Meeting the moment


Tips for building bold strategic plans and turning them into results




In February 2022, federal agencies are expected to publish new strategic plans that lay out their goals and priorities and position them to accomplish their missions. The plans must identify how those goals and priorities will be achieved and specify how progress will be measured along the way.

The strategic planning requirement grew out of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, enacted to boost the effectiveness of the federal government. Congress strengthened the law in 2010, requiring agencies to release their strategic plans one year after a presidential inauguration and conduct more robust reviews of their progress. Strategic planning is also an established best practice in other sectors.

When done well, it can help federal agencies develop an ambitious vision for the future—and a roadmap to get there—that inspires and guides agency employees and delivers results for the people of this country. With so many challenges facing our country, it is a valuable opportunity for agencies to map out the major goals and objectives that will help them deliver on their missions, and plan for how tomorrow’s work will get done.

At times, agencies do not take full advantage of the strategic planning process and end up dedicating resources to creating plans that go unused.

“There’s an old joke that the dustiest book on any manager’s bookshelf is the strategic plan because it’s only touched twice,” said Chris Mihm, former managing director at the Government Accountability Office. “Once when it’s put on the shelf, and again when it’s taken down and replaced with the new edition.”

To help agencies develop bold and useful strategic plans for fiscal years 2022–2026, the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton Public Sector hosted three workshops with strategic planners from across the federal government between April and June 2021. The sessions offered participants an opportunity to share best practices for creating plans agencies find useful; learn how to incorporate into the plans evidence about what works; and devise ways to implement plans successfully once completed.

This report presents the findings from those workshops and supplemental interviews we conducted with federal strategic planning teams. It highlights practical steps strategic planners can take to create plans that:

  • Provide clear direction to agency leadership and staff members.
  • Generate buy-in by reflecting the input of a wide range of diverse stakeholders.
  • Remain up to date, changing when necessary to reflect the environment.
  • Are informed by evidence about what works and what does not.

The report also provides tips for turning those plans into results by:

  • Proactively communicating the strategic plan to the workforce.
  • Integrating the strategic plan into key agency processes.
  • Regularly tracking and reporting progress, changing course if necessary, and demanding accountability.

Download Meeting the moment to read the complete report. This report was originally published in September 2021 in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service.


About the Authors
About the Partnership

The Partnership for Public Service is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to revitalize the federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works. The Partnership teams up with federal agencies and other stakeholders to make our government more effective and efficient.


About Grant Thornton Public Sector

Grant Thornton Public Sector helps executives and managers at all levels of government maximize their performance and efficiency in the face of ever tightening budgets and increased demand for services. We give clients creative, cost-effective solutions that enhance their acquisition, financial, human capital, information technology, data analytics, and performance management. Our commitment to public sector success is burnished by a widely recognized body of thought leadership analyzing and recommending solutions to government’s greatest challenges.




More public sector insights