How to Create a Strategic Plan
Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
When it comes to business and finance, strategic planning will help you allocate your resources, energy and assets. When implemented, a strategic plan will begin to move your operations in a more profitable direction. The primary goal of the plan is to ensure you and any other stakeholders are on the same page and striving to reach the same goal.
Creating a strategic plan requires a disciplined effort. Once you put the plan into action, it will influence the segment of customers that you target, how you serve those customers and the experience those customers have.
Assess the Current Infrastructure and Operations
The first step in creating a strategic plan is to carefully assess your existing infrastructure and operations. You can do this through a SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal here is to pinpoint the resources that you use to carry out your day-to-day operations, to look at your monthly revenue patterns, to list any company challenges related to the customer experience and, most importantly, to look at your marketing methods and ways to improve the overall customer experience.
Creation of Mission Statement and Objectives
The next step is to create a mission statement. You may already have one, but it’s important to note your mission at the top of the strategic plan document you create. This ensures everyone is focused on the same goal. Your mission statement should cover why you started the company and what you intend to accomplish through the products and services that you offer.
In addition to the mission statement, make sure to outline both short- and long-term objectives. List the objectives according to their priority and designate certain managers or employees to be responsible for each one. Also, jot down the resources that will be used to achieve each objective.
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who is responsible for each goal, it’s time to deploy the plan and measure its progress. A weekly meeting is extremely important for all managers and stakeholders provide feedback. Your goal is to determine if the company is headed in the right direction. If not, you’ll need to revise the strategic plan accordingly.
Strategic Plans Are Ongoing
Once your strategic plan helps you achieve several objectives, it’s smart to regroup and set new objectives. As your company grows, you can set new goals to ensure the company keeps moving forward. You can share the success of your strategic plan with potential investors as a way to tap into new capital funding.
- Terms of Service
- © 2023 Ask Media Group, LLC
Local Government Strategic Planning Process + Example
Strategic planning in government can be challenging. You need to ensure stakeholder input is taken into account, your strategy is aligned across all city departments, capital projects are linked to multiple plans, and all involved are bought into the strategy.
The good news is, it can be done and the process may be easier than you think. The even better news is, we'll be sharing our local government strategic planning process for achieving this here.
We've worked with a number of local governments through the process of implementing strategy in their organization. During these implementation projects we're often asked about the best way to structure and create their strategic plan.
In order to shed some light on this recurring issue, we've decided to address this in our local government strategic planning guide.
Local Government Strategic Planning Process
The local government strategic planning process should follow the steps below:
- Writing Your City Strategic Plan
- Strategy Roll-out to Divisions and Departments (We will touch on this in later articles)
- Executing Strategic Plan (We will touch on this in later articles)
While the above steps are a slightly simplified version of our local government strategic planning process, it should help give you an understanding of the phases in the strategy cycle as a basis - before you get caught up in the detail of the different things involved in each step.
We'll now look into the first two phases mentioned above and explain what it is, what the different components are, and how to go through each phase successfully to arrive at the next to create you government strategic plan.
When city/town managers and other executive leaders take on the task of strategic planning in government, an environmental scan should always be the first step. The environmental scan will require local governments to study and analyze the current and emerging forces that exist within their municipalities internal and external environment.
It provides city managers with comprehensive information on the current conditions of the city that may present potential opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses to take advantage of or mitigate.
An internal analysis examines your organization’s internal environment in order to assess its resources, competencies, and competitive advantages. Performing an internal analysis allows you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, as well as the opportunities and threats that face your organization.
This knowledge aids the strategic decision making of management while they carry out the strategy formulation and execution process. We've already created a guide to conducting an internal analysis in an earlier article, so check it out , and then come on back here to continue. As a quick overview, things you'll probably want to cover in your internal analysis will include:
- A Strategy Analysis - to help you evaluate how well you performed against your current strategic plan, what you can do better, and where you should be focusing.
- Internal Stakeholder Analysis - allows you to gather insight into the concerns and views of all internal stakeholders of your city and the impact they may have.
- SWOT Analysis - will be beneficial in gaining a holistic view of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face your city/town.
- VRIO Analysis - will help you identify any competitive advantages you have, and how to turn them into sustained competitive advantages.
An external analysis is the process of researching and examining the external environment your organization operates in, in order to determine where opportunities and threats to your town/city lie.
Just like any organization, local governments are affected by factors outside of their immediate control that they must prepare for. For example, changing legislation and policies, demographic changes, or climate concerns. Things you'll probably want to cover in an external analysis will include:
- A PESTLE analysis - to assist in identifying the different areas that may impact your city.
- An External Stakeholder Analysis - allows you to gather insight into the concerns and views of all external stakeholders of your local government and the impact they may have.
Local Government Strategic Plan Example
The actual creation of your cities strategic plan can now begin. Armed with the information and insights gathered during your environmental scan, you should now be well equipped to formulate great strategies to achieve your municipalities goals.
There is one more thing you will need to consider before actually writing your strategy - and that is the 'model' (design of strategic plan structure) that you will actually use. For the purpose of this article we're going to be using 'The Cascade Model' as we have found that this approach to strategic model is simply more effective when it comes to execution than any other model we've tried.
We've slightly adapted some of the terminology in the model to work in the context of local governments. So, with that being said..
What is the Cascade Model?
The Cascade Model is made up of 6 components. We've put together a diagram below of what the components of The Cascade Model look like in use for local government.
Your vision statement defines where you want to get to . Your Vision Statement is the anchor that stops you getting lost at sea. It will help to tunnel your strategy towards the outcomes that matter the most to your municipality.
Every single thing that you write into your plan from this point onward, will ultimately be helping you to get closer to your Vision. If your city needs a hand writing it's vision statement, check out this article for a complete guide.
An example vision statement for a local government may be.. 'A safer, smarter, healthier city which allows all our citizens to thrive'
Values represent how you'll behave as an organization as you work towards your vision. Think of Values as the 'enablers' to your Vision Statement. Don't be afraid to be honest about how you want the people in your local government organization to act and think through their day to day work contributing to the strategy. If you need a hand finding the core values of your city, check out this article for a complete guide .
An examples of values held by a local government may include.. 'Diversity' 'Respect' 'Innovation' 'Trust'.
Your focus areas are the high level areas that you’ll be focusing your city's efforts around as you strive towards your vision. We usually suggest creating between 3 to 5 Focus Areas. Any fewer and they will probably be too vague. Any more, and well.....I for one certainly can't focus on more than 5 things at once! For a complete guide on creating key focus areas, check out this article!
Continuing on with our local government example, focus areas may include.. 'Safe & healthy community' 'Urban experience' 'Innovative infrastructure' ''Economic vibrancy and employment'.
Strategic Objectives represent what your city actually want to accomplish - they’re reasonably high level, but should still have a deadline attached. Your Strategic Objectives (also known as strategic goals) should align to one or more of your Focus Areas and should start to put some tangibility into what you think achieving your focus areas will look like. Typically you’ll have between 3-6 objectives for each focus area. Check out this article for a complete guide to creating awesome strategic objectives.
