Strategic planning; Programme of work and Monitoring and reporting

Overview of the Strategic Planning process 

Planning is a critical management function that aims to achieve an optimum balance of needs or demands using available resources. The planning process identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, formulates the strategies to achieve them, organizes or creates the means required and establishes performance measurement frameworks as well as determining the resources required. Planning forms the basis of the implementation process and directs all steps in their proper sequence. 

Strategic planning is a fundamental organizational management activity that is used to set priorities; focus energy and resources; ensure that management, staff various offices within the organization and other stakeholders are working toward common goals; establish agreement around intended results; and assess and adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful. 

In UN-Habitat, the strategic plan provides the (i) strategic setting; (ii) overarching vision, (iii) strategic results to be achieved, (iv) areas of focus or domains of change, and (v) implementation strategies, that will guide its work for a period of 4 years. 

The Governing Council in 2005 requested UN-Habitat to develop a strategic plan to sharpen its programmatic focus in critical areas. The first strategic plan, the Medium-Term Strategic and Institutional Plan (MTSIP) for 2008-2013 was developed in 2007, a subsequent strategic plan for 2014-2019 was developed by the Agency and approved by the Governing Council in 2013, and the current strategic plan 2020-2023 developed and approved by the UN-Habitat Assembly at its first session in May 2019, under HSP/HA/1/Res.1.  

Key components that inform the strategic plan (Is this the right heading for this section?)

Planning, especially results-based planning is the first phase of the Results-Based Management approach. It uses a combination of methodologies and tools. We plan because: 

  1. Planning enables an organization to set its vision, mission, goals, values and strategies for achieving results as well as the means for measuring performance. 

  1. Planning enables alignment of project and programme objectives with organizational goals and strategies — without planning the organization may not be in a position to achieve corporate goals and impact, as projects and programmes could deliver services and products that do not effectively contribute to the organizational mission. 

  1. Planning clarifies and outlines what should be done when — without proper planning, projects or programmes may be implemented at the wrong time or in the wrong manner and could result in poor outcomes.  

  1. Planning helps mitigate and manage crises and ensure smoother implementation 

  1. There will always be unexpected situations in programmes and projects. However, a proper planning exercise helps reduce the likelihood of these and prepares the team to deal with them when they occur. The planning process should also involve assessing risks and assumptions and thinking through possible unintended consequences of the activities being planned. The results of these exercises can be very helpful in anticipating and dealing with problems.  

  1. Planning improves focus on priorities and leads to more efficient use of time, money and other resources. Having a clear plan or roadmap helps focus limited resources on priority activities; that is, the ones most likely to bring about the desired change. Without a plan, it is easy to get distracted by competing demands. Similarly, projects and programmes will often go off track and become ineffective and inefficient. 

  1. Planning helps determine what success will look like – a proper plan helps individuals and units to assess whether the results achieved are those that were intended, and to assess any discrepancies. Of course, this requires effective monitoring and evaluation of what was planned. For this reason, good planning includes a clear strategy for monitoring and evaluation and use of the information from these processes. 

  1. Planning helps senior management by providing guidelines and frameworks for future decisions. The planning process seeks to answer the following questions: "Who are we? Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? How do we measure our progress?" 

In most organisations, planning takes place at the corporate level as well as at the operational level. At the corporate level, corporate goals and strategies are formulated in a strategic planning process. In many organisations implementation is often organised through projects and programmes. In this case the operational planning process is also called project/programmeme planning.  

Key processes and steps 

UN-Habitat’s planning process starts with preparation of the four-year strategic plan. In order to align the strategic plan with the planning cycle of the UN Secretariat, UN-Habitat currently implements the strategic plan 2020-2023 in a rolling manner, through four annual work programme and budgets.  

The preparation of the strategic plan at UN-Habitat includes the following steps: 

  1. Selecting a team 

  1. Preparing a concept note 

  1. Communicating with staff about the preparation of the strategic plan 

  1. Conducting a situation analysis (Where are we now and what are the trends?) 

  1. Defining an identity/assessing UN-Habitat’s identity (Who are we?) 

  1. Defining the future (Where do we want to be? What are our priorities, domains of change, results?) 

  1. Defining strategies (How do we get there? What are the risks and assumptions? How much will it cost?) 

  1. Defining performance tracking mechanism (How do we measure progress?) 

Programme of work overview  

The annual work programme and budget represents the second phase of the UN Secretariat planning and budgeting cycle. It is an implementation document that operationalizes the four-year strategic plan by translating them into concrete deliverables or outputs and resources (both post and non-post resources) with a view to achieving the outcomes. The instructions for its preparation are provided to all entities of the UN Secretariat by the UN Controller’s office, in particular the Programme Planning and Budget Division. 

Programme of work planning process 

  • Step 1: the preparation of the work programme and budget starts with the issuance of a memo by the Office of the Executive Director (i) announcing the commencement of the preparation process; (ii) clarifying roles and responsibilities; (iii) comprising internal guidelines; and (iii) forwarding instructions (i.e. Support Guide) received from the Programme Planning and Budget Division. 

