We the Partnership

New insights on building a bold agency strategic plan

By Cara Glancey
September 24, 2021

On Sept. 8, the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton hosted a virtual event to announce the publication of “Meeting the Moment: Tips for Building Bold Strategic Plans and Turning Them into Results.” During the event, members of the project team outlined the practical steps agency strategic planners can take to create useful plans that drive results.

Building a useful strategic plan

The discussion launched with a description of what a useful strategic plan looks like. Speakers noted that strategic plans should relate to the full breadth of an agency’s mission while also identifying an agency’s top priorities and providing guidance on where to direct limited resources.

According to Grant Thornton’s Matt Troy, a useful strategic plan will:

  • Provide clear direction and specify what’s important over the next four years.
  • Include input and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Remain current and adapt to both internal and external changes.
  • Draw heavily on evidence.

Keynote speaker Jason Miller, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, affirmed that molding plans to these criteria make strategic planning “an incredible opportunity to increase the success rate of all agency missions.”

Yielding results

After publishing their plans, agencies should strengthen their focus on results. Often, resistance to change or a general lack of awareness about the plan can hinder progress; other times, even strong plans will be ineffectively executed.

According to Grant Thornton Senior Associate Amanda Hejna, achieving the goals outlined in a strategic plan requires agencies to:

  • Find creative ways to communicate to the workforce.
  • Integrate the plan into key agency processes.
  • Track and report progress, changing course if necessary.

These practices can make strategic plans critical tools that leaders and employees across the organization will use and reference regularly.

But measuring the success of an agency’s strategic plan can still be challenging. Several event panelists described the importance of helping employees fully understand—and connect with—the plan.

For Janis Coughlin-Piester, a deputy performance improvement officer at the National Science Foundation, “success is when the staff sees themselves in the plan, when they know what the plan is, and when they know what they need to do to help us implement it.”

Karen Peck, staff chief in the performance branch at the Department of Agriculture, echoed these ideas, noting that staff should be able to see themselves in not only agency strategic plans, but also in “this new administration’s priorities, specifically equity and inclusion and climate change” as well as “[understand] how each individual unique area of the agency makes the contribution strategically to achieving those goals and objectives.”

To learn more, watch our report release event and read “Meeting the Moment: Tips for Building Bold Strategic Plans and Turning Them into Results.”


Cara Glancey

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