In recent years, the Treasury, the State Services Commission, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the central agencies) have been working with government departments to improve their planning. Since 2011, government departments have been required each year to produce a four-year plan that sets out their medium-term strategy. Although these plans are just one element of a department's wider planning and performance management system, they have a role in signalling the medium-term outlook of individual departments, sectors, and the Government as a whole.
For this reason, I decided to review some four-year plans to see whether they appropriately set out a department's medium-term view of where it was heading, what it would look like in the future, and how it would get there. In doing so, I recognised that the practice of preparing four-year plans is still evolving.
Several elements of departments' preparation of their four-year plans were pleasing. There were well-defined preparation processes, the roles and responsibilities of those involved were identified, senior management was strongly involved, and communication between departments and the central agencies happened when needed.
The four-year plans my staff reviewed identified each department's strategic objectives, the services the department planned to deliver during the medium term to achieve those objectives, and how the department would organise and manage its people and resources to provide those services.