- Why do Strategic Planning?
- Overview of Strategic Planning
- Developing a Mission Statement
- Action Plans
- Keeping Plans on Track
- Need Assistance Planning an Office Retreat?
Offices that invest the time to develop a written strategic plan for the upcoming term will accomplish more than offices that are well organized but lack clear goals and concrete methods for achieving them.
More than eighty percent of a Member’s job is responding to incoming mail; casework; legislation in committee and on the floor; and to reporters’ inquiries. Congressional offices need to plan their time to ensure the remaining twenty percent of office time is spent furthering the Member's agenda.
The strategic planning process plans for the future with the end in mind, as opposed to conventional planning, which capitalizes on opportunities without consideration as to whether the opportunities help achieve the Member’s mission.
The Member's vision/mission drives the process in deciding which goals the office should be pursuing in the next year, or term.
Goals are broad statements of direction that staff can refer to throughout the year to make sure their work is on track to help further the Member’s agenda. After the office establishes one- or two-year goals, the next step is to devise action plans to accomplish each goal. Not only should the action plan list the steps that must be taken, but it should also list the person(s) — including the Member — responsible for each step and the date for completing each action.
By formulating an action plan, the office has a written document that coordinates the activities of different staff (even those working out of separate offices); creates a clear strategy instead of an unrelated series of steps; and increases Member and staff accountability by ensuring that everyone is aware of his or her responsibilities and when work is to be finished.
Suggested Questions to Ask in Developing Mission/Vision Statements
- Why did you run for office? What did you hope to achieve?
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- What Members of Congress do you most respect, and why?
- What is your vision of America's future?
- Effective offices frequently reflect the core values and operating style of the Member. What values or characteristics should define the way your staff work and the office operates?
- Goals are derived from two primary sources: your Member's vision/mission statement and your analysis of office strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- To develop goals, offices should:
- Review the vision/mission statement for themes and long-term goals. Then develop goal statements (1–2 years) that support these larger goals and themes.
- Synthesize your Strength/Weakness/Opportunities/Threat (SWOT) analysis. Identify where Strengths and Opportunities coincide and where your Weaknesses and Threats match. Then draft goals that capitalize on your greatest opportunities and minimize the most serious threats.
- Goals are broad and strategic. They articulate your office priorities for the next 1–2 years.
- They provide clear strategic direction, but do not usually spell out a single, specific activity.
- The goal answers: “why” you are doing it, or ” to what end.”
- An office plan should encompass six goals or less. The goal-setting stage is where debate and conflict should occur. It is where the office determines what its priorities be for the next year or term.
- Goals are multi-faceted, almost always involving more than one staff member and more than one tactic or activity.
- The office should be clear about how it will measure its effectiveness at meeting the goal.
- Address the question, “How do we intend to accomplish this goal?”
- Conceptualize a coherent strategy for achieving a goal and list:
- the specific tasks that must be completed;
- person(s) responsible for each task;
- the date by which each task is to be completed.
- Requires staff to think and plan methodically thus reducing — on the front-end — the problems that are typically overlooked.
- Gives the Member input into the strategy process thereby reducing Member anxieties and questioning about work "falling through the cracks."
- Provides one last check on the viability of the goal. Developing detailed plans forces offices to make sure the goal warrants the work required to achieve it.
- Creates a written document that effectively coordinates the activities of different staff (even those working out of separate offices).
- Increases Member and staff accountability by ensuring that everyone is aware of his or her responsibilities and when specific tasks are to be completed.
- Creates effective management tool to track office progress on office goals, identify problems and resolve them quickly.
- Increases likelihood the work will be done properly and on time.
- Make sure someone is responsible for managing each goal in your strategic plan (e.g. Chief of Staff, LD, goal manager, staff team).
- Hold staff accountable for completing their action plan tasks. Also, review their performance of strategic planning tasks as part of staff performance evaluations.
- Create meeting structure to monitor progress on the strategic plan:
- Weekly: review progress in staff meetings
- Monthly: strategic meetings conducted by Chief of Staff or manager of each goal
- Quarterly: senior management meetings reviewing progress
- Create written documents to keep the Member and staff focused on their proactive responsibilities. Require staff to submit weekly and/or monthly reports outlining their progress on completing tasks assigned to them. Post strategic plan timelines on the wall that include the office’s goals, key projects, and due dates for completion. Make sure both the Member and staff understand that new goals or projects cannot be added to the plan without deleting goals or projects of comparable scope.
- Develop written criteria to guide discussion to determine if new initiatives should be incorporated into your plan.
- Does this project support any of our stated goals?
- Is the proposed initiative sufficiently attractive to supplant a goal or project already incorporated in the plan? If so, what goal or project will be sacrificed?
- What are the likely benefits and costs in pursuing this new initiative?
- What research should we conduct before making a decision on this proposal?
As the leading management service provider for Members of Congress, CMF has assisted hundreds of congressional offices plan and execute successful strategic planning retreats. The objective of strategic planning is to spend one or two days developing a forward-looking one-year or two-year plan for the office. This process of coming up with 3–6 major strategic goals confers the following benefits:
- your office is pro-active, not reactive on issues and events;
- staff works smarter because there are clear priorities; and
- coordination and communication improve between the Washington and district/state offices as a result of creating a strategic plan as a team.