership team. Implementation is hard, but management and staff make it so much easier when they buy into and live the strategy
Focus your efforts and don’t tackle everything in sight – Throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks doesn’t count as strategy, nor does biting off more than you can chew. In a time of budget cuts and belt-tightening, agencies must make decisions on priorities. Highlighting a few major priorities for the coming year(s) helps staff decide where to spend money, time, and resources. This clarity enables a workforce to make decisions, rather than wonder if everyone and everything in sight is a top priority for the agency
Next time your agency decides to write a Strategic Plan, stop and think—do we really need a Strategic Plan, or do we need a strategy? Once you’ve determined your strategy, you can write your Strategic Plan over breakfast.
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Arc Aspicio enhances the future of our nation by creating bold ideas and bringing them to life. A consulting and solutions company, Arc Aspicio solves problems by applying our integrated capabilities in strategy, design, data, human capital, behavioral science, and technology. The company passionately pursues our vision to be the hub of creativity where people take action to change the world. To do this, employees collaborate with clients and partners to create solutions using a human-centered approach. Innovation is not possible without action. The company focuses on strategy first, then takes a hands-on approach implementing ideas to achieve results. Join Arc Aspicio and our Strategy Innovation Lab (SILab) by creating and sharing ideas to inspire people to change the world. Follow us on Twitter @ArcAspicio @SILabDC and learn more at www.arcaspicio.com.