This post is part of a 10-part series on Managing an Exercise Program. In this series I provide some of my own lessons learned in the program and project management aspects of managing, designing, conducting, and evaluating Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) exercises. Your feedback is appreciated!
In my last post, I outlined the initial needs of managing a preparedness exercise program, including sources of information for a preparedness assessment. Recognized as a best practice, I’m following the model of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). The next step of program management is developing a preparedness strategy.
The development of a preparedness strategy is an activity that will involve the highest levels of your organization. Drawing upon the data collected in the last step (the preparedness assessment), the preparedness strategy will address overcoming the identified gaps in your preparedness. The mnemonic to remember here is POETE or Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, and Exercises. The gaps you identified in your assessment should fall into one of these categories.
Once you have catalogued your gaps, you must develop strategies to overcome each gap. Here are some helpful hints in strategic planning:
1) Define the gap and identify the underlying cause(s).
2) Create objectives to overcome each gap. Remember that objectives must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented).
3) Establish priorities. Some gaps may have a higher priority to accomplish based on the vulnerability they pose, legal or regulatory requirements, or other matters. Additionally, some objectives may need to be accomplished prior to others for many of the same reasons, as well as practical flow of processes.
4) Assign required actions – identify specific actions required to accomplish each objective (there may be several). Identify who will be responsible for each action and who will be responsible for supporting their work. Establish a realistic deadline. NOTE: some gaps may take a long time (years) to overcome. As such, do the best you can to outline objectives and keep in mind that strategic plans are ‘living documents’. Early on, you may not be assigning tasks to overcoming certain gaps, but someone will be responsible for monitoring related issues.
5) Marry needed resources to each action item established above. This may be personnel, funding, facilities, etc.
6) As work is being done to accomplish these tasks, continual monitoring and assessment is necessary to ensure that everyone is staying on track and that the strategic plan continues to reflect the direction and priorities of today.
There are many references out there for strategic planning. With a bit of insight you can translate this guidance into something useful for these purposes. The end goal of this step is to have a document in hand that identifies what your organization needs to accomplish to be better prepared. From this, you will soon develop exercise goals which will be the cornerstone of your exercise program.
What successes have you found from your strategic planning experience?
Coming soon – Managing an Exercise Program Part 3: Identifying Program Resources and Funding.