19 – Integrated planning in local government. Some questions and answers. Part 2.

As discussed in the previous post, integrated planning involves each level of planning occurring in the correct sequence with goals cascading between plans to create alignment.  Here are some further thoughts.

An integrated planning process starts by effectively linking organisational strategy with planning.  Stace and Dunphy say that a ‘well argued, well documented strategic plan’ is not a strategy.  Instead, they say strategy is an ‘active process of thinking and communicating, generated at the corporate and strategic business unit levels, by which leaders gain the intellectual, emotional and behavioural commitment of their people in stretching the limits of the corporation’s ability to achieve success’.  It is the set of understandings that guide the direction and behaviour of the organisation.  Mankins and Steele believe that often strategic direction is established in spite of the strategic planning process, not because of it – “… with the big decisions being made outside the planning process, strategic planning becomes merely a codification of judgements top management has already made, rather than a vehicle for identifying and debating the critical decisions the organisation needs to make to produce superior performance”.  In local government, strategy arises from long term community plans and the day to day activities of the Council and the Executive.

So, integrated planning enables the continuous review and creation of strategy to influence plans.

An integrated planning process has one agreed set of organisational priorities. Resources are allocated to those priorities and the collective effort aims to implement those priorities and measure success in doing so.  Building an organisational plan by adding together the strategies and actions from multiple, independently created plans is unlikely to achieve this outcome. A top down approach is initially required to set high level parameters (i.e. the strategy) that planning then takes into action.  Each part of the organisation can use those parameters to create plans that cover their contribution towards achieving organisational priorities.

So, integrated planning occurs when each planning unit is working within shared parameters to achieve common strategic priorities.

An integrated planning process will link actions across functional areas.  The ‘silo’ effect commonly described in local government, needs to be overcome to achieve high performance.  If each department plans separately without clear strategic priorities and shared high level parameters, there will be a functional bias as each department optimises their activities.  There will be competition for the resources available within the common resource pool.  A focus on cross-functional processes when planning will help to integrate the work to be done in implementing strategy.  This will require processes to be identified, understood and owned, so that they can be properly considered in plans.

So, integrated planning recognises and reinforces cross-functional processes.

Planning isn’t integrated simply because we all do it at the same time, and integration isn’t achieved simply by joining together multiple independent plans.  A planning process is required that is top down and bottom up, and driven by functions (or departments) and processes.  The planning framework prescribed in NSW local government is a really good starting point.

Lancing Farrell

Mankins, Michael and Steele, Richard 2006. Stop making plans, start making strategy in Harvard Business Review, January.

Stace, Doug and Dunphy, Dexter 2007. Beyond the Boundaries – leading and re-creating the successful enterprise.