Borrowing from our example of focus areas above, if we were creating strategic objectives for the focus area 'Safe & Healthy Community', examples of strategic objectives may be
- 'Improve neighborhood safety by 31st of December 2022'
- 'Increase housing security by 30th of June 2022'
- 'Improve services to youth and vulnerable populations by 31st of December 2022'
Work plans describe what you will do to accomplish your objectives (or goals). They help convert the big picture into smaller, more manageable outcomes and tasks. It is at this point in your strategic planning process that you will start to scope out exactly what actions you will take in order to achieve certain objectives, and what skills, experience and resources will be needed. If you need a hand creating your work plans, check out this resource.
Taking our strategic objective from above 'Improve services to youth and vulnerable populations by 31st of December 2021' , an example of a work plan that would fall under this may be 'Fund an collaborate with a myriad of community organizations working in human and social services'
KPI’s are how you will measure progress towards your strategic objectives. KPI's are measurable values that show your organization’s progress towards achieving key business objectives.
KPIs should be developed to contribute to achieving a specific goal or objective, and are how you will know if you have achieved your strategic objective or not. If you need a hand developing great KPIs, we've created a 4 step process for creating awesome KPIs.
An example of a KPI for the strategic objective ' Improve services to youth and vulnerable populations by 31st of December 2021' may be something like 'Decrease the unmet need for mental health services to 0% by 31st of December 2021'.
Local Government Strategic Plan
Following the steps detailed in this article should allow you to create a great city strategic plan. The strategic planning process should not stop here though, the strategy roll out is just as crucial to the planning process as writing the city strategic plan.
This is because the roll-out phase is when you'll have the opportunity to share the strategy with the rest of the departments in your municipality, in order for those departments to then create their own strategic plans based off the cities plan.
Without cascading the city strategy down through the organization, poor alignment between departments can foster, and confusion and inefficiencies are created.
Strategic Planning Vs Operational Planning: What’s The Difference?
Strategy Review: How To Run It & What To Include
The 4 Levels Of Strategy: The Difference & How To Apply Them
Risk Mitigation Strategies: Types & Examples (+ Free Template)
Your toolkit for strategy success.
7 Best Practices for Local Government Strategic Planning
A local government strategic plan provides an opportunity for city and county managers to shape everything from their jurisdiction’s youth services, accessibility, and downtown landscape. This two-to-five-year plan is a vision for the future—one that finds the balance between available resources and big dreams.
A strategic plan is an opportunity for local government managers to connect to their community’s needs and to build initiatives based on resident priorities. To that end, it’s one of the most valuable work products local government leaders will draft and oversee. Preparing it must come with careful consideration. However, developing a strategic plan also involves some complexity and several moving parts. Council members must also approve the plan. Adhering to the following best practices for local government strategic planning can help you streamline your planning process and ultimately improve your strategic plan.
Local government strategic planning best practices
The strategic planning best practices below will help city and county managers draft and execute a successful plan.
1. Obtain community input
A strategic plan serves the community, so it should take the community’s needs into consideration . Seeking community input during the planning process is critical. Additionally, mechanisms to ensure that resident feedback is heard should be established. These mechanisms include public meetings, surveys, hearings, workshops, and technological solutions for broader participation by those who would not necessarily participate.
2. Put vision before resources
Policy experts often recommend that the vision of the strategic plan not be hampered by available resources. The GFOA Best Practices: Establishment of Strategic Plans states that a strategic plan is about “influencing the future, not just preparing for it or adapting to it.” It goes on to say that it is the vision itself that should drive the allocation of resources. In other words, while it is important to consider resources, strategic plans are a roadmap. And as they don’t require dollar-for-dollar accounting, you should see your strategic plan as an opportunity to dream big.
3. Incorporate equity from the first step
Including DEI in your strategic plan ensures that you’re serving all parts of your community – not just the active participants. The American Planning Association defines this as “recognizing planning practices that have had an unequal impact on specific communities and actively working with affected residents to create better communities for all.” Establishing equitable and inclusive processes from the ideation phase ensures that all residents have a voice in shaping the vision and setting strategic priorities, ensuring that all residents benefit from your strategic plan.
Too often, the most active participants in local government do not necessarily speak for the entire community. More so, the most vulnerable members of your community may face barriers to participation. These include language barriers, accessibility, and even a lack of knowledge that taking part in local government is possible. Lowering these barriers and including underrepresented voices in your strategic plan helps you build a city with all of the communities you serve. For city and county managers, this means broadening the ways by which you hear from the community and gather feedback.
4. Build on the past
A successful strategic plan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. City and county managers should borrow from the successes of previous strategic plans, and from the successes of their neighbors. Similarly, local governments can benchmark against similar communities .
5. Utilize data to support your plan
Perhaps one of the most important steps in creating a strategic plan is the approval process. The process of creating a plan varies by jurisdiction: in some cities and towns, managers are responsible for creating the plan, while in other jurisdictions the plan is created by a committee. One constant, however, is that strategic plans and the priorities they establish must be approved by elected officials such as council members. The challenge is that it can be difficult to approve policies that are endorsed by more than just the loudest members if council members are not heard by the entire community.
For this reason, data is one of the most valuable tools local governments leaders can harness, as it means backing up proposed initiatives with the priorities of the community at large. This is where community input comes into play, and it is representative and diverse community input. Using organic feedback and broad-reaching surveys can help local government leaders get elected officials on board and approve their strategic plan.
6. Measure your performance
A successful local government strategic plan provides a vision for the future and also lays out necessary steps to achieve those goals. Performance management is the assessment of the implementation of a strategic plan through key performance indicators (KPIs) and data analysis. Without KPIs, it’s impossible to know whether implementation is going according to plan and which areas need to be optimized. Performance management is an opportunity to evaluate your strategic plan in real-time —or even just a portion of it. Perhaps equally importantly, performance management also provides a foundation for future plans.
7. Stay flexible
If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that even the best-laid plans can go awry. For that reason, staying flexible and dynamic is a must for executing a strong strategic plan. City and county managers must be able to set a course in both the development and implementation of a strategic plan. Additionally, they need to adapt to changes in the environment and lessons learned through performance management and evaluation. Doing so is a recipe for success.
Local government strategic planning: next steps
Following these best practices puts local government leaders on the path to a dynamic strategic plan that serves all members of the community. However, with each of these best practices come new challenges that must be considered in order to be truly successful.
Blog posts in your inbox
Subscribe today to receive the latest updates.
Have a Research Question?
- Research Tools
- Explore Topics
- Stay Informed
This page provides basic information about strategic planning for local governments in Washington State, including examples of local strategic plans, vision statements, and mission statements.
