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What Is Government Strategic Planning?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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Government strategic planning is a type of planning done by governmental agencies to prepare for future needs and issues. Although some strategic planning in government has happened for thousands of years, in recent years it has become more formalized. In addition, some governments, recognizing the value in strategic planning, have mandated plans by all, or nearly all, agencies and divisions of the government. In short, government strategic planning can be defined as the identification and plan to reach a long-range goal, or series of goals, for the public good.

Generally, a strategic plan starts with two main statements, the mission statement and the vision statement. While these two statements are very similar, they are also somewhat different in their approach. By definition, a mission statement explains an organization's reason for existence. A vision statement is forward looking, and explains how the mission statement may be reached. For example, a public works organization may have as its mission statement protecting and serving transportation needs, and its vision statement may include specifics, such as having alternative sources of transportation or a more complete infrastructure network in place.

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A needs analysis is another important step in government strategic planning. This helps determine what the current needs are, but also looks ahead to what future needs may be. Governments, both local and national, find needs analyses helpful in determining where best to appropriate resources. For example, if a local government sees growth potential in a certain part of a city, it may devote more resources to improving those parts to get ready for that growth. This is an inexact science, so such needs plans must be flexible enough to change.

Closely related to a needs analysis in government strategic planning is developing a set of goals. These goals generally are aligned to help meet the issues discovered or documented during the needs analysis. For example, if the needs analysis shows the need for more streets or improved streets, that can be put into the goals, typically under a section reserved for capital improvements. These goals may also come with timelines, but not all government strategic planning will involve certain timeframes.

Along each step of the way, some oversight body, such as city council or legislature, will oversee the process. Once the goals are approved, the next step involves putting an action plan into place. This means identifying key people, and defining their responsibilities in the process. A budget may be put together, as well as possible financing, if needed. Outside contractors may also be hired or consulted for the projects.

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