WEEK 8 Strategic Planning COW session

Lecture Notes

I. Some comments about Morgan

II. Strategic Planning

III. Preview of week 9


I. Comments about Morgan

· Although Morgan describes all metaphors as useful for providing part of the picture, the bias of the book is clearly away from the machine

· This parallels much of the thinking in all social science disciplines in the last two decades

· Called "post-positivist" -- meaning a rejection of simple linear thinking about causality and an invitation to understand the world as socially constructed. There is no objective reality, but reality is constructed by the way we assign meaning to things. Different people can impart different, equally "true" meaning to the same conditions.

· This relates to Morgan's points that:

· no one can obtain a complete point of view

· we need to work at not being limited to one way of seeing things

· The newly popular concept of "framing" in the political science and policy analysis literatures, is based on these same points:

· By framing an issue to one's advantage, or re-framing an issue, one can profoundly affect policy outcomes

· different people get involved, and different institutional structures (e.g. legislative committees, executive branch offices) gain control

· these different people and institutions understand different aspects of issues and thus these issue take on different realities

· Role of the manager is very different in the non-linear world

· In chapter on flux and transformation, concept that small changes can trigger major transforming change is good example of non-linear thinking

· manager sets the context where this can occur--rather than directing this process from beginning to end.

· manager can never be in control in this kind of a world. Need to look beyond control to the management of change patterns, framing, setting of context, etc.


II. Strategic Planning

· This is an interesting combination of topics, because most people and most books on planning approach it as a mechanistic activity with the setting of goals and the identification of action steps to achieve the goals. Sounds very linear and rational.

· It is especially useful to think about strategic planning after finishing the Morgan book, because we can think about how the undeniably useful activity of planning can be done in less mechanistic ways and more in synch with contemporary thinking about organizational change.

· I have always resisted the textbook, mechanical models of planning. So, my views on planning will, I hope, not seem too out of line with the last few weeks of reading about organizational change.


1. Definition of strategic planning

· John Bryson (who writes on public and non-profit sector strategic planning):

· "a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it."

· my favorite short definition from Bryson: "organized common sense"

· Department of Finance:

· long-term, future-oriented process of assessment, goal setting, and strategy building that maps a explicit path between the present and a vision of the future...leads to priority-based resource allocation and other decisions

-- What should we be doing and why? (stakeholders, public value)

-- What are the fundamental issues that need to be addressed in order to do those things?

-- What are the best strategies for dealing with them


2. History of Strategic Planning

· "strategy" from the Greek: means to plan the defeat of one=s enemies through effective use of resources -- competition!

· military applications were first

· became more widely applied as the pace of change increased and organizations faced more competitive environments

· first used in the private sector

· moved to the public sector about early 1980s


3. Strategic Planning (SP) versus long-range planning (LR)

· No reason why long-range planning can't be more strategic, but it is older, and in practice, quite different from strategic planning. Some of these differences are:

-- SP careful attention to stakeholders;
-- LR not focused on politics and stakeholders

-- SP considers range of possible futures and how to make transition
-- LR typically based on straight line projections (i.e. linear thinking)

-- SP starts with issues; works through conflicts then sets goals
-- LP starts with goals and objectives

-- SP action oriented
-- LR plan oriented

-- SP often starts with vision
-- LR usually accepts vision as given--does not contemplate shifts

· After reading Morgan, it is clear that SP is more contemporary than LP in terms of envisioning more complex patterns to change


4. Benefits of Strategic Planning

· build capacity for change
· manage change, rather than be managed by change
· stay competitive
· better decision making--know why decisions are made
· set priorities
· build consensus about what is important
· get more legitimacy and buy in for decisions
· better institutional information
· improved institutional effectiveness

5. Key characteristics of a planning process

· participatory -- more or less depending on culture
· at CSUS with its strong culture of shared governance, top-down planning would be summarily rejected as illegitimate
· at state agencies, especially under Governor Wilson, I expect that strategic planning can be far more top down than at CSUS

· thematic; cuts across organizational units and functions

· not a separate plan for each organizational division
· but planning themes that cut across the whole organization
· e.g. at CSUS we have a theme on "campus life" and one on "teaching and learning"

· cooperative--since cuts across units

· even if done in a top-down culture, you need to involve top leadership across the organization together

· commitment of top leadership

· it probably won't go anywhere without support from the top even if the plan is developed and adopted
· one reason is that it needs to drive budgets and budget allocation is done at the top

· flexible

· process itself has to be flexible because you learn from each iteration--there is no one best planning process
· the plan has to be flexible also, so it doesn't have to be revised with every change in the external or internal environments

· people understand how it will be used and see evidence of use

· need to constantly show organizational members that plan is being used
· this is part of the "management of meaning" that the plan is important
· may be able to shape the context of decision, in this way

· linked to budgets

· if you have a plan and a budget that are not linked, the budget is actually the plan and the plan is meaningless

6. accepted components to plan -- the four questions posed in the Department of Finance guidelines provided a good organizational framework for the various parts of a strategic plan

(1) Where are we now

a. mission/mandates

b. environmental scan--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (often called a SWOT analysis)

· strengths and weaknesses refer to the internal organization
· opportunities and threats refer to the external environment
· this part of planning reflects and organism metaphor concern with adaptation to the environment

c. values--what do we stand for

(2) Where do we want to be

a. vision

· a vision statement for an organization should be far out enough to inspire but not so far out as to disillusion members that it is unattainable

b. strategic issues

· what issues are of fundamental importance to the healthy future of the organization

c. goals

d. objectives

· some think that plans have to have very specific objectives that are measurable
· I believe that such degree of specificity can be dealt with outside the plan, which is more important as an overall guide and statement of values and issues

(3) How do we get there

· Many plans will have action plans, but,

· I believe that the action plan is actually best dealt with at the unit level. This is an operational, implementation dimension.

· Implementation can change more quickly than the plan should change, due to changing resources and other circumstances.

· It will consign your plan to obsolescence to put too many specific implementation issues in it (in my opinion)

(4) How do we measure progress--assessment

· this should relate back to the goals and objectives in the plan

· key performance indicators (KPIs) are becoming widely used

· this is not necessarily part of the written plan, but should definitely be a part of the process.


7. Linking planning, assessment, resource allocation

· This is the key challenge

· Too many plans just sit there--that is what gives planning a bad reputation

· A plan is used if it drives the budget

· But assessment (or evaluation) is needed to drive the next round of planning--how did we do? Do we have any new concerns?

· At CSUS we have some strong linkages among these three:

· we have the Strategic Plan and a planning council responsible for maintaining it
· the council spends the fall semester assessing the plan (very data driven)
· ends the fall by adopting priorities for the next year's budget based on its review of the assessment data
· in the spring, it reviews the budget that the administration has developed based on the budget priorities of the Council

· The hardest part is to actually reallocate resources to implement the plan. It's much easier to take new resources and direct them to the plan.

· One good strategy is to tax all units a little bit (like an unallocated budget reduction) to create a pool from which initiatives that relate directly to the strategic plan can be funded.

Concluding thought on planning: does this discussion of strategic planning seem potentially consistent with some of Morgan's non-machine metaphors? Or is strategic planning hopelessly stuck in the machine metaphor?


III. Preview of Week 9

1. Brief wrap up of Part II of the course on organizations

2. Variety of readings and discussions on accountability

3. In a few days, I will post the group assignments and the strategic plans for possible review in your groups.

You should have made some contact with group members (on COW) by next Wednesday