What Is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is the process by which leaders of an organization, such as a local government, determine what it intends to be in the future and how it will get there. It involves developing a vision for the organization's future and determining the necessary goals, priorities, and action strategies to achieve that vision.
As Yogi Berra would say:
"If you don't know where you are going - you might end up someplace else."
A strategic plan serves as a community's roadmap and is used to prioritize initiatives, resources, goals, and department operations and projects. The strategic plan is a big-picture document directing efforts and resources toward a clearly defined vision.
Community visioning is the process of developing consensus about what future the community wants, and then deciding what is necessary to achieve it. A vision statement captures what community members most value about their community, and the shared image of what they want their community to become. It inspires community members to work together to achieve the vision.
A thoughtful vision statement is one of the elements needed to form a forward looking strategic framework that gives councils or boards the long-term-comprehensive perspective necessary to make rational and disciplined tactical/incremental decisions on community issues as they arise. Community vision statements are typically crafted through a collaborative process that involves a wide variety of community residents, stakeholders and elected officials.
Mission statements are directly connected to vision statements. While a vision statement describes the desired future state of the organization, the mission statement describes how that vision will be achieved. Ideally, mission and vision statements are crafted through a collaborative process that involves a wide array of community stakeholders and elected officials, usually as part of an overall strategic plan.
A well-crafted mission statement should capture in a short, concise paragraph the purpose of the organization's existence and what actions it takes to fulfill this purpose.
Examples of Strategic Plans
Below are a few examples of strategic plans adopted by local governments in Washington State.
- Camas Strategic Plan 2018-2020
- Issaquah Citywide Strategic Plan webpage – Allows viewers to access parts of the plan via related webpages or download the entire document
- Richland 2018 Strategic Leadership Plan
- Shoreline City Council Goals and Workplan, 2022-2024
- Snohomish Strategic Plan 2014-2018
- Spokane Strategic Plan webpage – Allows viewers to access measures/goals built into the 6-year strategic plan, including a 1-page summary
- Tacoma 2025 Strategic Plan
- Cowlitz County Strategic Plan 2016-2020
- Thurston County Strategic Plan 2019-2020
Special Purpose Districts
- Franklin Public Utility District Excellence in Governance & Strategic Plan
- Lakehaven Utility District Water System Plan Update 2016 – Water-sewer district
- Olympic Medical Center Strategic Plan 2021-2024
- Port of Vancouver 2018 Strategic Plan
- South King Fire & Rescue Strategic Leadership Plan 2017-2021
Examples of Vision and/or Mission Statements
Below are a few examples of mission statements and/or vision statements adopted by local governments in Washington State.
- Bothell Road Map 2017-2018 – Includes vision, strategies, values, and city council goals
- Lakewood Resolution No. 2015-30 (2015) – Adopting vision statement
- Pullman City Council Mission
- Renton Business Plan – Includes vision, mission, and goals
- Seattle City Clerk Vision, Mission, and Values – Specific to clerk's office
- Shoreline Vision 2029
- Snoqualmie Fire Department Mission & Goals
- Stanwood Public Works Mission Statement – Specific to public works department
- Tacoma The Principles that Guide Us – Includes vision and mission statements
- Walla Walla Statement of Mission, Vision & Values
- Clallam County Mission Statement and Statement of Values
- Spokane County 2018 Strategic Framework – One-page overview connecting mission to core values, objectives, and vision
- Lacey Fire District No. 3 Mission, Vision & Values
- Port of Kalama What is Our Mission?
- Woodinville Water District Mission Statement
Below are some resources that local governments can use to help develop their strategic planning processes, visions, and mission statements.
- Balanced Scorecard Institute: Is There Any Strategy In Your Strategic Plan? (2008)
- Boston Consulting Group: Four Steps to High Impact Strategic Planning in Government (2018)
- Center for Rural Pennsylvania: Planning for the Future: A Handbook on Community Visioning (2006) – Well-organized guide outlines a suggested process, elements of success, and lessons learned. Also provides sample workshop agendas, announcements, checklists and other materials.
- Community Tool Box: Chapter 8: Developing a Strategic Plan – Part of the "Community Tool Box" provided by the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development
- Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA): Building a Financially Resilient Government through Long-Term Financial Planning (2011)
- Strategic Planning for Local Government – For-purchase ICMA publication
- Maine State Planning Office: Community Visioning Handbook: How to Imagine - and Create - a Better Future (2003) – Particularly thoughtful visioning guide. Nice explanation of "why vision?" useful "how to" steps and public workshop instructions, tips and exercises.
- Mosaica: Strategic Planning: A Ten-Step Guide (2001) – Useful general guide to strategic planning for all types of organizations.
- National Civic League: Community Visioning and Strategic Planning Handbook (2000) – Still useful guide lays out the framework of the successful community planning processes used by the National Civic League and others across the country
A Conversation with Fred Jarrett Part 2: Lean Principles
Getting What You Want Through Foresight and Creativity
Planners manage conflict every day: Here's how to get better at it
Washougal eyes adding three new city positions
- GovTrends Blog
- Case Studies
Government Strategic Planning 2023: Examples & Helpful Tips
When it comes to getting things done as a local government, two of the most critical variables are budgets and timeframes. To be as efficient as possible, you’ll need an ironclad strategic plan for your local government that showcases how you’ll spend your local budget and how you and your subcontractors will meet timeframe deliverables on public projects.
Here, we’ll explore the key reasons that you owe it to your constituents to have a local government strategic plan, along with examples and tips for crafting the best plan possible.
What is a Government Strategic Plan?
A local government strategic plan is the process of assessing and addressing the current situations in your area as they pertain to critical physical infrastructure, regional natural disasters, government technology, cyber-security, the health of your constituents, and other variables that will have a direct impact on your neighborhood and constituents. Once your local government identifies the largest threats for your neighborhood, the key to a high-quality government strategic planning process is forming a plan for mitigating risk and completing infrastructure projects as cheaply and quickly as possible.
Why is a Strategic Plan Critical for a Local Government?
Without a gameplan, your locality is more likely to blow through your departmental budgets and miss deadlines for infrastructure projects. Strategic plans allow your governmental officials to give serious consideration to the future before building a roadmap that will help your team to achieve goals that matter to your constituents.
What Should Be Included in a Government Strategic Plan?
Your local government will need to consider national issues that pertain to town and city governments across the United States as well as regional issues that more directly impact your community than localities elsewhere.
Here’s a look at the common features of a local government strategic plan:
1. voices across government departments & roles.
While government leadership should play a major role throughout the strategic planning process, a true risk mitigation effort needs to consider various perspectives and potential future outcomes. Working with a diverse rank of government officials across departments and leadership levels will allow you to craft a well-rounded strategy.
2. Consider Your Mission
Your local government needs to build your plan around a general mission statement. At a high-level, what are the issues your government is most determined to address? What upcoming public projects matter most to your constituents?
Giving these questions serious thought will allow you to articulate the key components of your strategy in a simple mission statement.
