The Future of Strategic Planning in the Public Sector: Linking Strategic Management and Performance


Theodore H. Poister is a professor of public management and Policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He has published widely on strategic management and performance measurement in the public sector. His current research focuses on the impact of strategy and strategic planning on the performance of public transit systems in the United States.


While it has become ubiquitous in the public sector over the past 25 years, strategic planning will need to play a more critical role in 2020 than it does at present if public managers are to anticipate and manage change adroitly and effectively address new issues that are likely to emerge with increasing rapidity. This article argues that making strategy more meaningful in the future will require transitioning from strategic planning to the broader process of strategic management, which involves managing an agency’s overall strategic agenda on an ongoing rather than an episodic basis, as well as ensuring that strategies are implemented effectively. Complementing this move to more holistic strategic management, we need to shift the emphasis of the performance movement from a principal concern with measurement to the more encompassing process of performance management over the coming decade in order to focus more proactively on achieving strategic goals and objectives. Finally, agencies will need to link their strategic management and ongoing performance management processes more closely in a reciprocating relationship in which strategizing is aimed largely at defining and strengthening overall performance while performance monitoring helps to inform strategy along the way.

Guest editors’ note: In 1942, the University of Chicago Press published a book edited by Leonard D. White titled The Future of Government in the United States. Each chapter in the book presents predictions concerning the future of U.S. public administration. In this article, Theodore H. Poister examines John Vieg’s predictions on the future of government planning published in that book, comments on whether Vieg’s predictions were correct not, and then looks to the future to examine public administration in 2020.