  • Step 2: The Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch of the External Relations Knowledge and Innovation Division, leads the whole process by engaging with Branches and Regional Offices, ensuring that guidelines are followed, and contributions are submitted on time. In engaging with various offices, the Planning Unit uses RBM methodologies and tools (e.g., result-chains, theories of change, etc.) in view of supporting the identification of transformational outputs.  

  • Step 3: The Office of the Executive Director organizes a senior management retreat or planning week, which reviews substantive priorities, strategies and partnerships, and advance the preparation of the work programme and budget. 

  • Step 4: The Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch puts together the draft annual work programme together through a consultative process with the Global Solutions Division, Regional Offices and MACS to ensure that the draft annual work programme and budget is of the best possible quality, and in particular that the relationship between agreed outputs/deliverables and outcome areas of the strategic plan is as robust as possible.  

  • Step 5: The Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch shares the draft with the Finance and Budget Unit of the Management and Compliance Division) to include resources required to implement the work programme and budget (the incorporation of resources is coordinated by MACS). It re-engages with the Global Solution Division and Regional Offices to ensure that the draft annual work programme and budget is of the best possible quality.  

  • Step 6: The Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch submits the draft annual work programme to the Senior leadership for review and clearance. 

  • Step 7: The External Relations Knowledge and Innovation Division and MACS organize consultations with the UN-Habitat Executive Board, through the Ad hoc Working Group on Administrative matters on the draft annual work programme; the consultations are attended by the Global Solution Division and Regional Offices under the coordination of the Office of the Executive Director.  

  • Step 8: The Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch and MACS submits the draft annual workprogramme and budget to the Programme Planning and Budgeting Division, for review of the programmatic part of the draft work programme and budget. 

  • Step 9: Following consultations with the UN-Habitat Executive Board, the External Relations Knowledge and Innovation Division submits the draft annual work programme and budget to the Programme Planning and Budgeting Division, for review of the programmatic part of the draft work programme, and submission to the Committee on Programme Coordination (CPC). 

  • Step 10: The Executive Director presents and defends the draft annual work programme before the CPC.  

  • Step 11: The reports of the CPC and the ACABQ reviews, containing their recommendations on the programme of work and report on extra-budgetary resources are submitted to the UN-Habitat Executive Board to support its deliberations. 

  • Step 12: The UN-Habitat Executive Board approves the proposed annual work programme and budget before final endorsement by the UN-Habitat Assembly. 

Monitoring and evaluation of the SP and PoW 

Results based monitoring and reporting requires a structured system or framework for the collection and analysis of performance information. A performance measurement framework is a plan to systematically collect relevant data over the time frame of the planned programme, to track and demonstrate progress made towards achieving expected results. It documents the major elements of the monitoring system and ensures that performance information is collected on a regular basis. It also contains information on baseline, targets, and the responsibility for data collection.  

In UN-Habitat, the framework for measuring performance in the strategic plan and annual work programme and budget comprises the results framework and the performance measurement plan. These frameworks therefore provide the basis for results-based monitoring and reporting and overall programme performance management for the organization. These main frameworks are accompanied by various tools that support the collection and analysis of the programme performance data.  

Monitoring the implementation of the strategic plan 

In order to assess progress made in implementation of its four-year strategic plan, UN-Habitat undertakes results-based monitoring of its programme performance. The results framework for the strategic plan defines “what to monitor”, and the performance measurement plan describes “how to monitor” the implementation and performance of the strategic plan. The two documents together with other accompanying tools constitute the main monitoring framework and system for tracking progress on the implementation of the strategic plan. Monitoring the implementation of the strategic plan entails tracking these different levels:  

  1. Overall strategic result or objective 

  1. Domains of change  

  1. Outcomes 

  1. Outputs 

2. Reporting on the implementation of the strategic plan  

Reporting on the implementation of the four-year strategic plan is a requirement which is internal to UN-Habitat. The annual progress report is mandated by the UN-Habitat Executive Board through its Decision 2019/4: Workplan of the Executive Board for 2020. 

As the strategic plan is implemented through four successive annual work programmes and budgets, the annual report includes progress made on the implementation of the work programme, while also capturing the cumulated progress in the implementation of the strategic plan through the programme performance indicators.  

Since each of the subprogrammes/domains of change is implemented jointly by regional offices and thematic branches in a matrix fashion, the performance information for the report is provided by the branches, regional and country offices following guidelines provided by the Strategic Planning and Monitoring Branch.  

Reporting on the implementation of the strategic plan follows results-based principles and should cover the major achievements in relation to the strategic results: progress on indicators of achievement measured against targets; results achieved at outcome level; resource utilization rates compared with budgets/allocations, and explanation for any variance. 

Key Documents

Medium-Term Strategic and Institutional Plan (MTSIP) for 2008-2013

UN-Habitat Strategic Plan 2014-2019

UN-Habitat Strategic Plan 2020-2023 

Focal Points