3. Holistic Risk-Assessment
Every government has risks to consider and address with policy and infrastructure projects. A holistic view of the various threats to your locality will include:
- National issues: social and economic challenges are occurring at the national level, and constituents on both sides of the aisle are frustrated with their government’s inadequacies. Consideration to which issues matter most at a national level will allow your locality to take localized efforts to address them.
- Constituent frustrations: angered constituents equates to a failed re-election effort. Your local government needs to consider which issues matter most to your constituents, and assess these issues to prevent bad government-constituent relations. Read this guide to learn more about Why the Public is Losing Trust in Local Governments
- Economic hardship: especially as we enter a period of recession, your local government will need to consider the impact of inflation on local businesses, constituents, and budgets.
- Natural disasters: which particular natural disasters pose the largest risk to your area? What actions have / are being taken to address these disasters, mitigate risks, and communicate with the public?
- Cyber attacks: hackers have been causing local government data breaches for years, and attacks are becoming more frequent. Have you made the effort to embrace cyber secure technology and back up your government data?
- Intergovernmental challenges: are you having issues recruiting new government workers? Are your internal processes inefficient and expensive? Is your information technology strategy up to date? Failure to recognize and address these types of issues is one of the biggest causes of inefficient bureaucracy.
- Public policy: which national and state laws are the highest priority for your locality to address in the near future? What penalties will you face for failing to address these policies?
4. A Refined List of Issues
Once you’ve considered all of the broad risks, it’s time to prioritize the most important ones and build your strategic plan to address them. The top issues should be concerning to your constituents, pose serious risks to the health, quality, safety, economy etc. of your community, and will be quintessential to the future endeavors of the local government and township as a whole.
5. An Actionable Gameplan
Now that you’ve collectively agreed on the major issues, it’s time to consider the course of action to address them. Your local government strategic planning needs to articulate where departmental budgets will be allocated in coming months and time frames for getting work completed along with actionable strategies for hitting these deadlines.
To save time and money, many local governments are embracing a digital transformation with government management software. This software automates government tasks and stores financial data in real time, meaning you’ll be able to regularly assess your budgets and save time on government projects.
6. Use Measurable KPIs
To assess your performance, you’ll need to determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) matter most in your strategic plan and set measurable goals for each.
Consider the following goal types when setting your KPIs:
- How much is this public infrastructure project expected to cost?
- How long is this government project going to take?
- Are constituents happy with the efforts being taken by our locality?
Gauging timelines, public perception, project budgets, and other key aspects of a strategic plan will make it easy to see if you're nailing your goals or missing the mark. Learn more in our guide to Setting Measurable Local Government Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Once KPIs are identified, outline who’s doing what and assign them a task via your local government management platform to keep everyone organized and accountable.
7. Put Your Plan Into Action
Upon the completion of your plan and approval of the policymakers for budgets and timeframes pertaining to the key projects, it’s time to take action on implementing your government projects. Release RFPs for private-sector partnerships, begin filing the key paperwork, and ensure intergovernmental communications make it explicitly clear who’s doing what and when.
Here’s a real-life strategic planning example of How Jackson, NJ Successfully Took Action on Their Government-Wide Digital Transformation Goal .
8. Get Back to the Drawing Board
Taking strategic action to address risks obviously involves some risk in itself. You’ll need to pay key attention to your KPIs, and pivot if issues arise with meeting timeline and budgetary goals.
If these types of issues do occur, you’ll need to consider which aspects of the process could be streamlined with government technology . Automation will save time and money to increase the success rate of projects outlined in your management planning.
Pro Tips for Mastering Local Government Strategic Planning
While the above section highlighted the key aspects of the government strategic planning process, this section will teach you the best practices for taking it to the next level.
Here are some key tips for mastering strategic planning:
- Don’t be late to making a digital transformation: states like NJ and FL are setting the tone by passing electronic permitting and inspection laws for a reason: because it saves governments time and money and boosts the local economy. To mitigate risk across the board before you even get to strategic planning, going digital will make future endeavors more efficient and timely (and mitigate cybersecurity threats!.)
- Correspond with constituents constantly : your constituents elected local leadership because they believed you’d make serious strides towards improving their local quality of life. To make that happen, you’ll need to truly understand which issues are most concerning to them. Having a firm grasp on constituents’ takes on major issues and where public funds should be allocated will make it easier to make a strategic plan that positively benefits the people in your neighborhood.
- Give government officials time to think about the strategic plan: Government leadership should let government workers know in advance that they’ll be asked for input on the government strategic plan. That will give them time to truly ask big questions when it comes to the biggest issues in your locality to prioritize.
- Check in on your financial dashboards: knowing where your taxpayer dollars and federal grants (from recent legislation like the American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure Investments & Job Acts) are being allocated is quintessential to seeing a government strategic plan through. With GovPilot, data across departments is pulled into financial dashboards in real time, allowing you to see where money is being spent and how cost per project is lining up against your budget.
- Use automated RFP notifications for local business partners: efficient and cost effective private-sector partners will be critical to seeing your highest priority physical & digital infrastructure projects through. With automated RFP software, you can send email blasts / texts out to local private sector businesses and collect proposals in a simple online platform. Learn more in our guide to the Best Software for Government Procurement .
Understanding the Government Strategic Planning Process
Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Your constituents deserve a well-thought out gameplan for how their tax dollars are being spent and how their elected officials are bringing about meaningful change. Take the time to strategic plan across the entirety of your municipal or county government by considering the largest risks and how you’ll address them. Answer big questions regarding costs and timelines, and set actionable KPIs to turn your plan into action. And use government technology to automate workflows, track budget allocation, and get paperwork filed quickly.
Learn more about how GovPilot government software can transform your local government processes with a free demo.
Real Life Government Strategic Plan Examples & Success Stories
GovPilot takes pride in being the operating system for local governments. Here are some case study examples of challenges that localities were facing, and how shifting online helped them to hit their strategic planning goals across departments:
- Big Bear Lake, CA’s Economic Goal: Increase Vacation / Short-Term Rentals With Online Applications
- How Galloway, NJ Improved Their Public Records & Document Request Processes
- How Bexar County, TX Streamlined the Permitting Review Process
- How Atlantic City, NJ Maintained Zoning Processes During the Pandemic Lockdowns
- Atlantic City Had a Goal to Modernize IT. Here’s How They Did It in Weeks
- Local Government Accountability: Operating a Truly Ethical Local Government
- How Do Online Permitting Systems Work?
- Government Data Breach Prevention: Preventing Data Loss & Leaks
- What is GovTech? Everything to Know About Government Technology
- Modern Government Trends, Events, & Technology
- Tornado Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Wildfire Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Local Government Disaster Preparedness Guide
- Continuity of Government: Government Procedures During a Crisis
- Best Software for Government Procurement
- How to Build a 15-Minute City
- Building Inspections 101: How Municipalities Can Improve Public Safety
- Government Cybersecurity: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
- Municipal Planning: Reclaiming Your City Streets
- Government Blockchain: How Local Government Can Use Crypto
- How Local Governments Can Encourage Civic Engagement
Tags: Constituent Engagement , Government Efficiency , Constituent Experience , Digital Transformation , Blog
Embracing green infrastructure in the public sector.
