Strategic Planning In The Public Sector
Strategic planning approaches developed in the private sector can help public sector organizations deal with the recent dramatic changes in their environments. For example, "strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions shaping the nature and direction of governmental activities within constitutional bounds" (Olsen and Eadie 1982). It can help governments become more effective. The public sector strategic planning process provides a useful framework for review of the private sector approaches to strategic planning in the public sector.
The strategic planning process begins with an initial agreement among decision makers whose support is necessary for successful plan formulation and implementation. The support and commitment of management and the chief executive are vital if strategic planning in an organization is to succeed (Olsen and Eadie 1982). The involvement of key decision makers outside the organization usually is crucial to the success of public programs if implementation will involve multiple parties and organizations (McGowen and Stevens 1983).
The second step is identification of the mandates, or "musts," confronting the government corporation or agency. Third comes clarification of the organization's mission and values, or "wants." Next come two parallel steps: identification of the external opportunities and threats the organization faces, and identification of its internal strengths and weaknesses.
The first five elements of the process lead to the sixth, identification of strategic issues (i.e., fundamental policy questions affecting the organizationís mandates, mission, values, product or service level and mix, clients or users, cost, financing, or management). The seventh step is strategy development (i.e., the identification of practical alternatives). Describing the organizationís potential future is the eighth step.
Those eight steps complete the strategy formulation process. Next come actions and decisions to implement the strategies and, finally, the evaluation of results.
This strategic planning framework is applicable to public organizations, functions, and places or communities. The only general requirement is a dominant coalition willing to follow the process. That does not mean, however, that all strategic planning approaches are equally applicable to the public sector. We need to identify the most important contingencies that govern the successful use of these approaches in the public sector.