by Lourdes Coss, MPA, CPPO
Building your strategic transformation plan should not be a one-time exercise. This plan is a document that one should review often. The strategic plan paints the picture of the future state, considering where the entity is going. Often you hear of people that work on an elaborate strategic plan only to realize a year later that the organization is not better off than it was a year ago.
Developing a strategic plan may seem like a daunting task if this is the first time putting one together. I broke down the strategic planning process into seven steps at a high level.
The first step is understanding the current state and how the current state developed. Spend time to learn some history so that you don’t repeat past mistakes. Learning from others’ ineffective decisions may end up saving time. You will not have to relive the same results you are trying to change in the first place.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” – Karl Marx
I have referred to my listening tour in a previous blog. This was always time well spent. Gathering information and different perspectives is good information to have. There is valid information in each of these perspectives. Still, it is critical to listen with objectivity as each historian in the process will tell the story slightly differently. It is important to note that strategic plans are not just for organizations that are not operating well. It is also for organizations that want to continue to stay relevant, considering foreseen or unforeseen changes in the environment.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” —Proverbs 29:18
The second step is to develop a vision of the ideal yet realistic state. The next step is to develop a vision for the department considering all information gathered. The important thing is to develop a vision that people can relate to and might be a little scary at the same time. One should align the goals to the mission of the organization. They should also align with the overall goals of the entity. How will Procurement help support the entity’s goals as Procurement transitions to its future state without sacrificing the mission that it fulfills within the agency? Most of the organizations that I worked for were concerned with the speed of the procurement process, cost savings & cost avoidance, quality, and other agency-specific goals.
“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
The third step is to develop a strategy. The strategy is the plan of action necessary to help the Procurement organization move closer to the goals identified in the previous step. From this strategy, you can develop objectives and tactics. Breaking down the plan into smaller measurements will determine whether the actions taken are moving the organization closer to the goals and, ultimately, the vision. The goals are the outcomes targeted with the strategic change initiative.
“A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” Lee Bolman
The fourth step is to establish measurable actions. The objectives are specific, measurable actions. Tactics are the tools used or steps to achieve the objectives, which help determine the strategy’s effectiveness. Ultimately, these roll up to the goals and the vision. In my example above, one of the goals is cycle times. Then, the strategy, objective, and tactics would read as follows.
Goal: Establish reasonable and predictable procurement timeframes.
Strategy: Reduce the procurement cycle times by streamlining the process.
Objective: Alter the order or eliminate redundant steps to reduce time by 40% by a given date.
Tactic: Map the process, identify redundancy, eliminate steps, implement on a specific date.
Creating these objectives will help measure the effectiveness of the strategy once implemented. When implementing a strategic plan, it is critical to measure your progress towards achieving the goals.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without
strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu
The fifth step is effective communication. The strategic plan should also include a communication plan that establishes who the stakeholders are and the relevant detail and frequency. The method used for communication plays a vital role in the success of the strategic initiative. Communicate often with those stakeholders is imperative. This will help all interested parties stay informed and take any necessary action.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
The sixth step is to measure progress. Don’t expect a perfect plan. Measure progress and adjust when necessary. Staying flexible with the plan and focusing on the goals will pay dividends. Measuring progress also helps keep accountability for the ultimate results and keeps you moving in the direction of the vision.
“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
The seventh step is to reassess and adjust. This seventh step includes reassessing the vision and goals. When implementing long-term plans, it is impossible to predict all the conditions and circumstances that one may encounter. Remaining flexible to adjust to new needs and be willing to revisit the goals is an essential step in the strategic planning process.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw
To sum up, strategic planning is a process that continues to evolve with time. It is essential to remain flexible to accommodate future conditions that may not have been anticipated in the original planning process.