Topics: Constituent Engagement , Government Efficiency , Constituent Experience , Digital Transformation , Blog
Six Keys to Local Government Innovation 2023
How your local government can improve community safety: law enforcement steps and 6 best practices, subscribe to the chronicles of marketing newsletter.
Key Features & Apps
- Revenue Source Ideas for Governments
- Modern Government Challenges & Solutions
- Budgeting Planning Tips for Local Governments
Considerations for effective strategic planning
Whilst there is no strict definition of strategic planning, it is assumed that its the production of a Plan that involves more than one Authority. The development of strategic plans across the country is increasing and so therefore will our learning as these Plans develop so this article will be updated from time to time to include any necessary updates.
Every Local Planning Authority needs to set out strategic policies to address local priorities for development. The NPPF offers a flexible approach to strategic policies, they can be the core policies in joint plans, local plans and/or Spatial Development Strategies (where there is an elected mayor with statutory planning powers).
There are groups of Authorities undertaking Joint Spatial Plans that will set out the strategic policies to guide development across their combined areas with more detailed policies developed in their individual Local Plans. Other groups of Authorities are considering the development of fully combined Local Plans.
This advice updates an earlier version of the ‘Ten golden rules for Strategic Planning’ published by PAS. This revision incorporates the current NPPF and up to date experiences of strategic planning across multiple authorities. The matters listed below are not a checklist and cannot in themselves guarantee a sound plan but they do provide the foundations to producing a joint strategic plan. The considerations refer to Local Planning Authorities and there are no direct references to Combined Authorities and Spatial Development Strategies but they will still be relevant.
Points to consider:
1. Political Leadership
2. Corporate Buy-in
3. Set the project structure
4. Create an appropriate governance structure
5. Collaborate to form a vision
6. Form a professional team
7. Is your Plan deliverable?
8. Test Plan against the vision
9. Promote the benefits of the Plan
10. Monitor and Evaluate
Strong political leadership is the key to successful partnerships, Members, particularly the Leader and Cabinet/Committee members, from all partner authorities should fully:
- Form and agree the strategic vision for shaping the future of the area;
- understand the benefits of joint working e.g. collaboration on key matters and meeting the Duty to Cooperate challenge, the potential for cost and resource saving and a better way to shape places; and
- understand the level of commitment that is required in terms of the local authority's role and the decisions to be made and in what timescales.
Regular Cabinet/Committee briefings and member workshops will help to keep Members informed of progress and decisions made or to be made. Having a lead councillor or 'champion' for each authority (e.g. Portfolio holder) will also reinforce political support for the partnership but they must have the accountability and confidence to make decisions on behalf of the council.
The opposition groups should also be briefed in a timely manner. Agreeing this as part of the initial project plan will be critical to the smooth progress of the strategic plan and the success of delivering it once adopted.
It is extremely important that ‘hearts and minds’ are won over in the early stages of plan making so that similar discussions don’t have to be had over several times and decisions reconsidered. Clearly, there is a possibility of political change within the process of producing a plan so communication and understanding is key across all political parties.
2. Corporate Buy-In
Councils run many services all with different pressures and priorities. A strategic plan will involve and affect Council services outside of Planning although other departments may not initially see the relevance to their area of work or the need to be involved in the process. Strong leadership by the Chief Executive/Managing Director will be critical to the success of the plan.
Leadership from senior officers is important to manage the challenges of partnership and cross-boundary working which will likely use existing relationships with their counterparts at neighbouring authorities. It may be useful that the Chief Executives/Managing Directors of each Authority have regular meetings about the Plan. To fully consider the impacts that a Strategic Plan can have corporately across each of the Authorities involved it is important that there is understanding and ownership from the senior management team. This will help to ensure that strategic planning priorities are treated as part of each councils' core work programme.
Ideally, there should be a Senior Management Lead from Planning on each of the Council’s corporate management teams to ensure that there is a clear reporting line into the Chief Executive/Managing Director. This will ensure that decisions can be made in the most efficient way that unblock issues allowing the project plan to run to time.
In many successful partnerships, chief executives/ strategic directors have worked with Members to ensure that the partnership is fully resourced and represented in the right place. They have also acted as the interface between the authorities and other partners (e.g. Local Enterprise Partnerships) and have been involved in discussions/negotiations with government departments around investment and funding issues.
3. Set the Project Structure
Plans should be managed to a strict timetable with clear lines of responsibility and a strategic plan is no different. It is important to agree time commitments, engagement points and key decisions up front so that everyone understands what they are committing to. This is important because of the involvement of two or more Authorities and therefore the decision making time may need to take place over several weeks maybe even months every time a Cabinet/Committee decision is required.
Good project management will ensure transparency, efficiency of resources, effective use of skills and expertise, prioritisation and good communication. It will also provide a risk assessment of the obstacles and challenges to delivery that may arise along the way. Setting out what these might be and being clear what the different views are at the start of the process will help address the barriers when/if they arise and ensure there are no surprises.
It may be prudent to have someone in a project management role rather than making it a part of someone’s existing role. It would be critical that the person has the necessary project management skills and they may not necessarily need to be a qualified planner. The key skill for the project manager is communication, everyone should know what they are required to do and by when. The project plan should form the agreement by which individuals or teams sign up to deliver their part of the project.
Using visual representations to take people through the project plans helps with engagement. Wall mounted Gantt charts and timelines showing decision points reminds every one of the need to work efficiently. Equally starting all project management meetings with a reminder of the agreed vision helps to focus attention.
4. Create a clear governance structure
Successful decision making structures do not need to be complicated as long as there is clarity around responsibilities and accountabilities. Clear governance arrangements will provide a forum for open, transparent and fair debate, especially if the meetings are held in public. They will demonstrate a high level of commitment from all partners and facilitate good working relationships, building trust and momentum.
There are two options for Committee’s:
- A section 28 Committee (Section 28 PCPA 2004) which is where two or more local planning authorities agree to prepare a joint development plan document and use the Committee as non-decision making sounding board with an opportunity for each Local Planning Authority to be represented and joint discussions to be held. Decision making would be made by each individual Local Planning Authority.
- A section 29 Joint decision making Committee (Section 29 PCPA 2004) which is where one or more LPA(s) agree with one or more county council(s) to put in place a formal decision making committee. Such committee’s must be agreed by the relevant Secretary of State and their approval is also required if it were to be dissolved. All decision making on the plan would be conceded from the LPA to the Joint Committee.
