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5 Tips for Strategic Planning in 2014

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Let’s face it, finishing year-end tasks and finding enough time to strategically plan for next year requires discipline. Across town, forward thinking consultants are meeting with clients to discuss performance expectations and important dates to mark on calendars. Perhaps the most important use of these conversations is to remind clients that overall performance in pursuit of future goals tends to settle in and develop over a period of months, not weeks. Why? Governments are operating in environments of constant change, which directly affects the collective fed-contractor chemistry required to tackle, adjust and execute most all strategic planning goals.

Given this environment, future scenario planning will help you reach your strategic planning outcomes. Faced with several potential futures, it is important to know how your organization will be positioned to mitigate risk, meet deadlines, manage communications and allocate resources.

To better understand how the future is unfolding against your goals, the following steps will help your team manage change and exceed performance expectations:

1. Follow congressional developments. Follow the upcoming votes by House and Senate lawmakers to pass a budget deal and avoid another government shutdown. Tracking legislative outcomes and holding cross-organizational planning meetings now will help your team prioritize 2014 goals. Throughout the year, monitor committee hearings and trade association Hill days that support the mission of your office; this will help you better understand how Congress works and what information is needed in future legislative outreach planning.

2. Project-plan your work; know your budgets, bandwidth and deadlines. Projects can be unpredictable, and planning for certain inevitabilities is vital to maintaining progress. Proper risk management practices, such as establishing budget reserves and building in lag times for delays, should be implemented at the onset to provide contingencies in case projects go off course because of unforeseen changes with budgets, schedules or scope.

3. Track stakeholder events and coordinate calendars with colleagues. With stricter travel guidelines and budgets, it can be a difficult and long process to secure approval to attend targeted events. Developing a calendar of events with deadlines for submitting speaking engagement abstracts, reserving exhibit space and booking travel will ensure your team has adequate time to submit such requests. Outreach calendars also improve information sharing and collaboration, enabling projects to use limited resources wisely and avoid duplication when engaging key voices.

4. Plan ahead for staffing level changes. Whether it’s at the client or contractor level, sometimes the most dramatic changes happen when new employees are brought into an organization. Future scenario planning provides common understanding for what is required in this situation. New federal staff often requires briefing materials, for example, while the addition of contractor staff requires an onboarding window. Prepare a checklist now to be ahead of the curve.

5. Foster a culture where future scenario planning is part of routine day-to-day business. Incorporating future scenario planning into team meetings and other collaboration platforms will bring your team together around important goals and contingency planning discussions. It is during these sessions that you’ll exchange questions, share client feedback, and consider options you may never have thought about before. Lastly, cataloging lessons learned from past projects and staying in contact with users who can provide feedback on changing needs from the field is critical to managing expectations when change is constant.

In short, future scenario planning becomes one of your most important tools for communicating with your colleagues and stakeholder partners. Future posts in the New Year will focus on the specific requirements, including how to update strategic communications plans that respond to changing environments. The hope is you will find this discussion helpful and that it plays a small role in your continued success. Let us know if future scenario planning worked for you.

(Image via Gajus/Shutterstock.com)

Dan Conway is a principal at Corner Alliance, a Washington-based consulting firm. An expert in public engagement, Dan works with public and private sector communities to develop strategic planning and communications goals that increase collaboration and support for multiple initiatives. Before consulting, he worked with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow him on Twitter at @conwaydt

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