Leverage for Efficiency, Accountability and Performance (LEAP) Fund for performance audits
Planning & Financial Management
Strategic planning at its most basic is identifying goals and developing a process to best meet those goals. This seemingly simple process can not only help organizations better utilize their resources, but can improve efficiency and accountability.
Once developed, a strategic plan guides the effective allocation of resources and provides a framework for decision making, helping ensure that organizational resources are allocated appropriately so that strategic goals and objectives are met. This is particularly important when resources are scarce and choices have to be made among competing priorities.
There are many approaches to the strategic planning process. However, regardless of the approach, a strategic plan will help an entity develop goals, objectives and actions.
- A goal is a broad statement of what will be achieved.
- An objective is specific and results in measurable outcomes.
- An action is work performed in order to achieve each objective.
Effective strategic planning requires the active participation of key organizational stakeholders, both internal and external. Participants should include the governing body, administrators, employees, community leaders, and individuals served by the organization.
Finally, strategic planning and budgeting should work hand in hand. In order to successfully implement a strategic plan, proper funding is needed to make the priorities you have established a reality.
A useful strategic plan should exhibit the following characteristics:
- A set of priorities
Setting priorities allows for the plan to be adjusted according to changing needs and resources.
- Achievable, measurable and time sensitive
Remember, it’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly. The plan should contain goals that are measurable and have deadlines.
- Flexible and responsive to changing conditions
The plan is a road map that may contain unforeseen detours such as an unexpected crisis, new opportunities or changes in resources.
- Short and simple
Plans that are more like a book will sit on a shelf. Keep it focused on the most important things to accomplish.
- A unit, not a menu
A useful plan is not a wish book. Everything in the plan needs to be accomplished.
- The means to an end, not an end in itself
The plan is the process by which it reaches its destination; it is not the destination.
- Based on a three- to five-year period
The strategic plan should be a living document that has a one-year drop off and a new year added so that it always covers the same time period
Strategic Plan Aligns Goals and Objectives with Mission
Miami East Local School District (see audit page 2-3)
The Miami East Local School District uses a comprehensive and sophisticated strategic plan to guide its operations. The strategic plan was first implemented in 1993, and the district last updated it in 2005.
When updating the strategic plan, the district solicits input from board members, administrators, staff, and community members in a process facilitated by the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.
As a result of this process, the district adopted a mission statement:
[T]o provide an individually focused and progressive, quality education that enables students to be contributing citizens of the local and world communities.
From that mission statement, the district identified five goals to align its operations with the district’s mission:
- Improvement of a comprehensive staff development program;
- Promotion and expansion of partnerships among students, staff members, parents, businesses, and community members;
- Provision of a safe, appropriate, cost effective and quality educational environment for students, staff, and community members, with a focus on building, consolidating, and upgrading school facilities;
- Improvement of curriculum and instruction; and
- Improvement of district technology.
The district uses its plan to guide spending for curriculum improvement, staff development, building and facility improvement, and technology. Citizens and district personnel participated in goal centered committees to move the strategic plan goals forward. District finances reflect a focus on directing limited resources to the areas identified as priorities in the strategic plan.
The Miami East Local School District has embraced strategic planning with regard to student achievement, staff development, business partnerships, and financial planning. The district realizes that with thoughtful financial strategic planning it can better serve its stakeholders by directing resources where they better serve our students, parents, and community. In a time where finances are a finite resource it’s more important than ever to have a strategic plan where costs can be contained and an always dwindling revenue stream can still assist students and our overall mission."Dr. Todd Rappold
Miami East Local Schools
Long-Term Planning Defines Goals, Sets Benchmarks for Performance
Mahoning County Solid Waste Management District (see audit page 1-4)
The district’s comprehensive solid waste management plan projects a 15-year period and contains estimates of the remaining useful lives of each of the landfills, long-term strategies for reducing future reliance on these landfills, input from members of the community, and clearly defined goals and benchmarks for measuring success. The plan also indicates the district will have sufficient landfill space to meet its needs throughout the planning period (15 years).
A representative of the Ohio EPA indicated at the time of our audit that they were unaware of any non-compliance issues facing the district and credits district management for developing a quality comprehensive solid waste management plan. The Ohio EPA officially approved the district’s solid waste management plan in March 2007, which signifies that the district’s format complied with Ohio EPA requirements.
CitiPlan 20/20 Sets Policy Direction and Service Priorities
City of Dayton
The City of Dayton adopted its initial strategic plan in 1999 and has continued to update and revise the plan on an ongoing basis. According to the city, the “CitiPlan 20/20 is a strong statement about Dayton’s commitment to redefining itself by building on our economic and community strengths and participating equally and fully in the regional community.”
This plan will be used to set policy direction; establish service priorities as the basis of the budget process; and act as a guideline for land use, zoning decisions and updates to our zoning code. The plan also provides a road map for working with neighboring jurisdictions and other public and private organizations.”
City-Wide Strategic Plan to Help Guide Decision Making
City of Phoenix, Arizona
The City of Phoenix is in the process of developing a city-wide strategic plan. The purpose of this exercise is “to help guide decision-making at all levels of the organization” and to focus the city’s efforts on its core businesses. This strategic plan will prove beneficial in communicating and setting budget priorities, especially throughout the budget cycle.
Working in 10 study area committees, a team of more than 50 people worked to develop the draft Phoenix Strategic Plan documents.
- Each study area committee consisted of two city champions, two champions from the public, and one staff assistant from the city.
- These committees met with other city staff, researched existing public documents, and outreached to external partners.
- Each team submitted a draft document for their study area, and the documents were reviewed and revised at two Work Study Sessions of the City Council in late January and early February.
Plan Focuses on Six Strategic Commitments
City of Vancouver, Washington
The City of Vancouver completed an update of the city-wide strategic plan in May 2008. The creation of the plan involved more than 2,000 people from throughout all parts of the community, including residents, businesses, non-profits, youth, seniors, neighborhoods and non- English speakers.
The result is a new, more focused vision for Vancouver built upon seven core values: Active and Livable Neighborhoods; Natural Resources; Economic Vitality and Diversity; Cultural Diversity; Responsive Government; Heritage; and Quality Urban Services.
The updated strategic plan focuses on six strategic commitments that the city council will use to guide the community’s direction:
- A Healthy, Livable, Sustainable Vancouver;
- Transportation Mobility and Connectivity;
- Financial Health and Economic Vitality;
- A Safe and Prepared Community;
- Accountable, Responsive City Government; and
- An Active, Involved Community.”
The city also will monitor its progress with the development of key indicators for each commitment.
- The Alliance for Innovation
- Government Finance Officers Association
- International City/County Management Association