Sharing responsibilities for the various groups/committees or rotating the chair of the committee will help harness the feeling of a shared endeavour and avoid concerns about one partner taking on more of the workload than others or monopolising the agenda. Consideration should be given as to how these arrangements are linked to each partner's governance arrangements, including the scrutiny functions.
It is possible to have informal joint working arrangements. It is important to get a voluntary partnership to commit to a level of governance that is effective and comfortable and does not threaten local sovereignty as this may be the only means of moving forward on specific matters, particularly Duty to Cooperate.
Strategic planning objectives, by their nature, are usually delivered over the longer term and straddle more than one electoral cycle. Although not always possible in a changing political environment, continuity in decision-makers and key personnel will help to develop and maintain good relationships and will keep momentum going. A strong working governance structure that everyone has agreed to will help if changes occur.
Even where there is a change in leadership and therefore potentially in the councillors involved in strategic planning, consideration should be given to retaining existing members, building on their knowledge, experience and relationships already established within the partnership. Cross-party governance structures (e.g. working groups) will also help manage any potential disruption caused by a change to political administration.
5. Collaborate to form a vision
Working with communities and partners to establish what you are trying to achieve from a strategic plan is not only good practice, it also anchors the plan. A vision helps to keep policies focussed and is a means of testing the plan in terms of deliverability and viability. Vision setting can be a really creative and inclusive process. Councils have used various techniques to engage different groups and individuals. It may be that some interactive sessions which involve games, models or drawing appeal to some people whereas roundtable discussions suit others. It is worth considering that you will need to use a variety of methods if you are to get the best reach across a wider geographic area.
The most successful plans are based on outcomes that are clear and attainable. Having agreement from the start about what the outcomes of the plan should be is important. This needs to lead into agreement on what the strategic policies are and consequently guide any remaining policies. Vision setting helps to manage some of the hurdles and political sensitivities along the way. The partnership agreeing a statement of common ground and keeping it up to date will also help reduce the risks of the partnership fragmenting through, for example, disagreements about priorities and will increase traction in terms of deliverability further down the line.
Some strategic policies will be controversial in nature and might require a certain amount of 'conflict resolution'. So it is important that at the outset when agreeing objectives and the scope of the work, that member authorities (no matter how informal or formal the arrangements are) are honest about the priorities of their communities, and highlight what they can be flexible on. It is also important to manage expectations at this point by being realistic about what the output will be and how it will be delivered.
Successful strategic planning is often the result of strong relationship management at the governance, technical and community levels, especially when it is addressing politically challenging issues which require careful and sensitive handling. Many councils already have good working relationships with neighbouring authorities and with other sectors of their communities but these may have to be adapted to the new 'strategic' environment where the issues are addressed on a different scale and with potentially different outcomes.
The existing relationships (or newly formed)will therefore have a key role to play in ensuring that their local partners and communities understand why addressing these issues at a strategic level is good for the local area and will often have to manage local sensitivities, building on the trust that already exists. When considering how to engage with groups and organisations that are not initially supportive of the work, local authorities should give some careful thought as to how they can bring them into the process where they can be privy to the evidence and thinking process and help to set the vision which directs the plan.
At some point in the process the objectives may change, for example, as a result of a change in focus or priority, or the geographical area covered. It is important to ensure that all partners are happy with these changes and content that the new/amended agenda is still relevant to them; a partnership is only as strong as the commitment of the individual partners.
Investing time in the setting of a vision will save time as the plan progresses. It is much better to find out what people feel about the future of the area before decisions are made rather than later in the process.
Collaboration on the Vision will help to start addressing the Duty to Cooperate requirement. The NPPF paragraph 24 sets out that “Local planning authorities and county councils (in two-tier areas) are under a duty to cooperate with each other, and with other prescribed bodies, on strategic matters that cross administrative boundaries”. The duty will be tested at the examination of any Development Plan Documents as one of the tests of soundness.
The introduction of the Statement of Common Ground (SCG) will help with discussions around scope of the Plan being considered once the Vision has been set. It is important that the scope of the Plan does not change unless there are fundamental reasons for a change and it is therefore essential that the scope of the Plan is considered and reconsidered at an early stage. The SCG can be updated to reflect resolution of issues as a Plan(s) develops over time. The SCG will also show whether resolutions have not been possible but that it has been actively deliberated.
6. Form a professional team
The agreed work programme and governance arrangements will need to be properly managed and supported at both an officer and Member level with a clear route defined between the support and decision-making arrangements. Partners should make the best and most efficient use of the expertise, skills, experience and local knowledge available and consider the use of joint resourcing. Where evidence is being developed the appointment of one authority or person as 'lead' will help manage the resources more efficiently if no programme manager has been appointed.
Joint teams can offer significant benefits in terms of management and resource efficiencies though it is important that the team is seen as specifically working on the strategic plan project and isn’t pulled into other work areas. Co-location can have a beneficial impact on team dynamics and working relationships. Where a joint team is not possible or desirable, partners should consider joint procurement, shared skills, joint IT resources that allow shared use of documents and software, use of independent support (consultants), use of existing evidence or shared information/ databases/ websites. It may be possible to use existing partnerships/ structures building on established working relationships but these will need to be 'fit for purpose'.
It’s important to consider other teams in the Council and what input will be required from them and keeping them informed of plan progress. It is critical to consider the need for transport and highways, environment and leisure, finance and legal, education and health specialists early. It is likely that this input will need to be timetabled and resourced from the outset so all partners need to clear about the level of input and the likely time commitments.
7. Is your Plan deliverable?
It’s important that the partnership involves other people, groups or organisations that have a key role to play in terms of evidence gathering or delivery as this will help to assess whether the Plan is deliverable. Some of these will be statutory bodies, such as the Environment or Highways Agencies, but many will be voluntary and will therefore not have the same level of resources to support the work programme despite their willingness to participate.
Local authority partners should, at an early stage in the process such as the vision setting, identify who or what organisations are essential to include in the partnership on a formal basis, as well as others that could have a useful but less formal role. All partners must be clear what the expectations are around their input and resources and where the technical support lies, and should fully understand the decision-making process.
A necessary outcome of this partnership working is a statement of common ground (SCG). This was introduced through the revision of the NPPF in early 2019. The SCG is intended to reach agreement across the Authorities on all strategic matters, though ultimately, resolving fundamental disagreements may not be possible.
The development of Local Industrial Strategies by LEP’s are important documents and should be considered and linkages made where possible into the strategic plan. These strategies are designed to promote the coordination of local economic policy and national funding streams and establish new ways of working between national and local government, and the public and private sectors.
Identifying the infrastructure that is required to deliver the joint vision and strategic priorities is a critical component of developing a joint plan. Setting out how the infrastructure will be delivered is also a key matter for inclusion. Working collaboratively to determine what is required and what the framework for delivery should be can help to provide a stable set of priorities that would enable development to come forward and facilitate the delivery of the plan.
