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Strategic Plan is not a plan

  • To: stratplan-2008@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Strategic Plan is not a plan
  • From: John Mathiason <jrmathia@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 16:30:44 -0400


I have just reviewed the draft Strategic Plan as part of completing a book on Internet governance for Routledge. I teach strategic planning in international organizations and one of the things that I emphasize to my students is that an objective in a plan must specify an end-state, something that you can observe at the end of the plan period. It should not be an activity. Rather it should be the result of an activity or activities. I regret that all of the objectives in the Strategic Plan draft, other than the main categories, are activities. The terms used in the some of the main categories (enhancing, strengthening) have to be defined (I can enhance my appearance by buying a new tie).

The problem with using activities as objectives is that they are really easy to achieve (you simply do the activities). If my students used a term like "Address the technical issues.(1.1) ." I would say, all you need to do is write a memo and you've achieved that objective.

If ICANN is serious about strategic planning (as opposed to projecting current activities infinitely into the future), it should convert the objectives into what you would expect to see at the end of 2011. This is not difficult, but it requires ICANN to make a commitment to making the objective happen. For example, you could (1) increase the use of IDNs. For that to happen you need to have an agreement on how to use IDN's. For that to happen, you need to have successfully tested trial IDNs.

If you are interested in help on converting activities to objectives and outcomes, I would be pleased to give you some advice. (I have been doing this with organizations of the United Nations System for a number of years.)


John Mathiason Professor of International Relations Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs Syracuse University

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