Strategy: Effective Planning and Implementation.
Dr. Tom Ward, IPA Governance Specialist provided some reflections on his experience of supporting public and not-for-profit entities in strategy development, coupled with experience of being at the Board table of two public bodies (as Board Secretary), and a member of an in-house strategy team. He contended that the quality and effectiveness of strategies can depend on a number of factors, including:
- The entity’s attitude towards strategy;
- Access to good information/data;
- Level of stakeholder engagement/consultation;
- The inclusion of tangible performance indicators;
- How well the strategy is communicated (both at the outset and regarding progress).
Tom said that a frequent finding in Board evaluation exercises is a degree of frustration amongst Board members as to their involvement in strategy (and performance assessment). He said this can be addressed by, inter alia, ensuring there is a Board approved process for developing strategy; through definite periodic reviews of strategy, which will form part of the Board’s work programme; through using strategy ‘away days’; and by structuring the meeting agenda in such a way as to frontload strategic/performance items.
Deirdre Lyons, Secretary to the Board and Corporate Services Manager at IDA Ireland, provided a clear and insightful overview of how the IDA developed and monitors its current strategy, Winning: Foreign Direct Investment 2015-2019. She spoke of the development process including internal strategy groups, Executive sessions, Board sessions, client engagement and wider stakeholder engagement, and that the IDA deliberately included tangible targets in its strategy. She said that implementation is supported by a number of distinct strategic initiatives within IDA Ireland, with monitoring by the Executive Committee, Board and a dedicated sub-committee of the Board. Monitoring is conducted by way of the monthly management report, a balanced scorecard, mid-year review and an end of year review – with reviews including stakeholder engagement.
John Laffan, Principal Officer in the Civil Governance Unit at the Department of Justice & Equality (DJE) outlined his Department’s engagement with agencies under its remit. This includes formal governance agreements with 25 agencies, a majority of these being an Annual Oversight Agreement, which includes a Performance Delivery Agreement (for more independent bodies, an Annual Corporate Governance Assurance Agreement is used). He said that the performance goals in Performance Delivery Agreements are based on the strategic objectives of the agency set out in its strategic plan, with each objective to include actions, KPIs and targets for the year. This forms the basis for twice yearly governance meetings between the Department and each agency, which are complemented by an annual Agency Roundtable and agency networks.
John provided his personal view of ‘good’ agency strategy from a departmental perspective, which should, he said:
- Be aligned with government policy;
- Be aimed at fulfilling the statutory mandate of the Agency;
- Be aligned with the Department’s Statement of Strategy (to the extent possible);
- Include challenging but achievable targets in terms of deliverables;
- Include a focus on working collaboratively across the Justice and Equality sector and across government as a whole.
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