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The planners' forward thinking is demonstrated in this aerial view of cultivated greenery amid the desert at Liwa and a conceptual design of the Capital District in Abu Dhabi.
The planners' forward thinking is demonstrated in this aerial view of cultivated greenery amid the desert at Liwa and a conceptual design of the Capital District in Abu Dhabi.

Major international award for Abu Dhabi's strategic plan

Government's success in executing a performance management system earns recognition.

ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Government has won a major international award for its wide-ranging strategic plan affecting all its departments. The Palladium Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame for Executing Strategy award was presented to Government representatives at a ceremony in the Spanish capital, Madrid, last night. The balanced scorecard is an internationally adopted performance management approach developed in the 1990s by Robert Kaplan, of the Harvard Business School, and David Norton, the director of Palladium, a strategy consultancy group. "Winning this award is evidence that we are moving in the right direction in formulating policies and executing strategies," Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, the chief of the court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, said yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Government has spent the past few years introducing long-term planning among its various departments. The process started in 2005 when it moved to reduce its 70 departments to fewer than half that number. The intention was to outsource most of the service-orientated activity to the private sector so that the Government could focus on planning, regulation and oversight. Last night's award was for the Government's success in executing a performance management system developed by Kaplan and Norton. "Today, we are among the elite," said Abdullah Ali al Ahbabi, the assistant secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, who accepted the award. "We have no choice but to move forward and improve. This is a good recognition for the efforts that have taken place in the past years." If the Abu Dhabi Government continued to plan and implement its strategies at its current pace, it would be among "the best managed organisations in the world" in the next two to three years, said Mr Norton. "The Abu Dhabi Government is probably the most innovative user of this approach that we have encountered," said Mr Norton. "Introducing a governance programme to the whole of government level has not been achieved anywhere else." The Kaplan-Norton approach is used by a wide range of local governments and national civil and military organisations in several countries, including the United States, Australia, Norway and South Korea. The system has been applied by single departments and agencies such as the Norwegian air force, but it has not been used across the board in any of these countries. Mr Norton said: "They're using the management approach we helped develop better and in a more complex application than anyone and they're getting results. You should pause and reflect on how far you've come, feel good about it, but also know that the quality of life of citizens there will be even better in the future." The Government adopted its comprehensive strategic approach in 2006. Before then, according to Mr al Ahbabi, only 60 per cent of the government departments had plans that only spanned to two years at the most. "We didn't have the culture of strategic planning, a culture of performance management," he said. Strategic planning would be only relevant when its execution was reflected on the social development, environment, infrastructure and government performance, said Mr al Ahbabi. "You do strategic planning to improve services," he said. "You're going to have a better education, a good healthcare and transport system, good social programmes." Long-term planning also involved creating a policy development and performance management division, which has a close oversight over government departments. These are required to sign annual agreements that outline their commitment to meet the Government's overall goals as well as their own. The agreements require each department to report on the process of meeting key performance indicators, which are used to help organisations measure progress. Mr al Ahbabi said the agreements were an important part of the performance management process. "It's helping us execute our strategy," he said. Hamed al Safi, the Government's director of performance management, said the signing of the agreements this year was the first time in the region a formal agreement had been signed between a government and its entities. "This is to help leaders to run their business in a better way," he said, "once they see there is a gap or an issue in the delivery." In 2007, the Government launched a policy agenda that set out Abu Dhabi's vision to be among the top five governments in the world. A year later, 26 departments announced their five-year strategies. Mr al Ahbabi said the policy agenda would be updated every two and a half years. As part of its strategic planning, in January the Government launched the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy away from oil and foster its expansion in other sectors to sustain long-term growth. Mr Norton said the award was given to Abu Dhabi because "they're successful at executing their strategy and could prove it with the numbers". "Nine out of 10 people fail to execute their strategies, they [Abu Dhabi] will be among the ones that succeed. That's called competence." mhabboush@thenational.ae

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