About the Authors: Jon Danilowicz is Political/Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy to Bangladesh, and Melissa Bentley is a Planning Officer in S/CRS.Recognition of the Value of a Whole-of-Government Approach to Strategic Planning
A year-long partnership between the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) and the U.S. Embassy to Bangladesh in Dhaka has resulted in the FY 2011 Bangladesh Mission Strategic Plan (MSP) being recognized by the U.S. Department of State as the “MSP of the Year.” This award recognized the Embassy’s embrace of the S/CRS-inspired whole-of-government approach to strategic planning. This significant accomplishment flowed from the Embassy’s strong integration, unity of purpose, and strategic approach to planning. The award also highlighted the value of S/CRS’ innovative assessment and planning process that united the Embassy around a common understanding of the local environment, an overarching U.S Government (USG) goal, and the strategy for achieving that goal.
At Ambassador James Moriarty’s request, in January 2009 S/CRS deployed a team to facilitate a whole-of-government strategic planning process at the Embassy timed to coincide with Bangladesh’s transition to democracy after a two-year caretaker government period. This process involved personnel from all Embassy sections, including the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and produced a USG Three-Year Strategic Plan for Bangladesh. This whole-of-government plan described the critical dynamics affecting stability in Bangladesh and articulated an overarching USG goal for the country, the strategic objectives necessary to achieve this goal, and the approaches required to promote stability within the country. This overarching three-year plan informed, and will continue to inform, the basis of several iterations of the Embassy’s annual MSP.
In addition to serving as a guideline for the Embassy’s MSP, this document provided a framework for monitoring progress towards achieving USG objectives and instituted a quarterly review process. Following an initial in-house review by the Country Team in June, the Ambassador requested that an S/CRS team return to Dhaka to facilitate a comprehensive review of the Strategic Plan. In October 2009, S/CRS deployed a three-person team to the Embassy to support the Ambassador’s goal of making the Plan, and the planning process, a “living tool.” Rather than placing the Plan on the shelf following its completion, the document had become a tool for monitoring progress and supporting decision-making and coordination across the Mission. Senior leadership at the Embassy participated in the review, noting that the process had become as important as the product given its ability to unite the Country Team around a common goal.
As part of the ongoing review process, the S/CRS team guided the Embassy in looking back over the previous nine months to critically assess progress towards previous objectives, assess changes in the local environment, and update the Strategic Plan based on these changes and evolving priorities. The review process included personnel from across the interagency and allowed participants the space to step back and assess the current situation in Bangladesh, review their strategy for promoting stability, and discuss their progress towards achieving the Embassy’s goal. This process helped to re-invigorate the Embassy’s whole-of-mission vision, provide a shared understanding of the environment, and reinforce the already strong integration that existed at Post. The S/CRS team worked alongside the Embassy’s previously established working groups to review the strategic plan and recommended that these working groups subsequently form the core of Post’s on-going assessment and planning processes. As a result, the working groups have been charged with undertaking periodic reviews of the environment and the Embassy’s strategic objectives. Moreover, the Embassy will also use the Plan as a vehicle to link the Mission’s strategic vision with existing planning and reporting requirements.
After departing Dhaka, the S/CRS team stopped at United States Pacific Command (PACOM) to brief on the whole-of-government planning process and the review of the Bangladesh Plan. In this respect, a whole-of-government plan can serve as a tool to inform military planning and highlight areas for increased collaboration. Further briefings have been planned for Washington stakeholders.
The planning process that informed Bangladesh’s MSP presented an opportunity for S/CRS’ planning process to unite the interagency around a shared story of what the USG aims to accomplish in Bangladesh and to provide the Embassy the opportunity to clearly organize its efforts around one common goal. Given the success of this pilot, S/CRS is considering offering similar planning support to select other Embassies facing reconstruction and stabilization challenges.