Strategy is fundamentally about making decisions, selecting a direction, and foregoing some opportunities and possibilities. Within government organisations and social enterprises, the purpose of the organisation is likely to be very well defined, and a dazzling beacon to help guide strategic choices.
But fundamentally, strategy involves making strategic choices, which involves trade-offs, risk evaluation, and dealing with the unknown. When dealing with strategy, leaders should be considering how they can increase the odds of their organisation succeeding in their purpose, rather than looking to eliminate risks.
Strategic planning and strategy formulation are not the same thing. Planning is the work that occurs after strategy has been decided, to turn an organisation’s chosen strategy into a set of plans, actions, measures, and accountabilities.
No organisation operates in isolation, and external factors can potentially disrupt at any point. It is important for leaders to recognise that strategy may need to change, and that deliberate course corrections are preferable to slavishly following an obsolete (or broken) strategy.
Community centric strategic planning
The Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) Framework was initially developed for NSW Local Government planning, and is now widely used to help guide governance and planning within Australia public sector organisations and larger social enterprises.
The fundamental component of the IP&R strategic planning model is the Community Strategic Plan, which produces a 10-year strategic vision with high level goals, based on substantial community stakeholder consultation.
This Community Strategic Plan is used to guide the production of an integrated set of further managerial action plans, including three-year delivery plans, and annual operational plans. Over the course of the ten-year Strategic Plan, multiple three-year delivery plans are formulated and actioned, and ten annual operational plans.
This scheduled cadence of delivery, reporting, accountability, and further planning across multiple time horizons produces a strong foundation for achieving complex programs of work, and long-term outcomes.
Governance and accountability
When using a community centric planning model such as the IP&R framework, executive management within organisations are expected to annually produce updated operational plans, with specific actions, accountabilities, and performance measurements.
The goals, activities, and performance measures are also cascaded and inter-linked between the various components of planning, to ensure that resources and activities are contributing to the longer time horizon goals.
Capability frameworks and workforce strategy
To effectively deliver services over longer-term planning horizons, it is critically important to consider developing a workforce management strategy. This is particularly true for organisations that need to deliver services in remote and regional communities.
Building a high performing culture and organisation starts with clearly defining and articulating what capabilities and competencies are needed at all levels of the organisation.
A capability framework describes the capabilities and associated behaviours expected of employees.
The framework provides a common shared language to describe the capabilities needed to perform work.
Once a framework has been defined, it can be used to enable:
- Effective workforce planning, by identifying current and future capability gaps
- Standardised job design and role descriptions. Role capability requirements can be tightly aligned with the purpose and accountabilities of the role.
- Recruitment practices that are focused on assessing a person’s capability to perform at the level needed for the role.
- Better targeting of learning and development resources.
- Career planning and mobility within the organisation.
- Performance Development conversations that have a clear common language and understanding of role requirements and areas for development.
Allocating resources and identifying gaps
A critical component of building annual operational plans and three-year delivery plans is the identification of the resources needed to carry out the actions required in the plan. These resources could include workforce, budget, equipment, and information.
In particular, workforce management and workforce capability need to be carefully considered. For example:
- What are the existing capability gaps that will need to be addressed if the organisation is to achieve its objectives?
- What is the most effective approach to addressing these capability gaps? (e.g. external talent acquisition, leadership development, performance management)
- Where should the organisation be focusing efforts to build future talent and capabilities?
- What opportunities exist to redeploy existing talent and resources to address capability gaps in the short term?
- What impact will current competency gaps have on organisational culture and remuneration levels?
- Where should the organisation be focusing its efforts and resources in order to identify and build the next generation of leaders (homegrown or external)?
Ensure organisational systems and processes support strategy
Implementing your chosen strategy and associated plans may require:
- Redesigning key service delivery, workflows, policies, and ways of working.
- Adjusting organisational structure and the way workforce roles are designed.
- Adjusting workfoce performance KPIs across key roles and job families.
Here are four actions leaders can take to to turn purpose and strategic vision into actionable plans, and tangible outcomes.
1) Consider multiple time horizons
The cadence of strategy formulation and strategic planning should take into consideration the time horizons that are relevant to your organisation.
Corporate enterprises typically focus on annual and three-year planning horizons, while public sector organisations and social enterprises may need to consider longer ten-year horizons.
3) Marshall resources, identify gaps
A critical component of building annual operational plans and three-year delivery plans is the identification of the resources needed to carry out the actions required in the plans.
These resources could include workforce, equipment, assets, and information.
2) Cascade planning
Integrating and cascading action plans is necessary to support and contribute towards longer-term plans.
Governance and reporting should be scheduled to be relevant, timely, and help executive management to track performance against both short-term and longer-term timelines.
4) Update organisational systems and processes
With a clearly defined set of plans and required capabilities in place, efforts can shift to reviewing and redesigning systems and processes to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
Whitepaper: Turning Purpose into Outcomes
Learn more about turning strategy into sustainable action plans, and our four key recommended actions for leaders.
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