Authorities are encouraged to work together to develop meaningful infrastructure funding statements that reflect best practice in governance arrangements and which set out the key priorities for infrastructure funding over a set period. These should reflect the priorities set out in the plan and take in to account funding arrangements including, but not strictly limited to, developer contributions. Infrastructure funding statements need to be produced from December 2020 by each authority that receives funding from developer contributions (Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations). They should be used proactively as an engagement tool between the groups of authorities for strategic planning as well as with infrastructure providers and the community. For strategic planning they also offer the opportunity for consideration of how joint priorities can be funded through potentially pooling resources.
8. Test the Plan against the Vision
Before a plan can be examined it should be tested against the vision. The vision provides the purpose for the plan and only policies which deliver that vision are necessary for inclusion.
An independent reviewer is particularly useful at this point as the Councils can become too close to the plan and may miss gaps or duplication. PAS has a number of plan specialists within its peer network who could be called upon to provide an unbiased perspective and give some assurance on deliverability before submission.
It is also worth considering creating a working group from the vision setting stage who can be used throughout the process to test ideas. It is a useful exercise to explain how the plan works to achieve the vision to a non-planning audience.
9. Promote the benefits of the Plan
Good and consistent communication, transparency and clear boundaries in terms of decision-making are all essential ingredients for successful relationship management, particularly where the partnership is not equal in terms of the decision-making responsibilities i.e. external partners are directly involved in guiding the work but councils have the decision-making authority.
At a technical level, evidence that has been developed by cross-sector partnerships or with input from other organisations increases robustness and credibility of that evidence. Developing good relationships with key bodies, particularly those that can contribute directly to the work, will not only benefit the existing partnership but potentially opens the door to ongoing support in other areas of the council's work. Where the work is being managed on a shared basis, agreeing one point of contact amongst the local authorities for other partners will be a more effective and efficient way of managing the relationship and partner's input.
10. Monitor and Evaluate
It is important to keep all working and decision-making arrangements under review and 'fit for purpose'. The context for the work may change and may result in the need to have additional partners around the table, reconsideration of policy through a national change or new data may require a reconsideration.
Monitoring can take many forms but we would recommend that you have a single place where your data and analysis can be found. Essentially you need to test the success of the policies in the plan in terms of the delivery on the ground. In the first few years post adoption this could be through the policies created in the subsequent local plans but it must translate quickly into delivery.
Monitoring is just the start of the process, however, as collecting and analysing data will be irrelevant if you don’t then use this information to improve future delivery. In terms of evaluation, there is no substitute for seeing policy implementation in the form of developments. This is particularly powerful for members and officers who are not directly involved in the decision making process.
- Media Releases
- For Councils
- About Councils
- Dogs & Cats
- Complaining about your council
- Find Your Local Council
- Local Government Directory
- Council Finances
- Infrastructure and Services
- Land Management
- Misconduct and Intervention
- Integrated Planning and Reporting
- Policy and Legislation
- Pet Ownership
- 02 4428 4100
One of the most important roles for councils in the strategic planning process is to guide the community in identifying major issues, understanding how these issues may impact on the community and how these issues might be addressed. The Integrated Planning and Reporting Manual and the Councillor Guide both provide resources designed to assist councils.
This includes information, tools and tips to support councils in their strategic planning activities, incorporating the quadruple bottom line of civic leadership, social, environmental, and economic pillars.
- Click here for links to the Community Strategic Plans developed by NSW Councils.
Some of these publications may appear to be out of date as they relate to pre-reform legislative requirements. However, the key concepts contained within them remain valid.
- NSW State Plan
- Community Strategic Planning Indicators Resource – discusses what community indicators are, and how councils might apply them in the strategic planning process. This resource also considers how the Community Indicators Victoria model might be applied in the NSW context, and suggests a framework for NSW councils to utilise.
- Environmental planning (DECCW) – provides references to environmental planning information for local government
- Metropolitan and regional planning
Before starting any planning process it is important to identify what planning may have already occurred. Councils are required to give due regard to State and regional planning processes, which can inform local planning activities, and assist in identifying local priorities.
Long term financial planning is a key component of the Resourcing Strategy for councils’ community strategic plan. Included below is information, tips and tools to support councils in the following areas of their financial planning: economic development, investments, rates and revenue, loans, grants, tendering, capital expenditure, and procurement. This information is supported by the Promoting Better Practice Program
- Community economic development self help modules (Business NSW)
- Your community, your future (Business NSW)
- Regional Tourism Plans (Tourism NSW)
- Business support programs (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water)
- Circular to Councils 08-48 – Revised Ministerial Investment Order
- Circular to Councils 07-38 – Council Investments
- Circular to Councils 06-70 – Investment Requirements For NSW Councils
- Circular to Councils 96-52 – Use of Credit Unions/Building Societies for Banking Facilities and Investment
- Guidelines for the Preparation of an Application for a Special Variation to General Income 2009/10
- Council Rating And Revenue Raising Manual – January 2007
- Circular to Councils 09-14 – Variation of General Income 2009/10
- Circular to Councils 09-07 – Applications for Ministerial approval for a special variation to general income
- Circular to Councils 03-11 – Consumption Based Pricing for Council Water Supply and Sewerage Services – Guidelines for Special Variations to General Income
- Stormwater Management Services Charge Guidelines
- •Circular to Councils 09-21 – Ministerial Borrowing Orders
- Circular to Councils 08-29 – Proposed Borrowing Return 2008/2009
- NSW Local Government Grants Commission (DLG)
- Building the Country funding program (Business NSW)
- Community Builders grants page
- NSW Environment Trust grants
- Tendering Guidelines for NSW Local Government
- Circular to Councils 00-14 – Information Regarding Tendering and Other Requirements for Construction Projects
- Circular to Councils 99-12 – Tendering – Financial Assessment of Tenderers
- Practice Note No.8a – Code of Practice and Code of Tendering for the Construction Industry
- Local Government (State) Award 2007
- Guidelines on the Procedures and Processes to be followed by Local Government in Public-Private Partnerships
- Circular to Councils 05-51 – Public Private Partnerships Legislation and Guidelines
- Collaboration and Partnerships between Councils – A guidance paper
- Circular to Councils 10-34 – Capital Expenditure Guidelines
- Capital Expenditure Guidelines, December 2010
- Circular to Councils 06-07 – Procurement In NSW Local Councils
To appropriately plan for Council’s future, a clear asset management strategy and plans must be in place. The information below includes tips and tools to support councils in asset management planning and the valuation of assets at fair value.
