EXPERT COMMENT

Strategic planning in the public sector

Helps to focus organisation resources on the achievement of specific goals.

In Summary

•The lack of internal competence leads to many agencies procuring for consultancy services in strategy development.

•The use of consultants, particularly those without practical experience in public sector has more disadvantages than advantages.

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati and Judiciary Chief Registrar Ann Amadi during the IEBC Strategic plan 2020-2024 launch at Bomas of Kenya on June 15, 2021
IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati and Judiciary Chief Registrar Ann Amadi during the IEBC Strategic plan 2020-2024 launch at Bomas of Kenya on June 15, 2021
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

A strategic plan is important for every organisation be it public, private, Non-governmental or any other.

A strategy helps to focus the organisations resources on the achievement of specific goals within a specified period of time.

Different organisations use different strategic periods ranging from three years to 10 years, majority of which adopt five years’ period.

In Kenya, government agencies are required to have a strategic plan as part of the performance contract.

This, therefore, makes it mandatory for them to have a current strategic plan.

Strategic planning in government is faced by many challenges, ranging from planning to implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

In planning and implementation, there are many uncertainties, as government agencies do not have full control of their programs and resources.

The strategic periods also largely overlap with the government of the day development agenda and focus.

This calls for need for the government agencies' strategic plans to be flexible.

Strategic planning in government is also hampered by lack of internal competence in planning processes.

The lack of internal competence leads to many agencies procuring for consultancy services in strategy development.

The use of consultants, particularly those without practical experience in public sector has more disadvantages than advantages.

The disadvantages stem from the fact that; the consultants impose text books theories on government agencies.

The resulting strategic plans in many cases are usually not implementable and do not resonate well internally with staff.

There is usually a lack of awareness and understanding on the strategy focus, therefore, strategic plans remain in shelves, and business as usual continues.

During terminal reviews you realize that majority of achievements are outside the strategic objectives and initiatives.

To get strategic planning right in the public sector, government agencies should develop internal competencies for strategic planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

In terms of the strategy development process, government agencies should adopt the following process; First; carry out extensive external and internal environmental analysis.

In external analysis, the agencies should analyze all the factors in the external environment thatmay support and or hinder the organizations’ achievement of their objectives.

There are various tools that have been documented for external environmental analysis.

One thing that should not limit government agencies is trying to force external factors into some aspects as prescribed in the tools.

To simply this, some factors may cut across the legal, economic, social, technological,political, or even the environment.

The most important thing is to ensure that all the necessary factors are exhaustively analyzed and put into consideration in analyzing the opportunities and threats facing the organisation.

The government agencies should also carry out proper internal environment analysis.

In the internal environment analysis aspects for analysis including;supporting legal framework, government policies and guidelines, internal policies and procedures, governance and organisational structure, resources both tangible and intangible.

Resources are critical in achievement of institutional objectives.

Second; stakeholders and competitors’ analysis is another very important step that should be undertaken by government agencies in their strategic planning process.

This step is so important that it should not be overlooked. Stakeholders have interests and powers that largely influence the strategic direction of an organisation.

Competitors also influence the strategic direction of organisations in very many ways.

Internal environment analysis, and stakeholders,and competitors’ analysis enables the government organization to determine and understand what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses.

One major mistake done by both private and public agencies in strategic planning is jumping into strengths, weaknesses,opportunities, and threats analysis without having a proper analysis of their internal environment, stakeholders, and competitors.

Third; To be competitive, therefore, the government agencies must then come up with strategic pillars that support their strategy focus for the next strategic period.

Once the pillars andstrategic focus areas are identified, then initiatives to enhance the achievement of the desiredstrategic outcome should be established.

Government agencies should in addition come up witha number of core values that lay a foundation for the desired culture.

The core values help the organisation to align and focus their thoughts, actions, behavior and resources. As a guideline,the core values should not be more than six.

Fourth; Planning on achievement of the initiatives follows. The planning, among other things,should include, what will be done, who will do what, when it will be done, with which resources,and when and how the resources will be evaluated.

The implementation of the initiatives should be monitored on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Government agencies should not wait for mid-term reviews to review status of implementation of their strategic plans.

To simplify implementation, and monitoring, and evaluation of strategic initiatives, government agencies should incorporate them into the staff performance monitoring tools.

The general guide for number of strategy pillars is that they should not be more than six. The focus areas should alsonot be more than four, with the ideal number being three focus areas per pillar.

The wholeessence is to keep it simple and to have the whole organization focused, without clouding themwith many strategy pillars, focus areas, and initiatives that may get lost in the implementationphase.

Government agencies should also have a fully established unit for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the strategic initiatives.

For success of the whole strategic planning process,it is very important that both internal and external stakeholders are closely involved. The process must be participatory.

Stakeholders are engaged during the different phases of strategic planning, during implementation of strategic initiatives, during evaluation, and interminal review.

Lastly, the vision should communicate the desired future state of the organization both tointernal stakeholders and external stakeholders, and it should be clear, simple, and easy toremember.

The mission statement should reflect why the organisation exists and similar to the vision it should be clear and simple, and it should communicate to both the external andinternal stakeholders.

Strategic planning is important for public agencies as it enhances efficient and effective provision of products and services to the public.

Dr Kibera Muriuki holds a PhD in Business Administration, Strategic Management.