USDA Forest Service Priority Setting _ 2003

Forest Service Priority Setting for Fiscal Year 2003

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service utilized the professional services of CWA Ltd., an Interactive Management consulting firm, to collaboratively determine the priorities of the USDA Forest Service program of work for Fiscal Year (FY) 2003. This priority setting activity was conducted with a subset of the members from the National Leadership Team (NLT) and was part of the agency’s effort to improve its long-term accountability to both the Congress and the public.

The first-day workshop was dedicated to engaging the participants in sharing the meaning of 53 Annual Performance Goals for FY 2003. The participants also classified the Goals into nine affinity clusters. These clusters were very helpful in terms of the “transfer of meaning” from the strategic planning team to the NLT.

The second-day workshop was dedicated to ensuring that the NLT was able to understand and share the meaning of the original 53 Annual Performance Goals proposed by the strategic planning team. This “shared meaning” is critical in terms of the Agency capacity to fulfill its mission in accordance with its Strategic Plan. After internalizing the meaning of these 53 Goals, the NTL was invited to augment the list of Goals. They proposed 60 new Goals. Following a “focused and open dialogue” on the clarification of the meaning of all 113 Goals, the two teams were able to converge on 64 distinct Annual Performance Goals for FY 2003.

During the third-day workshop the NLT identified, through subjective and individual voting, the 23 Goals that were of higher relative importance. They subsequently engaged in a dialogue focusing on the mutual influences among the 23 higher priority Goals. Based on a majority opinion of participant judgments about the interdependence between pairs of Goals, and with the assistance of a robust computer-assisted methodology, an “Influence Tree” was constructed displaying diagrammatically those Goals that are at the roots of the tree as opposed to those that are at the branches. The three highest priority Goals (deepest priorities at the roots of the tree) are:

1) Agency offers a productive and learning work environment that values the contributions of all employees.

2) The skills of Forest Service employees are sufficient to meet the Agency needs and commitments for program delivery.

3) Execute the Agency’s financial management system to deliver timely, accurate, and reliable financial information.

A report on this project authored by A.N. Christakis, R.M. McDonald, and D.S. Conaway is available on request.

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