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Getting the Most from Strategic Reviews

Sometimes looking to your past can improve your future.

Napoleon marching on Moscow is an example of project management, which helped future generals avoid being blinded by their own hubris. Closed societies, like the Ming Dynasty in China, illustrate the dangers of getting closed off from potential growth and later helped other societies prosper from greater individual freedom. What ideas from history can you apply to your organization?

Your history may not include a campaign across Europe, but it’s important to examine the past if you want to avoid failures and repeat achievements.

Robert Shea, Principal in Grant Thornton Public Sector Practice, spoke with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program about the importance of strategic reviews.

Strategic reviews are the annual data-driven reviews initiated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act. The goal is to help agencies discover what is working and what needs to be done better.

“It is easier to measure what you’re doing then it is to measure what you are achieving,” said Shea. “Feds are not working in government so that they can issue regulations or spend money, they’re in government because they want to change lives for the better.”

“You really need to monitor it periodically – certainly more then annually. It is a perennial problem. It seems like we need re-education all of the time,” said Shea.

Limiting your strategic reviews to once a year is like extending the summer session between school semesters three more months. We need to be constantly exposed to the material instead of losing it due to large gaps in between evaluations. Employees should be constantly updated on their performance; if not, they may mishandle the information and cause problems for the organization.

Shea exemplifies the DVA as an agency gathering big data only to mishandle it. Raw data can’t find trends and patterns by itself.

One agency that is struggling with raw data is the Department of Veteran Affairs, “The VA has realized that the data they’ve been managing for many years is not only flawed but perhaps fraudulent. Raw data is not going to be useful. What’s it telling us?” asked Shea.

It seems to be telling us that the data is being mishandled at the lower levels; however, upper management should be the ones making changes.

Employees need to be held accountable for their performance while given the ability to provide feedback and make suggestions.

“You don’t want a strategic review to be a forum where you embarrass someone for their failure to perform,” said Shea. “You want folks to find this important. You need to discuss failure in order to achieve milestones or objectives. But in a way that’s not personally threatening to people, so that they’re candid in what they report, but willing to take responsibility. And most importantly, identify what steps you’re going to take to improve in the future,” said Shea.

Shea’s critical factors to make strategic reviews regular and workable include regular time, regular place, same people, and senior leadership showing up to lead the meeting.

Overall, it’s a win-win for the entire organization to take the reviews seriously. Employees can learn how to perform better, employers can survey which employees are performing to par, and organizations can make sure they’re headed in the right direction.

“We’ve got a requirement that in maturing and with some sharing of some lessons like, the importance of leadership commitment; the importance of the right people being in the room, and having a candid discussion of performance is really going to accelerate the improvement of performance across government,” said Shea.

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