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Strategy 101: Mapping Your Plan for Success

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Over the course of the next several months, we will publish a series of blog posts, each highlighting a different aspect of strategic planning in the Federal Government. Today, we will meet Carson, a fictional person who will help us learn more about setting goals and strategic planning.

Goal Setting

Acing a college midterm. Securing a new job. Buying a home. These are personal goals that people strive for. People like you, me, and our friend Carson. Each time Carson sets a new goal, she creates a plan to help her stay on track. Last year, Carson decided she needed to find a new job. She created an action plan that included weekly and monthly goals to network more, develop marketable skills, distribute her resume, and apply to postings.

This type of planning that Carson used is scalable to large organizations, companies, and even the government. Strategic planning is a process in which organizational leaders determine their vision for the future and identify their goals and objectives for the organization. To map out how they will get there, organizations create a strategic plan, or a big-picture document directing efforts and resources toward a clearly defined vision.

Pathway to a Goal

Federal agencies create strategic plans every four years. Last month, federal agencies published their strategic plans for 2022 to 2026 on performance.gov. An agency strategic plan defines its mission, goals, and how it will measure its progress over a four-year period.

While each federal agency is different, a typical plan consists of four or five strategic goals. Goals are general, outcome-oriented, and long-term. They address the broader impact the agency wants to achieve. For Carson, she wanted a new job and set a goal to get there.

Every strategic goal has a cascading set of strategic objectives. Objectives define specific and measurable actions that agencies take to help achieve the goal. One of Carson’s objectives was to become a strong candidate in the applicant pool – an essential step to achieving her overall goal of getting a new job.

After setting ambitious goals and objectives, agencies need a way to know whether or not they are making progress towards achieving them. There are two main ways to measure progress. Success metrics are quantifiable measurements agencies track to see if their strategies are working effectively. Carson’s success metrics were how many applications she submitted and how many interviews she landed. Milestones are key steps or actions agencies need to take by certain dates in order to achieve the goal. Two of Carson’s milestones were updating her resume and taking a professional development course.

Achieving a Goal

Once a strategic plan is published, agencies pivot to implement and execute the plan. They develop strategies to implement their goals and objectives, work to empower individuals and offices to meet and exceed targeted outcomes, and routinely monitor progress. In Carson’s case, this was when she began looking for new opportunities and applying to jobs that interested her.

During the four-year lifespan of the strategic plan, agencies revise and update it periodically to account for changes in their operating environment. This ensures that the plan remains useful as a resource to guide internal decision making. During Carson’s job search, she discovered she was interested in smaller companies. She adjusted her action plan to narrow her job search.

When done successfully, strategic planning enables agencies to meet and exceed targets, creating a well functioning government. And for Carson, it meant she landed that new job.

Learn More

Stay tuned as we explore the importance of strategy and performance in the Federal Government and share agency success stories. The next post in this series will look at the strategic development process. To learn more about strategic planning, see Circular A-11 Part 6 Section 230.