A strategic development plan is a document developed by an institution that identifies the reforms required and the necessary actions to make the institution more productive and responsive to stakeholders. Corporations, government bodies and non-government organizations develop such plans and parliaments are no different from other institutions in their ability to benefit from such a plan.
Strategic development planning has proven to be constructive in supporting parliaments in developing their own development plans. Among the benefits are the following:
- Annual work plans can be based on strategic plans. This helps ensure that activities are directly linked with strategic objectives and overall institutional development;
- Strategic development planning encourages a consistent review of achievements and thereby identifies areas where progress is lagging on an on going basis; and
- Strategic development plans for and on behalf of parliaments are helpful in promoting improved coordination of external aid.
Strategic planning is not simple or easy even in more mature institutions, and it is particularly challenging given the political nature of a parliament. Yet experience indicates that the challenges can be overcome so that it constitutes a crucial, indispensable and (often) even unifying method of gathering different actors around the same development objectives.
A strategic development plan should determine an institution's long-term goals for development and then identify the best approaches for achieving those goals. The following the most important steps and priority areas during such a process:
1. Vision, mission and values
A vision must first be defined, after which a mission statement should be developed based on that vision. The mission statement should include a list of prioritized goals.
2. Needs assessment/baseline analysis
A parliament must gather information at the early stages to ensure it can make informed decisions. After determining exactly where it stands, the parliament can then determine where it wants to go and how it plans to get there.
Strategic planning and decision-making processes should end with strategic objectives and a road map of ways to achieve those objectives. The strategic objectives of a parliament’s development plan should include a series of targets to be achieved during a given period of time. To ensure these objectives are completed, it is necessary to define a series of activities to be undertaken, specify which individuals or groups are responsible for each action, and develop realistic timelines for delivery.
4. Implementation and monitoring
Experience shows that plans are remarkably similar in terms of which actors are involved in implementing the plan. The most important lesson learned in this respect is that internal parliamentary actors are, all things equal, best suited for having responsibility for key tasks. Their direct engagement is also useful in ensuring adequate and effective ownership by the institution, including all political parties and the administration.
In addition to daily monitoring, longer-term evaluations are vital to ensure the relevance and coherence of the strategic development plan over time.
6. Adaptation of the plan
A reorientation or alteration of the parliament strategic development plan may be necessary if key changes occur in the parliament for one reason or another.
It is important to note that although strategic development planning is often a complex, tense and sometimes contradictory process;, it is usually also a highly constructive and valuable instrument of change and development. Parliaments are responsible for the successful development of the parliamentary institution and its leadership should commit to leading an inclusive, participatory process.