By Eric Schoennauer and Tony Mazzoccoli
The Department of State’s strategic planning team agrees that there is no cookie-cutter approach to implementing a strategy. Missions come in many shapes and sizes, relationships with host countries vary widely and leaders all have their own styles and unique abilities. Increasingly, post leaders and staff around the world are finding that when they set clear objectives and follow a few basic principles they are better positioned to advance American security, interests and values.
In 2018, all U.S. missions developed new Integrated Country Strategies (ICS) to ensure that their priorities and objectives aligned with those in the National Security Strategy, the State-USAID Joint Strategic Plan, or with other high-level agency strategies. Strategic plans help inform the public and partners about priorities. They also provide a foundation for resource decisions and establish objectives against which to measure performance.
While developing a solid strategy is just the first step, missions must consciously implement, review and adjust their strategy in order to deliver on the foreign policy results communicated in their plans. This can take many forms, for example: in Nouakchott, Mauritania, staff distributed simple wallet-size cards which proved effective, while in Yangon, Myanmar, large posters are posted throughout the embassy, including in the main conference room, listing the goals and objectives in both English and Myanmar as a constant reminder to staff and visitors alike.
Earlier this year, the Department launched an ICS Implementation Toolkit on Communities@State on OpenNet which includes a suggested approach, along with numerous real examples for missions to use as models. The toolkit outlines four steps to better position Department leaders in order to achieve the objectives that they and their staff developed.
Good strategy is not just about drafting the perfect plan on paper. It is about giving employees clear objectives, empowering them to lead and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in order to achieve greater mission impact. Employees interested in learning more about the Implementation Toolkit, for examples of how other missions are implementing their ICS or for available training and facilitation options, can contact the Department’s Integrated Country Strategy team at ICS@state.gov.
Eric Schoennauer is the strategic planning branch chief in the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources. Tony Mazzoccoli is the director of planning and strategic performance in the Office of Budget and Planning.