Strategic planning in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.
ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL AND CHALLENGING TASKS FOR ANY ORGANization, national or international, is strategic planning. Strategic planning serves several purposes for an organization. It helps the organization internally set priorities for activity and resource allocation; it is a formal means by which the organization communicates its goals, priorities, and mission to external stakeholders; and it informs the decisions and actions that shape an institution. Dean Acheson defines strategic planning thus: "to look ahead, not into the distant future, but beyond the vision of the operating officers caught in the smoke and crises of current battle; far enough ahead to see the emerging form of things to come and outline what should be done to meet or anticipate them." (1) At the same time, "the staff should also do something else--constantly reappraise what [is] being done." (2) In essence, strategic planning "brings the future into the present." (3)Ideally, effective planning links specific initiatives to the overall goal of the organization. Planning then occurs for each area, including prioritization of tasks and time frames and a discussion of organizational roles, responsibilities, and coordination of tasks. Successful planning includes identifying measures of success for each initiative, time frames for assessing progress, and periodic review and reassessment. As Richard Haass argues, there are two primary challenges to strategic planning: "finding the appropriate distance from the immediate policy-making process and exercising influence without an official operational role." (4) There are other constraints to strategic planning: "time pressures to address current issues at the expense of longer-term planning; bureaucratic competition for influence; cognitive barriers to anticipating the future; and cultural tensions between policy planning 'thinkers' and policy-making 'doers.'" (5) In this article, I consider strategic planning from the perspective of a practitioner in the UN system, especially in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). I discuss the origins, objectives, and evolution of the Strategic Planning Unit (SPU) in the EOSG. I focus on the activities of the SPU during Kofi Annan's decade-long tenure as Sec...