- Local Government Asset Accounting Manual
- Promoting Better Practice Program – Self-Assessment Checklist: Assets & Finance
- Stormwater Management Service Charge Guidelines
- Best practice management of water supply and sewerage guidelines (DEUS)
- Evaluation of integrated water cycle management scenarios (DWE)
- Total Asset Management Services and Systems (TAMS NSW) – NSW Public Works can provide experienced professional staff, on a fee for service basis. They have particular strengths in asset management and financial modelling as well as strategic planning
- Circular to Councils 09-09 – Recognition of certain assets at fair value
- Circular to Councils 08-07 – Valuation Of Property, Plant & Equipment At Fair Value
- Circular to Councils 06-49 – Guidelines for the compulsory acquisition of land by councils in NSW
- Local Government Code of Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting
“Change may focus on goals, structures, resources, or people – or any combination. It is rarely easy or simple but often messy, difficult and challenging.” (University of Luton)
Change is inevitable, and councils are in a strong position to manage change positively for their communities. The introduction of the integrated planning and reporting framework may be a catalyst for significant change for some councils.
- Workforce change, culture and innovation – articles
- Change management tools
- Managing organisational change – competency checklist
- Managing organisational change: how to guide – Queensland Health
- Organisational learning and change management
- Change management – articles and case studies
Includes information, tips and tools to support councils in their annual and other reporting activities to their local community.
- Local Government Code of Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting Guidelines (with worked examples)
- Environmental Guidelines: State of the Environment Reporting by Local Government
- Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting information
- Quarterly Budget Review Statement for NSW Local Government
Includes information, tips and tools to support councils to identify and manage risks that may arise during their planning and reporting processes.
- Local Government Code of Accounting Practice and Financial Reporting – provides information about financial risk management
- Councillor Guide – see 2.5 for risk management information
- Internal audit guidelines – page 52 discusses specific risks to consider during planning processes
Please complete the form below for more information.
Search our website
Please enter a search term below and we will do our best to help you find the information you are after.
© 2023 | All Rights Reserved | Office of Local Government
What is Strategic Planning in Government?
With all the state and local governments' planning, why should they consider strategic planning? Isn't it enough to have an annual budget? After all, things change when unexpected heavy rains overwhelm the city sewers or the street repairs run over budget. How does more planning help? What is strategic planning in government, anyway?
What is a Strategic Plan?
Strategic plans are a roadmap for how an organization wants to direct its resources to achieve a defined vision. The planning process for state and local governments documents what a community wants to be and how it intends to reach that goal. Strategic plans include vision and mission statements and details on communication and accountability. Strategic planning software designed specifically for state and local agencies can help streamline the process.
Envisioning what a community looks like in three or five years requires consensus. A vision statement incorporates the ideas of all residents into a shared image of the community's future. This vision becomes a long-term framework for government officials, councils, or boards to base decisions that impact the community. Through a collaborative process, the vision statement should be a well-crafted statement that reflects the attitudes of residents, stakeholders, and elected officials.
Mission statements describe how a government wants to achieve its vision. Like the vision statement, a mission statement should be developed by a collaborative process that involves residents, stakeholders, and elected officials. It is a concise statement of what actions will be taken to achieve its vision and fulfill its purpose.
Most strategic plans address five to seven priorities. The number of priorities depends on the local community. For example, the strategic plan for the city of Tacoma in Washington State lists the following priorities in its Tacoma 2025 strategic plan
- Health and Safety
- Human and Social Needs
- Economic Vibrancy and Employment
- Education and Learning
- Arts and Cultural Vitality
- Natural and Built Environment
- Government Performance
The plan then lists three objectives under each priority and methods of accountability to ensure the goals are met.
Communication is the most crucial of all the steps in writing a new strategic plan. Governments need to talk to residents, stakeholders, and potential partners to determine what is of value to the people who live and work in the area. This communication must happen before the plan is written. For example, Tacoma used the following activities to identify the critical issues in the following areas:
- Steering Committee meetings
- Interactive Booth at fairs, festivals, and city events
- Online Community forum
- Tacoma Community survey
- One-on-One interviews
- Community Visioning Workshop
After the strategic planning process was complete, the city held Vision Preview Workshops to share the strategic goals and discuss the value to the residents and others. Giving everyone access to the plan and sharing performance metrics can support the ongoing efforts. Such transparency is an essential strategy for widespread participation. It's the first step towards accountability, and government software solutions can help track and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs).
No matter how effective the planning process and communication plan are, people will want to see results. Unfortunately, progress towards long-term goals can be challenging to quantify. That's why action plans must include KPIs that can show incremental results.
Take Tacoma's priority of Economic Vibrancy and Employment, for example. One objective is to diversify the living wage base in the area by increasing the percentage of economically self-sufficient households or meeting the living wage standard. As part of the objective, the city wants to diversify its business sector.
The city needs data to demonstrate progress. It needs to know where it stands today and what percentage increases year after year. Government agencies can try to collect the data manually or look to government software solutions to help assemble the details and make them public.
Asking staff to process raw data into understandable results is time-consuming and prone to error. Deploying government software automates the process, making it more accurate. Timely and accurate data provides a level of transparency and accountability that builds trust between public organizations and the communities they serve. With the right software, state and local governments can share performance data online or in a newsletter, reinforcing the goal of transparency.
Strategic Planning Best Practices for the Public Sector
The federal government made the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) law in 1993. It was modernized in 2010 (GPRAMA) to improve the 1993 requirements. Specifically, the Modernization Act identified ways to increase public confidence in government capabilities by improving:
- Service Delivery
- Internal Management
The act also references a framework for implementing the Modernization Act. The framework provides guidance on best practices for strategic planning. Incorporating government software is a key component of modernization.
From the outset, include staff, residents, business owners, and any individual or organization that participates in the community. Without their input, governments run the risk of setting priorities that do not coincide with the people they serve. Incorporating internal staff in the process provides insight into how policies are being implemented and data is collected.
Plans are not created in a vacuum, so don't be afraid to adjust to a changing environment. Adjust the plan if infrastructure improvements were part of year three, but a bridge failed in year two. Reallocate available resources to address the short-term, but keep the long-term goals in mind, so nothing is overlooked. Government software can help track and provide insights to ensure long-term plans are on track.
Watch for Scope Creep
Don't confuse tactics with strategies and let operations sidetrack the plan. Stay with the performance indicators outlined in the plan. Don't add another measurement because you can. With long-term projects, it's easy to lose sight of the overall objectives so review strategic plans regularly to avoid scope creep. Rely on software designed for local municipalities to keep everyone focused.
Strategic planning should never be complacent, but it must be realistic. A community of less than 1,000 may not be the best choice for the county fair, even though the residents want to host it. At the same time, it may be the perfect place because of its strong ties to the county's agricultural sector.
That's where the planning process steps in. If it's a strategic goal, establish performance indicators with the help of government software to monitor progress. If it doesn't happen, use the performance measurements to show why. The data can provide accountability and transparency to ensure the community that its input is not ignored.
Ask for Help
Strategic planning in local government can seem overwhelming so don't be afraid to ask for help. Other agencies may be willing to share their knowledge and experience. Service providers may have staff that can help with the process. Whether looking at how to get community input or choosing the right software to measure performance, reach out to those with experience to help make the process move smoothly.
To learn more about integrating government software, get in touch with Velosimo today for an expert consultation.