When working out a strategic plan for your agency, get a lot of people involved. That's the message of a new General Accounting Office guide for managers and executives to use as they develop and fine tune their agencies' strategic plans under the approaching deadlines for the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
GAO has come up with a list of 12 key questions agencies should consider when they work on their strategic plans. Six of them deal with getting stakeholders involved in the planning process.
- Is the plan consistent with legislative priorities and agendas? Are there areas important to the congessional committee that oversees your agency that have not been addressed in the strategic plan?
- Did your agency already consult with other congressional committees? What were their views on the draft plan's mission, strategic goals, and strategies?
- Does the plan reflect coordination with other executive agencies? Are other agencies' plans attempting to achieve similar strategic goals, or do they have activities or functions similar to those discussed in the plan under review? If so, how does the plan ensure that such related efforts are complementary, appropriate in scope, and not unnecessarily duplicative?
- What organizations and individuals were key stakeholders and why? Were their views on the plan solicited and incorporated? Why or why not?
- What agency staff were involved in developing the plan? Did they include line managers? How, if at all, does the agency plan to communicate the goals, priorities and decisions reflected in the strategic plan to managers and staff throughout the agency?
- What contribution was made by nonfederal parties--e.g., consultants, customers, contractors, state governments--in preparing the plan?
- If the agency was involved in a GPRA performance measurement pilot project, did any lessons learned from the pilot influence the draft strategic plan? How?
- How will information technology reforms required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 better support the agency's mission and improve its program performance?
- Is there an investment control process, consistent with the Clinger-Cohen Act, to prioritize information technology projects in line with the agency's overall goals and priorities?
- Does the plan include a general description of the information resources needed to meet the agency's strategic goals? Does this information include steps to build the staff skills to develop and manage the information systems needed to support the achievement of GPRA goals?
- How does the agency plan to provide timely, reliable, useful, and consistent financial information as required by the Chief Financial Officers Act, as expanded and amended by the Government Management Reform Act?
- Overall, is the plan logical, and do the various components fit together well? In other words, can the plan, if implemented well, get the agency "from here to there?"
The GAO guide also includes suggestions for developing measurements of agency effectiveness and a handy checklist for agency representatives and congressional staff to use during their consultations to make sure agencies' strategic plans meet all the requirements of GPRA.