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Featured Post: Strategic Planning: Do’s and Don’ts

First Some of the Do’s

None of these do’s and don’ts apply in every situation, but most of them do apply most of the time. Have a look, comment, share your own experiences. Please pass on links you might have to your own plans or plans you would like us to see.

Do Engage the Top Leaders

A justice organization’s top leaders may be committed to reform. Or not. Or they may be committed, but not know what to do. In either case, just as in most organizations, leaders are unlikely to accept a plan produced by their subordinates if they don’t like it or don’t really understand it. The best way to deal with this is to keep them well informed from the beginning to the end and to be sure to take their ideas and concerns into account.

Do Build A Justice Planning Team

If your leaders understand what you’re doing, they may let you build a Planning Team to do the work. Even a simple plan takes a lot of work. If planning is everybody’s job, or if it’s just the consultant’s job, then it’s nobody’s responsibility. A small team from the organization, learning and doing some real work, is better than a consultant built plan or one cobbled together from the thoughts of a large number who are just passing the time – sitting in silence or, sometimes worse, talking a lot. And, having a planning team helps to make planning sustainable. Your Planning Team will be even more able to make the next plan after making this one and helping to implement it.

Do Put Access to Justice First

Emphasize access to justice. Empowering people to identify their legal needs, making a start on a simple public defender programme, training paralegals to accompany people to meet public officials, putting proper reception desks in courts, police stations, and prisons – these soon give everybody the experience of actually delivering justice services to people – which is what it’s all about. Or should be.

Do Plan For Some Immediate Benefits for People

Try hard to see to it that your plan will bring at least some immediate benefits to your true clients – people seeking justice. It’s natural for organizations to focus first on their own needs. But internal initiatives – improved compensation, better promotion and transfer practices, training in commercial arbitration, ethics codes, upgraded physical infrastructure, safer lodgings in remote areas, case management – none of these will deliver justice benefits to your clients anytime soon. If you want to build public trust, do something for your clients. Do it now! That’s what we’re here for.

Do Make Sure That the Justice Strategic Plan Can Be Implemented By This Organization

Adjust everything to your organization’s planning experience. An organization making its first strategic plan usually just needs a simple plan that it can implement. Even that is hard work. More experienced planners can do more. They might even be put off by goals that are too modest. Generally, simple is good.

Do Follow an Applicable Justice Strategic Plan Template

Use a conventional strategic plan template. Among other things, it makes it easier to explain what you’re doing to your leaders and to your team. Message from the Minister, introduction, background, vision, mission and mandate, strategic goals and actions – and you’re done. Now you can get to work on implementation. Anyway, that’s the hard part. Save innovations in plan structure until you have your ISO certification. Sometimes you see monitoring and evaluation in the strategic plan. It more logically belongs with the implementation plan.

Do Look for Ways to Make It Short

Make it short. Even better, make it very short. A strategic plan is not a PhD dissertation. It’s not where you present all the results of your ruminations, consultations and research. It’s where you set out succinctly how the organization sees itself, its context and exactly what it proposes to focus on for the next planning period. A 7-page strategic plan, easily understood and well implemented, is way better than the longer plans we so often see.

Do Treat Implementation Separately

Make a separate implementation plan. Your strategic plan is not the place to bore your readers with all the things you will have to do to launch a public awareness campaign or a code of ethics or whatever. You do for sure need an implementation plan, just not as part of your strategic plan. You might even try to have it ready, at least in outline, when you present your strategic plan.

Do Avoid Over Analysing

Particularly if your organization is just beginning to plan, it might not be ready for probing research and analysis. To get started, try some simple data gathering by interviewing your counterparts in government, consulting international organizations, holding small meetings with staff at head office and in the field and talking to some justice seekers. NGOs, businesses and trade associations are usually glad to be asked for their help. Get their views on your strengths and weaknesses and the high impact initiatives they would recommend. What do they think would improve the services you should be offering.

Do Think Big. You Can Compromise on Your Justice Plans Later

Think big but think real. Identify the game changing strategies and then devise initiatives that you can realistically implement with the people and other resources you actually have within the time you’ve been given. There will always be lots of pressure to downsize your initiatives. At least if you start big but real, you might end up with a strategic plan that matters.

Do Create a Safe Place for Everyone Involved in the Justice Planning Process

Make your planning meetings a safe place. You can’t help your planning team to build a strategic plan if they don’t feel safe. You can’t help your clients express themselves freely if they don’t feel safe. Your Minister will not make bold decisions if she does not feel safe. Safety takes time, a clear roadmap, frequent mediation with leadership and lots of individual coaching. You can help a lot with a positive vibe, even when things aren’t going smoothly, which may be quite often.

…And Then the Don’ts

Don’t Try to Fix Everything

It is never possible to fix everything. Even for strong organizations (and you may not see too many of those) it is hard to implement more than one or two meaningful strategies. A few impactful initiatives well implemented, on time and on budget count more than winning the prize for the Most Comprehensive Strategic Plan of 2019.

Dont’ Forget the Country’s Justice Reform Budget

The justice funding and justice planning cycles of your government and its international partners are critical. Most justice organizations have never had investment funds for reform. If funds can be made available, you may have just missed this year’s budget, in which case you will need for this year to work with low cost (no cost) items. If you need money, leave time in your plan to secure it. If you doubt that you can secure it, don’t plan initiatives that depend on it.

Don’t Be Careless About Your Justice Planning Team’s Safety

Please, please. Don’t encourage team members to be indiscrete. There is almost always someone on the team whose job it is to report back to higher authority. If an outsider says or does something that offends leadership, they may not be invited back to make the next plan. If it’s something outrageous, they may be sent home. For a staff member who succumbs to your pressure to be honest, frank or courageous, crossing a line may be career ending – or worse.

People will normally quietly share their real thoughts in stages, as they come to trust you. Find ways of showing people what fact based planning looks like. Looking at other strategic plans can help. Simple research, like client surveys, can help. In the end, trust them to find the facts and pass them on when they trust you enough to do so.

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