When an agency begins a Strategic Planning process, we start with highlighting Why we exist and What defines success – the next step is establishing the How – how are the organization’s CEO and management team going to deliver the outcomes aligned on in the Why and What phases of the process?
The How phase involves the identification of the programs, projects, and initiatives that will drive the agency towards success. For many management teams, it can often feel like there is a never-ending laundry list of activities – not necessarily what’s most important to achieve success. The prioritization of these programs and projects is key to success. The outcomes of the What phase serve as the strategic pillars that guide activity. Each activity identified should have clear alignment with at least one strategic goal, and a series of milestones that reflect the progress that should be made during each quarter.
This phase does not only consist of simply selecting and prioritizing projects – here are the other key elements to defining How you will achieve success.
In a high-performing agency, the CEO and Board are aligned on their roles in each phase of the strategic planning process. Board oversight is most prominent in the first two phases (Why and What) - the Board aligns on the goals the agency should achieve and trusts the CEO to determine how to achieve these goals. A leadership and governance structure that functions in this manner results in the most effective and efficient execution of the agency’s mission through the projects identified as key to deliver the goals.
So, after identifying the programs to pursue over the coming year, refining this list to ensure that the projects align with the strategic pillars, and outlining quarterly milestones, the final step is to develop the tools to monitor progress on a monthly and quarterly basis. One tool several agencies have used to monitor success is a program management dashboard. By creating a program management dashboard and developing a cadence for review, the leadership team has a holistic view of all activities and the progress towards fulfilment. The dashboard can also be used as a quarterly reporting tool to communicate progress with staff and project teams across the agency.
The How phase is essential to bringing a Strategic Plan to life. As the agency moves beyond defining how to achieve success, the next and final step is to focus on Who – who are the key personnel responsible for delivering the plan and monitoring performance? This final phase completes the strategic planning process and sets the agency up for success.