Do You Have A Strategic Plan or A Laundry List?
In the laundry-list approach, program managers often either are paralyzed by the enormity of their undefined task or run into roadblocks when they encounter others working on related tasks with a conflicting approach. Silos create confusion, conflicts, and inefficient resource allocation. Turf wars—and general paralysis-- ensue.
The key to understanding how has little to do with developing a detailed project work plan and everything to do with understanding:
- How your organization creates value to its customers/constituents
- What capabilities the organization needs to develop
- How these capabilities are built, borrowed, or emulated, guided by leading practices
- Why they’re critical
- How they will be applied to real-world business processes to benefit customers and stakeholders
- Who will be responsible for developing and providing these capabilities
Are you trying to create a strategy you can implement or a list of nice things to do?
Turning your aspirations into results is critical. Government leaders have many options to avoid the list of nice things to do – get peer reviews from fellow Government leaders at other agencies, ask stakeholders for feedback, ask the employees who need to implement it if your strategies will achieve the results. Getting outside help is also an alternative – the external view can help you accelerate results.
“Why aren’t strategies implemented?” is a common question inside and outside of Government. There are many reasons for these failures, but senior leadership commitment and stakeholder involvement are particularly critical as strategic plans are developed.
Beyond these critical factors, the nature of the plan itself, and the “strategies” that comprise it, are typically to blame. This is not because the strategies are difficult, but because they’re not really strategies. It is because they are laundry lists of things to do.
According to Phil Driver, only 5-10% of public service strategies achieve the desired results, as most strategies “are merely aspirations masquerading as strategies.”
Does the strategic plan your organization is attempting to implement represent the results of brainstorming around some key goals, often facilitated with a simple question “What are our opportunities?” Do they represent top-of-mind reactions to urgent or chronic pain-points that are captured in a meeting and put into the plan? Do they represent a desire to get started on something, anything, to show progress? If so, our experience shows you may have a laundry list. It tells you what to do, but it doesn’t say how.