Strategic planning over three years, five years and the longer term is a key responsibility of every agency’s senior leadership team.  Typical strategic planning decisions consider an agency's:

  • Purpose: What is the purpose of your agency?  Why was it established and what does the law require it to do for the people of NSW?  Consider your core values, statutory objectives and agency mission.
  • Goals: What goals do you aim to deliver for the public in the coming three to five years and in the longer term?  Consider the possible demographic, economic, technological and environmental futures facing NSW and your customers, and make the hard choices to select specific measurable goals you want your agency to deliver in the future.  
  • Scenarios: Can your business-as-usual programs and operations deliver these goals, and are there better ways of working?  Identify the best scenarios required to deliver these goals, and the resources - including the organisational culture and structure, workplaces, workforce size, capabilities, budgets, and assets - your agency will need to deliver those goals.
  • Resources:  What are the strengths and weaknesses of your agency’s current resources? If you remain on a business-as-usual trajectory, will your resources be sufficient to deliver your goals in the future?  If not, what needs to be done to close the gap between what exists and what will be needed in the best scenario? When will this change need to be implemented?
  • Plan: What exactly needs to be done to move your organisation and resources from the current state to where they need to be?  When must this be completed, how will it be done and who will do it? Don't forget to consider what can stay the same.
  • Results: Once your plan is being implemented, how will you know if it is succeeding?  What measureable results do you expect to occur, and when?  If the plan is not effective, when will you know? Who will be responsible for revising the plan?

In contrast to strategic planning, business planning - also known as operational planning - is something you typically do each year and looks at specific aims your agency is looking to meet in the coming 12 to 18 months.  Business planning typically addresses:

  • the specific aims or targets of your team, branch or agency, and when they need to be delivered
  • the actions and tasks required to achieve these aims, and when they need to happen
  • the human, physical and financial resources required in the coming period, and if more resources are required, when you need to procure them.
  • performance measures for tracking progress towards your goals
  • contingency plans for unforeseen circumstances.

Planning in practice

Although they have different purposes, participants and time frames, strategic and business planning essentially involve four interrelated elements:

  • Where are we going?  The business goals you need to deliver in future, and the time frame for delivering them.
  • How will we get there?  Whether you can meet these business goals using business-as-usual programs and operations, and whether there are better ways to deliver the goals.
  • What do we have to do to close the gap?  Whether your current state – organisational structure, work systems, workplaces, budgets, and human and other resources – needs to change so you can achieve the goals you have set.
  • How will we know if we are successful?  The results you need to deliver, for whom and by when. This includes determining how you will identify an ineffective plan and how you will revise it if necessary.

It is important to revise a strategic or business plan if there is a change in any of your major assumptions underpinning it - the organisational environment, future goals, government policies, resources and so on. Although planning is ultimately quite simple in essence, doing in effectively requires:

  • Scenario thinking: Once your establish the goals you want - or need - to deliver, use different scenarios to identify the most cost-effective ways to do so. You should consider a business-as-usual scenario, and a 'What if….?' scenario that identifies potentially better ways to achieve your goals.
  • Focused implementation: When you are developing the plan, involve the line managers most likely to implement it. 
  • Indicators of success: Develop and monitor indicators that show the public and the agency what the plan is delivering - or not delivering.
  • Cyclical and dynamic adaption: Once the plan is implemented, regularly check the impact it is having on your business goals and use this evidence to revise your plan as needed. 

Strategic workforce planning

The Public Service Commission's (PSC's) Strategic Workforce Planning Framework assists senior leaders across the NSW Government sector to better understand and prepare for their future workforce needs. The Framework outlines a practical, principles-based approach to implementing strategic workforce planning, which can be easily adapted to meet the particular circumstances and workforce needs of individual agencies.

The core requirements for the five stages of the strategic workforce planning cycle are:

  1. Align: Align organisational strategy and strategic workforce planning priorities. Understand the strategic direction of the organisation and how this will impact the workforce.
  2. Compare: Compare options to achieve outcomes. Understand the current and future workforce needs and create scenarios.
  3. Identify: Identify gaps. Conduct gap analysis to understand future workforce capability needs.
  4. Implement: Develop and implement the plan. Develop strategies to address workforce gaps and align the workforce with future needs.
  5. Review: Monitor, evaluate and revise. Implement strategies, evaluate their success and revise as needed.

Senior leaders can use the Framework to assist with strategic workforce planning, so they can have the right people in the right roles at the right time​.

Strategy mapping guide

The PSC’s Strategy Mapping for the NSW Public Sector guide is a practical tool to support senior leaders to drive organisational performance. The guide uses Kaplan and Norton’s Strategy Map methodology to articulate customer-focused outcomes and objectives, and cascade accountability to group and individual levels, creating a clear line of sight between organisational objectives and individual goals. To help execute strategy, guidance is provided for defining performance measures and targets for each element of the strategy map.

The result is a plan-on-a-page visual depicting how organisational plans, priorities and capabilities contribute to the achievement of organiational objectives. Senior leaders can use this visual to communicate the organisational strategy to employees, stakeholders and customers.  Senior leaders and employees can use the organisational level as a starting point for creating branch and individual level strategy maps. The end result will be focus across all levels of the organisation that is consistent and aligns with the overarching organisational objectives.

This guide will help to drive organisational performance through supporting leaders to define clear, customer- focused outcomes and objectives; communicate strategy and vision with employees, stakeholders and customers; and clarify for employees how their work fits into the bigger picture.

Capital (asset) planning

NSW Treasury has developed a capital planning portal that provides information on agency requirements for capital planning (formerly known as Total Asset Management).  

The portal supports a strategic approach to physical asset planning, which involves an agency aligning its 10-year asset planning with its service delivery priorities and strategies, all within the limits of available resources.  Physical assets include land and buildings, information technology, infrastructure (including roads, bridges and rail), and equipment or vehicles.

Further information

  • Public Service Commission
    • Workforce trends: The People Matter Employee Survey portal presents data on employees' experiences with their own work and when working with their team members, managers and organisations.
    • Workforce data: Workforce Profile Reports provide data on the characteristics of the NSW public sector workforce. 
  • Further reading on the topic of strategic thinking and planning are: