Reading summaries - week nine, Fall 2017

Class themes this week were Strategies and Strategic Plans in SP and What is the future of benefits in the public/nonprofit world? in SHRM

Table of contents

Strategic Planning

Strategic Human Resources Management

Strategic Planning (SP)

Bryson, Chapter 7 - Formulating and Adopting Strategies and Plans to Manage the Issues

  • This chapter will cover Steps 6 and 7, formulating and adopting strategies and plans. Even though the two steps are likely to be closely linked in practice, they should be kept separate in the planning team members’ minds.
  • dynamics that surround each step may be dramatically different, especially when strategies must be adopted by elected or appointed policy boards.
    • Strategy formulation often involves freewheeling creativity and the give-and-take of dialogue and deliberation,
    • formal adoption of strategies and strategic plans can involve political intrigue, tough bargaining, public posturing, and high drama.
  • Strategy may be thought of as a pattern that defines what an organization (or other entity) is, what it does, and why it does it.
  • strategic issues show where bridges are needed, and strategies are the bridges.
  • General strategies will fail if specific steps to implement them are absent.
  • strategies are prone to fail if there is no alignment or consistency between what an organization says, what it pays for, and what it actually does.
  • definition of strategy offered here calls attention to the importance of this alignment
  • Good strategies involve creating effective linkages with the organization’s environment,
  • strategy is intentionally defined in a way broad enough to help ensure that although strategic changes (a kind of innovation) may be failures initially, they are successes in the end.
  • The task of strategy formulation typically involves highlighting what is good about the existing pattern; reframing, downplaying, or pruning away what is bad about it; and adding whatever new elements are needed to complete the picture
  • Culture becomes very important in strategy formulation, as whatever patterns exist are typically manifestations of the organization’s culture or cultures. Culture provides much of the glue that holds inputs, processes, and outputs together.
  • Put differently, every strategy is thus almost always both emergent and deliberate, although the balance can vary a good deal
  • most organizations’ strategies remain fairly stable for long periods of time, and then may change abruptly.
  • organizations are always called upon to develop three agendas: what they will keep and improve, what they will initiate that is new, and what they will stop.
  • strategic issues and therefore strategies to address them may be focused on:
    1. Addressing the need for new or revised high-level rules
    2. Creating a process to develop mission, vision, and goals and realize them in practice
    3. Producing programs, products, projects, and services
    4. Controlling strategy delivery in the present
    5. Developing future capabilities
    6. Maintaining and enhancing stakeholder relations
  • Strategies also can vary by time frame and by level. Four basic levels include:
    1. Grand strategy for the organization as a whole
    2. Subunit strategies. Subunits may be divisions, departments, or units of larger organizations
    3. Program, service, or business process strategies
    4. Functional strategies (such as financial, staffing, communications, facilities, information technology, and procurement strategies)
  • The purpose of the strategy formulation and plan development step (Step 6) is to create a set of strategies that will effectively link the organization (or community) to its environment
  • The purpose of the strategy and plan adoption step (Step 7) is to gain authoritative decisions to move ahead with implementing the strategies and plans.
  • In the absence of deliberate or emergent overall strategic directions, the sum of the organization’s parts can be expected to add up to something less than a whole.
  • sometimes the best strategy is sustained exploration, prototyping, trials, and pilot testing
  • Special note must also be made of the importance for many organizations of having a strategy for technology use, particularly information and communication technology (ICT) use. Any organization would be wise to attend to the need for an ICT strategy that emphasizes common infrastructure, standards, capability, and implementation approaches.
  • Several immediate desired planning outcomes may emerge from these two steps:
    • might seek a grand strategy statement for itself, or subunit plans, or decide that the aims are more limited
    • gain clarity about which parts of current strategies should be kept and improved, what will be initiated that is new, and what should stop.
    • the organization may or may not wish to have a formal strategic plan at the end of Step 6, to be formally adopted in Step 7.
    • planners may seek formal agreement to push ahead at the conclusion of Step 6.
    • actions should be taken when they are identified and become useful or necessary
  • Ten additional longer-term desirable outcomes of the strategy and plan development steps can be identified.
    1. a fairly clear picture will emerge of how the organization can create public value, meet its mandates, fulfill its mission, and deal effectively with the situation it faces
    2. this new picture should have emerged from a consideration of a broad range of alternative strategies,
    3. if actions are taken as they become identified and useful, a new reality will emerge in fact, not just in conception.
    4. early implementation of at least parts of major strategies will facilitate organizational learning.
    5. emotional bonding to the new reality can occur as the new reality emerges gradually through early and ongoing implementation efforts.
    6. organizational members will get help working their way through the failure-in-the-middle syndrome
    7. heightened morale among stakeholders should result from task accomplishment and early successes in the resolution of important issues.
    8. further strategic planning team development should result from the continued discipline of addressing fundamental questions constructively.
    9. a coalition is likely to emerge that is large enough and strong enough to agree on organizational (collaboration, community) strategies and pursue their implementation.
    10. organizational members will have the permission they need to move ahead with implementation
  • One useful approach to strategy development involves a five-step process, in which planners answer five questions about each strategic issue.
    1. What are the practical alternatives, dreams, or visions we might pursue to address this strategic issue, achieve this goal, or realize this idealized scenario?
    2. What are the barriers to the realization of these alternatives, dreams, or idealized scenarios?
    3. What major proposals might we pursue to achieve these alternatives, dreams, or idealized scenarios directly or to overcome the barriers to their realization?
    4. What major actions (with existing staff within existing job descrip­tions) must be taken within the next year (or two) to implement the major proposals?
    5. What specific steps must be taken within the next six months to implement the major proposals and who is responsible?
  • The five-part process begins conventionally by asking strategic planning team members to imagine grand alternatives to deal with the specific issue. Then comes an unconventional step—enumerating the barriers to realizing the alternatives, instead of developing major proposals to achieve them directly. This helps ensure that implementation difficulties are dealt with directly rather than haphazardly.
  • The answer to the fourth question will essentially consist of a one- to two-year work program to implement the major proposals. The implications of strategy implementation for organizational members will become quite real at the conclusion of this step. Such specificity often will determine exactly what people are and are not willing to live with.
  • The fourth and fifth questions involve the group in the work of Step 9 (implementation), but this is desirable, because strategies always should be developed with implementation in mind.
  • a particular advantage of the technique is that a great deal of unnecessary conflict is avoided simply because alternatives proposed in answer to one question will drop out if no one suggests a way to handle them in the next step.
  • a caveat: The five-part process is very useful for developing the broad outlines of a strategy and for engaging fairly large groups of people, but it does not promote much understanding of the structure of relationships among ideas.
  • Once answers have been developed to deal with a specific strategic issue, the strategic planning team is in a position to make judgments about what strategies actually should be pursued. In particular, the team needs to ask:
    1. What is really reasonable?
    2. Where can we combine proposals, actions, and specific steps?
    3. Do any proposals, actions, or specific steps contradict each other, and if so, what should we do about them?
    4. What (including the necessary resources) are we or key implementers really willing to commit to over the next year?
    5. What are the specific next steps that would have to occur in the next six months for this strategy to work?
  • Every six months the last question should be addressed again. Every year or two the fourth question should be asked again. Every two or three years the third question should be asked. And every three to five years, the first two questions should be addressed again as well.
  • The action-oriented strategy mapping process is a second helpful approach to formulating effective strategies.
    • The planning team should be as practical and creative as possible when brainstorming options.
    • Specific options can be triggered by any number of considerations relevant to the issue at hand,
    • Each option is written on a large self-adhesive note, snow card,
    • Once a set of options is in hand, they are stuck on a wall covered with flip chart sheets or on a whiteboard
    • options are then arranged by a facilitator or the team members and linked with arrows indicating which options cause or influence the achievement of other options.
    • An option can be part of more than one influence chain.
    • The result is a map of action-to-outcome (cause-to-effect, means-to-end) relationships between the options intended to address the issue at hand.
    • team is then asked to develop options that outline consequences (desired or otherwise) of effectively addressing the issue.
    • Options toward the end of a chain of arrows (usually placed near the top of the map) are likely to be goals and are likely to be closely related to the organization’s mission.
    • Particular action-to-outcome sets can then be selected as strategies for addressing each issue.
  • Strategic plans can vary a great deal in their form and content. The simplest form of strategic plan may be nothing more than an unwritten agreement among key decision makers about the organization’s mission and what it should do given its circumstances.
  • shared strategic thinking. acting, and learning are what count, not strategic plans in and of themselves.
  • coordinated action among a variety of organizational actors over time usually requires some kind of reasonably formal plan so that people can keep track of what they should do and why
  • The simplest form of written strategic plan consists of the final versions of several of the worksheets in Bryson and Alston (2011):
    • Mission statement
    • Mandates statement
    • Vision of success, if one has been prepared
    • SWOC/T analysis
    • Strategic issues (or a set of goals, or scenario outlining the preferred future)
    • Strategies- grand, subunit, functional, etc.
      • For many organizations a functional IT strategy is becoming paramount and must be aligned with the organization’s fundamental strategies
  • For the proposed plan to be adopted, it must address issues that key decision makers think are important with solutions that appear likely to work.
  • The planning team should keep Step 6 conceptually distinct from Step 7, as the dynamics surrounding the two steps may differ—even though in practice Steps 6 and 7 may merge
  • Formal adoption is likely to occur at a window of opportunity, an occasion when action favoring change is possible. There are three kinds of windows:
    • those opened by the emergence of pressing issues
    • those opened by important political shifts
    • those opened by reaching decision points
  • Sometimes formal adoption of a strategic plan occurs in stages over many months.
  • The following guidelines should be kept in mind as a strategic planning team formulates effective strategies to link the organization with its environment:
    1. Remember that strategic thinking, acting, and learning are more important than any particular approach to strategy formulation or the development of a formal strategic plan.
    2. It is very important that a variety of creative, even radical, options be considered during the strategy formulation process.
      • Another way of making this point is to argue that an organization should not engage in strategic planning unless it is willing to consider alternatives quite different from business as usual.
      • Osborne and Plastrik (1997, 2000) range of strategy options for public organizations:
      • core strategy focuses on clarifying purpose, direction, roles
      • consequences strategy makes use of incentives
      • customer-focused strategy creates accountability to key stakeholders
      • control strategy shifts power by empowering managers and frontline staff
      • culture strategy emphasizes an entrepreneurial and service-oriented culture
    3. Consider using a three-step search process to find desirable strategies for addressing particularly troublesome issues, especially those involving considerable complexity
      • Process steps:
      • A broad scan within and outside normal search channels
      • A narrow-gauge search within the most promising areas
      • Detailed exploration of identified strategy components
    4. Remember that logical incrementalism can be very effective, but sometimes a big win is the way to go.
      • In effect there are two sets of polar opposite strategies—big wins and small wins (Bryson, 1988), and knowledge exploration and knowledge exploitation
      • Although big-win moves should be considered, the organization also should look at how a whole series of small wins might add up to big wins over time.
      • Knowledge exploitation involves getting the most out of existing technologies
      • issues requiring knowledge exploration tend to be more strategic and involve tensions that pull the organization in many directions
      • an adaptive organization must preserve a balance between knowledge exploitation and knowledge exploration. Too much knowledge exploitation will blind the organization to impending frame-breaking changes in its environment, and cripple it when the changes do occur. Too much knowledge exploration won’t pay the bills fast enough, because almost by definition a lot of effort will be wasted before the effective answers or operational formulas can be found.
    5. Effective strategy formulation can be top-down or bottom-up.
      • organizations that are best at strategic planning indeed seem to deftly combine these two approaches
      • Usually some sort of overall strategic guidance is given at the top, but detailed strategy formulation and implementation typically occur deeper in the organization.
    6. Decide how to link strategy development with the strategic issues identified in Step 6.
      • determine whether strategies should be formulated in response to strategic issues, or to achieve goals, or to realize a vision.
      • Issues also need to be addressed at the appropriate level in the system
      • Most organizations probably will choose to develop strategies in response to strategic issues,
      • Nonprofit organizations are more likely than governments or public agencies to be able to develop strategies in response to goals or a vision.
      • the various ways of developing strategies are interrelated.
      • No matter which approach is chosen, the five-part process outlined in this chapter provides an effective way to formulate strategies,
      • The questions will change only slightly depending on the approach.
    7. Describe strategic alternatives in enough detail to permit reasonable judgments about their efficacy and to provide reasonable guidance for implementation.
      • Financial costs and budgets deserve special attention
    8. Evaluate alternative strategies against agreed-upon criteria prior to selection of specific strategies to be implemented.
      • criteria should indicate the extent to which possible strategies are: Politically acceptable; Administratively and technically workable ; Results oriented; Legally, ethically, and morally defensible
      • Those involved in strategy formulation or adoption, or both, should probably agree in advance what criteria will be used to judge alternatives.
      • very important caveat—sometimes you need to take action in order to figure out what the real issues, goals, or vision are.
      • occasionally the best you can do is have a conscious strategy of strategic learning
    9. Consider development of a formal strategic plan
    10. Even if a formal strategic plan is not prepared, the organization should consider preparing a set of interrelated strategy statements
    11. Use a normative process to review strategy statements and formal strategic plans.
      • Review meetings need to be structured so that the strengths of the statements or plan are recognized and modifications that would improve on those strengths are identified.
      • by the time the review process is nearing completion, planning team members and key decision makers should make a point of asking themselves what risks are entailed in the plan.
    12. Discuss and evaluate strategies in relation to key stakeholders.
      • Strategies that do not take stakeholders into consideration are almost certain to fail.
    13. Have budgets and budgeting procedures in place to capitalize on strategic planning and strategic plans.
      • make sure that strategic thinking precedes, rather than follows, budgeting. This is the key idea behind performance budgeting, entrepreneurial budgeting, and results-based budgeting
    14. Be aware that the strategy formulation step is likely to proceed in a more iterative fashion than previous steps because of the need to find the best fit among elements of strategies, among different strategies, and among levels of strategy.
      • The issue often is one of appropriately aligning new strategies with existing strategies, and some special planning sessions may be needed to work things out.
      • four-step process:
      • Provide a written or graphic depiction (such as a logic model or action-oriented strategy map) of existing and proposed strategies
      • Identify what is working well with existing strategies and what needs adjusting, and identify what will need to work well with proposed strategies
      • Determine how the needed adjustments can be made
      • Incorporate these revisions into the strategy statements or strategic plan
    15. Allow for a period of catharsis as the organization moves from one way of being in the world to another.
      • Sessions designed to review draft strategy statements or strategic plans can be used to vent emotions and to solicit modifications in the statements or plans that will deal effectively with these emotional concerns.
    16. Remember that completion of the strategy development step is likely to be an important decision point.
    17. Ensure that key decision makers and planners think carefully about how the formal adoption process should be managed, particularly if it involves formal arenas.
    18. Provide some sense of closure to the strategic planning process at the end of the Step 7, or else at the end of Step 6 if no formal plan is prepared.
    19. When the strategic planning process has been well designed and faithfully followed, but the strategies and plans are nevertheless not adopted, consider the following possibilities:
      • The time is not yet right
      • The draft strategies and plans are inadequate or inappropriate
      • The issues the strategies and plans purport to address simply are not that “real” or pressing
      • The organization (or collaboration or community) cannot handle the magnitude of the proposed changes, and they need to be scaled back
      • The strategies and plans should be taken to some other arena, or the arena should be redesigned in some way

Bryson, Chapter 8 - Establishing an Effective Organizational Vision for the Future

  • Typically, this vision of success is more important as a guide to implementing strategy than it is to formulating it.
  • a fully developed vision, though it includes mission, goes well beyond mission.
  • mission outlines the organizational purpose; a vision goes on to describe how the organization should look when it is working extremely well in relation to its environment and key stakeholders.
  • being true to the vision can be a very demanding discipline, hard work that we may not be willing to shoulder all the time.
  • decision makers must be courageous in order to construct a compelling vision of success. They must imagine and listen to their best selves in order to envision success for the organization as a whole.
  • must be disciplined enough to affirm the vision in the present, to work hard through conflicts and difficulties to make the vision real in the here and now
  • saying yes to the vision is only a step—albeit an important one—in the persistent stream of action required to realize the vision.
  • The vision should probably detail the following attributes of the organization:
    • Mission
    • Basic philosophy, core values, and cultural features
    • Goals, if they are established
    • Basic strategies
    • Performance criteria (such as those related to critical success factors)
    • Important decision-making rules
    • Ethical standards expected of all employees
  • The guidance offered should be specific and reasonable.
  • vision should clarify the organization’s direction and purpose
  • capture the organization’s uniqueness and distinctive competence
  • vision should also be relatively short and inspiring
  • the vision should be widely circulated. A vision of success can have little effect if organizational members are kept in the dark about it.
  • At least a dozen longer-term (and overlapping) desired outcomes can flow from a clear, succinct, inspiring, and widely shared vision of success:
    1. provides a capsule future-oriented theory of the organization;
      • The vision helps organizational members and key stakeholders imagine and create sustainable new circumstances by understanding the requirements for success
      • articulates the way in which people can participate in creating a new and more desirable order.
      • doesn’t need to be wholly accurate—it is not a street map—it just needs to provide a reasonable basis for action and learning
    2. organizational members are given specific, reasonable, and supportive guidance about what is expected of them and why.
      • A widely accepted vision of success records enough of a consensus on ends and means to channel members’ efforts in desirable directions while at the same time providing a framework for improvisation and innovation
      • In this way the vision serves primarily as an aid to strategy implementation
      • Two things that most strongly determine whether goals are achieved: specific and reasonable goals, able and committed people
    3. conception precedes perception
      • A vision of success makes it easier for people to discriminate between preferred and undesirable actions and outcomes
    4. the organization will gain an added increment of power and efficiency.
    5. a vision of success provides a way to claim or affirm the future in the present,
      • a vision of success helps not with predicting the future, but with making it
    6. a clear yet reasonable vision of success creates a useful tension between the world as it is and the world as we would like it
      • A well-tuned vision of success can articulate reasonable standards of excellence and motivate the organization’s members to pursue them.
    7. a well-articulated vision of success will help people implicitly recognize the barriers to realizing that vision.
      • Recognizing barriers is the first step in overcoming them
    8. an inspiring vision of success can supply another source of motivation: clarification of a vocation tied to a calling.
      • When a vision of success becomes a calling, jobs and careers can become vocations that release enormous amounts of individual energy, dedication, power, and positive risk-taking behavior in pursuit of the vision of a better future.
      • creates meaning in workers’ lives and fuels a justifiable pride.
      • “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need” (Frederick Buechner)
      • words it may well be that doubt is overvalued in management thought and guidance, and belief is seriously undervalued.
      • A well-crafted vision can provide a shared statement of belief—a creed—that starts out as a fiction and becomes a fact through action.
    9. a clear vision of success provides an effective substitute for leadership
      • More effective decision making can then occur at a distance from the center of the organization and from the top of the hierarchy.
    10. An agreed-upon vision may contribute to a significant reduction in the level of organizational conflict.
    11. the vision can help the organization stay attuned to its environment and develop its capacities to deal with crises
      • vision can promote the useful learning and adaptation to a changing environment
      • a good vision should help the organization distinguish between strategic and operational issues (developmental versus non-developmental)
      • can help an organization be really clear about what is most important, and therefore help that organization thrive over the long term
      • A good vision will provide the kind of overarching framework and the detail necessary to allow the organization to purposefully yet flexibly respond to changes in its environment
    12. to the extent that the vision of success is widely shared, it lends the organization an air of virtue
      • most people wish to act in morally justifiable ways in pursuit of morally justified ends
      • vision of success therefore provides important permission, justification, and legitimation
  • The following guidelines are intended to help a strategic planning team formulate a vision of success.
    1. The following guidelines are intended to help a strategic planning team formulate a vision of success.
      • The following guidelines are intended to help a strategic planning team formulate a vision of success.
    2. In most cases, wait until the organization goes through one or more cycles of strategic planning before trying to develop a full-blown vision of success.
    3. Include in a vision of success the items listed earlier in this chapter as part of the first desired outcome.
      • The vision should also be clearly externally focused—on the better world that will result from the organization successfully implementing its strategies and fully realizing its mission.
    4. Ensure that the vision of success grows out of past decisions and actions as much as possible.
      • Basing a vision on a preexisting consensus avoids unnecessary conflict.
      • a vision of success should not be merely an extension of the present. It should be an affirmation in the present of an ideal and inspirational future.
      • should encourage organizational members to extrapolate backward from the vision to the present; this will help them determine which actions today can best help the organization achieve success tomorrow.
    5. Remember that a vision of success should be inspirational:
      • Focuses on a better future
      • Encourages hopes, dreams, and noble ambitions
      • Builds on (or reinterprets) the organization’s history and culture to appeal to high ideals and common values
      • Clarifies purpose and direction
      • States positive outcomes
      • Emphasizes the organization’s uniqueness and distinctive competence
      • Emphasizes the strength of a unified group
      • Uses word pictures, images, and metaphors
      • Communicates enthusiasm, kindles excitement, and fosters commitment and dedication
    6. Remember that an effective vision of success will embody the appropriate degree of tension to prompt effective organizational change.
      • too much tension will likely cause paralysis.
      • too little tension will not produce the challenge necessary for outstanding performance
    7. Consider starting the construction of a vision of success by having strategic planning team members draft visions of success (or at least relatively detailed outlines) individually,
      • Team members should then share and discuss their responses with each other.
      • After the discussion, the task of drafting a vision of success should be turned over to one individual, because an inspirational document is rarely written by a committee.
    8. Use a normative to review the vision of success.
      • Review meetings need to be structured to ensure that the vision’s strengths and any possible improvements are identified and listed.
    9. Be aware that consensus on the vision statement among key decision makers is highly desirable, but may not be absolutely necessary.
      • Deep-seated commitment to any vision statement can only emerge slowly over time.
    10. Arrange for the vision of success to be widely disseminated and discussed.
  • A vision of success can become a living document only if it is referred to constantly as a basis for discerning and justifying appropriate organizational decisions and actions.

Understanding Strategic Planning and the Formulation and Implementation of Strategic Plans as a Way of Knowing, Bryson, Crosby, Bryson (2009)

  • This article has two purposes: first, to take seriously the notion of strategic planning as a way of knowing, and second, to argue that actor-network theory provides a particularly apposite method for understanding whether and how strategic planning works in particular circumstances
  • strategic planning in some circumstances may provide a way of knowing helpful to decision makers.
  • In a broader sense, a way of knowing may also mean “a dynamic network of heterogeneous objects” in which actors may transform the objects and ideas, and not just transport them as they move through time and across space
  • Strategic planning may ‘‘work,’’ but the question of whether and how it works, in what ways, for whom, when, and why is certainly open
  • strategic planning processes must be designed and assembled to cope with multiple possible sources of failure, or they are likely to fail.
  • Actor-Network Theory (ANT)
    • ANT takes as its challenge accounting for new associations
    • The “social” is what must be explained, not assumed
    • tracing associations also means accounting for connections among ‘‘things that are not themselves social’’
    • In terms of methodology, ANT thus:
      1. focuses on performances
      2. includes associations or connections with nonhuman elements or aspects of the situation
      3. helps account for how the ostensive aspects of any set of associations are produced, become stabilized and legitimized, or change
    • ANT is a process methodology that assumes actors’ knowing is certainly implicit and often explicit
    • an ANT study should focus on five categories of controversies:
      1. groups and how they are defined
      2. action and its manifold causes
      3. agents, including human and non-human actors
      4. facts versus “matters of concern”
      5. studies showing how the social sciences can be said to be empirical
    • in each course of action a great variety of agents may change, divert or displace the original intent
    • In ANT agents can be both human and non-human. Anything that modifies a state of affairs by making a difference is an actor
    • An important ANT premise is that power is a process result, not an explanation.
    • distributions of power on any issue can change as associations change
  • ANT appears far more able to detect effects of strategic planning activities in relation to who and what is involved
  • by focusing on actors and the associations they trace (or not) ANT is well-suited to the task of discerning how and to what extent strategic planning in practice is inclusive, participatory, and democratic.
  • ANT methodology can also illuminate in what ways a strategic planning effort was or was not inclusive, participative, and/or democratic, and what the effects were.
  • ANT studies ultimately could lead to generalizations about strategic planning in practice viewed ostensively that are more useful than most variance studies.
  • An ANT study would also examine the role of non-human agents, such as mission and vision statements, strategic issue definitions, strategy maps, strategic plans, formal charters or articles of incorporation
  • An ANT study would examine what actors involved in strategic planning take to be facts
  • An ANT study of strategic planning in practice would identify the matters of concern in the case and explore what happened to them, and in particular would attend to what got stabilized as a matter of fact.
  • To summarize, an ANT study would examine how in a particular strategic planning case the controversies were settled (stabilized) or not
  • The presumption is that if the controversies are not stabilized appropriately things will fall apart
  • ANT methodology offers a number of advantages for studying strategic planning and the formulation and implementation of strategic plans:
    • ANT researchers are coached to follow the actors
    • following the actors also helps reveal how inclusive, participative, and/or democratic the process was
    • ANT encourages researchers to treat as real the possible associations among ideas
    • ANT is one of the only theories available that would allow the various artifacts produced during a strategic planning to be taken seriously as mediators and actors
    • ANT helps reveal in great detail the extent to which strategies are both emergent and deliberate
    • ANT alerts the researcher to just how much work can or does go into strategic planning
    • ANT methods help account for how the ostensive aspects of any set of associations are produced
    • ANT-inspired approaches should seek to define or help identify good procedures for assembling or composing the collective
  • We are saying that strategic planning represents a kind of discursive practice meant to help produce such an alignment in situations where almost always that order is not given but is always an emergent process
  • All of the interviewees agree that the mapping exercises helped change their thinking and helped the groups involved in the exercises and in subsequent discussions by staff and policymakers reach agreement on mission, goals, strategies, actions.
  • In short, the mapping process produced maps that were an assembly created by the actors present that traced associations among the ideas and actors
  • the maps themselves were actants that changed the minds of their producers and guided subsequent action across time and space
  • the maps themselves offered ways of knowing
  • strategic planning is best viewed as, in effect, a way of knowing meant to promote strategic thinking, acting, and learning
  • at its best strategic planning in practice is a way of pulling together a variety of actors and actants into “a network of heterogeneous objects”
  • Strategic planning practices help provide some of the crucial ordering and sense making processes and artifacts needed to relationally constitute the web of heterogenous element
  • ANT is a particularly apt methodology for studying strategic planning as a way of knowing
  • At the same time, by focusing on actors and the associations they trace (or not) ANT is well-suited to the task to discerning how and to what extent strategic planning is inclusive, participative, and/or democratic
  • ANT studies are in some ways more empirical, while also being generally less abstract, than variance studies, for they rely on rich descriptions in which “everything is data”
  • An ANT study thus can become a kind of action research
  • ANT-informed studies of strategic planning as a way of knowing are likely to lead to very different understandings and findings than most variance studies
  • Variance methods make a number of moves that from an ANT and a way of knowing perspective are highly suspect:
    1. posit as fixed or stabilized a category of action-strategic planning
    2. posit as fixed or stabilized as a standardized object-strategic plans
    3. abstract both planning and plans out of the actor-networks
    4. measure statistical strengths of associations between precursors
  • These studies appear to be empirical, but in fact may have strayed quite far from real empiricism
  • Viewing strategic planning as a way of knowing also highlights the importance of particular kinds of objects central to the process
  • Interviewees indicated that in particular the maps and the process of creating them were crucial to developing shared understandings of mission, goals, strategies, and actions; guiding principles; and the coalition needed to move forward
  • In the process of developing the maps, each member of the group got to know and understand the content and linkages
  • Strategy mapping thus may be viewed first as a way of articulating matters of concern, e.g., possible missions, goals, strategies and actions, and then through dialogue and decision processes converting them into more stable matters of fact
  • A strategy mapping exercise helps participants make sense of their world, what they may want to do with it, and why; and in doing so the exercise helps participants connect people, ideas, and other kinds of actors into a way forward
  • By articulating linkages between thinking and acting, mapping and the maps provided a practical lay epistemology, or way of knowing
  • we know strategic planning is now a very widespread practice among governments and nonprofit organizations in the United States, but why that should be so is unclear.
  • organizations may engage in strategic planning because they find it useful as a way of knowing what they should do
  • viewing strategic planning as practiced as a way of knowing offers a very useful way of knowing what we do—and do not—know about strategic planning

Strategic Planning and Implementation Success in Public Service Organizations, Elbanna, Andrews, Pollanen (2016)

  • This article examines the role that formal strategic planning plays in determining the success of strategy implementation
  • also analyzes the mediating effects of managerial involvement in strategic planning and the moderating effects of stakeholder uncertainty
  • findings suggest that formal strategic planning has a strong positive relationship with implementation, which, though mediated by managerial involvement, becomes even more salient in the face of stakeholder uncertainty.
  • successful implementation of strategic decisions is widely thought to be critical to the achievement of organizational aims and objectives
  • in spite of the widespread recognition of the critical role that strategy implementation success plays there remain few studies that actually examine the antecedents of successful strategy implementation
  • this article seeks to cast light on the role that formal strategic planning can play in determining strategy implementation success
  • The more time and effort that is devoted to analyzing the internal and external environments, developing and evaluating strategic options, the more managers may feel confident that the outcome of the process will be a positive one
  • basic assumption underpinning the strategic planning process is that it is rational to invest resources in formulating good plans because this will vastly improve the prospects of implementation success
  • Strategy implementation is defined in the literature as ‘the communication, interpretation, adoption, and enactment of strategic plans’
  • whatever the challenges associated with the development of effective planning processes, the implementation of strategic decisions is regarded as considerably more difficult than their formulation
  • therefore important to consider in what ways the link between strategy formulation and implementation can be strengthened
  • control has been identified as central to the implementation process, achieved centrally through techniques such as action plans and monitoring
  • effective implementation is more likely when activities are clearly defined
  • one way in which public service organizations can seek to bridge the gap between formulation and implementation is to ensure that they establish strong formal planning procedures
  • some authors suggest that excessive attention to the planning process may make decision-making inflexible and thereby lead inexorably to implementation failure
    • emphasize the need for fluid and open processes of planning and implementation
  • our first hypothesis is: There will be a positive relationship between formal strategic planning and strategic implementation success
  • risk of ‘paralysis by analysis’ - obsessive concern with the details of the strategic plan may lead top management to overlook the need for context-sensitive implementation
  • The effect of formal strategic planning may be enhanced if all managers are active participants in the process of developing strategies
  • Implementation quality may be improved because managerial involvement facilitates the continual adaptation of strategic plans as they are being implemented
  • conceivable that the benefits of strategic planning for strategy implementation are attributable to the managerial involvement that thoroughgoing planning processes presuppose
  • it is not simply the presence of formal planning that matters for implementation success, but the managerial involvement that accompanies effective strategy formulation
  • second hypothesis: Managerial involvement will mediate the relationship between formal strategic planning and strategy implementation success
  • Only by securing as high a degree of autonomy as possible from the vicissitudes of its stakeholders can any organization effectively execute its plans
  • For public organizations, the pursuit of organizational autonomy is particularly challenging
  • To lessen dependence and gain more autonomy, public organizations may adopt multiple short-term tactics ranging from internal restructuring to the cooptation of external board members
  • seems likely that public service organizations will need to develop a systematic approach to integrating stakeholder management within their strategic planning processes
  • Since there is a need to proactively manage environmental dependencies, the strength of formal strategic planning may well matter more for strategy implementation success when there is a higher degree of uncertainty around sources of stakeholder support
  • Rigorous analysis of stakeholder needs is especially important when those needs and demands are difficult to predict
  • third hypothesis: Stakeholder uncertainty will strengthen the relationship between formal strategic planning and strategy implementation success
  • We did not find a relevant measure for the success of implementing the strategic plan.
  • we adapted our measure of strategy implementation success for the purpose of this study.
  • Two aspects of managerial involvement, namely, quantity and quality have been recognized in the literature. Our new measure of managerial involvement gauges the quality of managerial involvement of top, middle and operations managers in the planning process.
  • Our findings indicate that a planned or formal approach to strategy enhances its implementation in traditional bureaucratic public organizations
  • This finding differs from the prior arguments of several scholars who advocate decentralized and emergent strategy formulation
  • formal planning has an indirect effect on strategy implementation in part through the mediating role of managerial involvement
  • for public organizations operating in less stable or unstable environments, formal strategic planning can be especially beneficial for implementation under conditions of uncertainty

The Fifth Discipline, Chapter 14 - Strategies, Senge (2006)

  • there are no magic bullets for building learning organizations. Yet, much has been learned and continues to be learned about creating work environments that produce inspired results and generate fun while doing so
  • This chapter begins with an overview of what it means to think strategically- what the basic aims are and where to put your focus- and then lays out and illustrates eight different strategies that people follow in diverse settings
  • Thinking and acting strategically
    • Framework addresses two sets of questions:
      1. What are the fundamental areas of growth and innovation that define a learning culture and make it robust? (“Deep learning cycle”)
      2. Where do leaders focus their attention and efforts to create such a culture? (“Strategic architecture”)
    • While this framework has several elements, the primary distinctions arise from basic insights about learning. Learning always has two levels.
      • At one level, all learning is judged by what the learner can do, the results he or she produces. But we wouldn’t say we had learned to ride a bicycle if we succeeded in riding only once.
      • On the deeper level, learning is about developing a capacity to reliably produce a certain quality of results. It is about becoming a “bicycle rider” not just riding one time, and this capacity is what grows as a result of the deep learning cycle.
    • The learning environment needed to sustain this deep learning cycle is the focus of the strategic architecture
    • The deep learning cycle encompasses five elements, each of which skillful leaders pay attention to in building a healthy learning culture:
      1. beliefs and assumptions
      2. established practices
      3. skills and capabilities
      4. networks of relationships
      5. awareness and sensibilities
    • These five cultural elements are always influencing each other
    • It is common to talk of an organization’s culture as if it is simply “the ways things are.” But no culture is static. It is continually reinforced by how we live with one another day-to-day
    • framework expresses the important assumption that all these elements can and do change-and when they do, they tend to evolve together
    • deep learning cycle can either reinforce the culture as it exists now or reinforce what is emerging
    • where to intervene to influence the deep learning cycle-coherent strategies have three elements: guiding ideas; (2) theory, tools, and methods; and innovations in organizational infrastructure
    • overarching viewpoint behind this framework is known in social theory as “structuration,” or the theory of “enacted systems.”
    • principle of systems thinking, that structure influences behavior and that the leverage for change increases as we learn to focus on underlying structures, rather than events or behaviors.
    • structures that govern social systems arise through the cumulative effects of the actions taken by the participants in those systems
  • 1. Integrating learning and working
    • Over the years, many people have translated the imperative to “become a learning organization” into new programs to train people in mental models or systems thinking
    • The main flaw in these situations is the absence of effective infrastructures to help people integrate learning and working.
    • Reflection that [isn’t] connected to action is what [makes] people think they don’t have time for this
    • Reflection doesn’t mean agreement on everything - What reflection says is that we hear everything. It does not say we’re going to attend to everyone’s needs.
    • A culture that integrates action and reflection arrives at better decisions to which people can genuinely commit
    • most of the time, things do not turn out as we expect. But the potential value of unexpected developments is rarely tapped. Instead, when things turn out contrary to our expectations, we go immediately into problem-solving mode and react, or just try harder-without taking the time to see whether this unexpected development is telling us something important about our assumptions.
    • you have to make reflection part of the way work is done
    • One simple method is the “After Action Review”
    • In its simplest form, an AAR consists of three questions:
      1. What happened?
      2. What did we expect?
      3. What can we learn from the gap?
    • Having simple protocols like AARs for connecting action and reflection matters, but having a supportive management environment is essential.
    • Detroit Edison integration of AARs into culture took several years and was guided by four specific strategies:
      1. Leadership by request and example
      2. Events seen as learning opportunities
      3. Grassroots exposure to AARs
      4. A cadre of trained facilitators
    • The intention of these four strategies is local ownership for learning that matters
    • The AAR approach potentially makes the work team the first, best customer for its own learning, in sharp contrast to the “capture-and-disseminate” model of most knowledge-management practices.
  • 2. Starting where you are with whoever is there
    • A problem closely related to fragmentation comes up when people believe that there is little they can do without the support of top management
    • thinking strategically is imperative for leaders at all levels.
    • a guiding principle for many of the most talented leaders of learning initiatives: focus on problems that people believe cannot be solved.
    • Einstein’s statement” the consciousness that created the problem cannot be the one that solves it
    • Tackling the “impossibles” happens only when you are able to tap people’s talents and deepest aspirations.
  • 3. Becoming bicultural
    • A subtle area of attitude and skill, one that seems to distinguish serial innovators involves never losing touch with the larger organizational environment-something we call “becoming bicultural.”
    • there is a rich history of successful innovations that fail to spread
    • Fundamental innovations that produce significant leaps in performance can be threatening to people and teams performing closer to the norm
    • The other side of the coin to “starting where you are,” is becoming adroit at working with the political forces within an organization
    • As we came to understand the problems of innovators who ran afoul of the corporate immune system, we started to see that sustaining innovation requires leaders who become bicultural, moving back and forth effectively between the open, learning-oriented world of the team and the more traditional world of the mainstream organization
    • One strategy that works for some leaders is to simply keep their innovations below the radar
    • work in the language of the incumbent. This means being very clear about where formal organizational power resides and how it is used.
    • You’ve got to craft goals in the language and worldview of the hierarchy, and then help people make sense of those goals in their own terms
  • 4. Creating practice fields
    • The idea of practice fields comes from a simple fact: it is very difficult to learn anything new without the opportunity for practice.
    • The classroom concerns mostly listening and thinking, not doing
    • Real learning processes, in contrast, are defined by trying something new and making many mistakes
    • creating practice fields and establishing a regular rhythm of practice and performance has become a common strategy among practitioners of learning organization development
    • At Harley-Davidson for example, there is a distinction between the “management system” and “the swirl.” The former includes business objectives, formal roles and accountabilities, and controls. The latter refers to the host of issues and ideas that are continually being debated, experimented with, and tested throughout the organization
    • Gradually, it became clear that “the swirl” was important business, a sort of incubator for the new and a way to legitimate ongoing exploration and practice.
    • Practice fields come in many shapes and size
    • We are probably at the beginning of an evolution of increasingly sophisticated practice field
    • But the journey of development starts when managers embrace the simple principle “no practice, no learning”
  • Connecting with the core of the business
    • For radical new ideas and practices to take root within an organization there must be fertile soil
    • Successful learning practitioners intent upon having a large-scale impact learn how to connect with the core of the organization-at the deepest levels of individual and collective identity-and how the organization most naturally creates value.
    • There is no fixed formula for connecting the core identity of an organization to something that has no precedent in its history
    • approach starts with believing such an identity exist
    • requires a real spirit of discovery
    • Would-be change leaders often limit themselves through encountering two subtle barriers that they fail to recognize:
      1. They do not go deeply enough into themselves to discover what is truly calling them
      2. they do not go deeply enough into the organization to discover what it stands for
    • It may seem a bit odd to talk about “who” an organization is, or what an organization “stands for,’’ but it is not odd if you look at it as a human community
    • next question arises: how a new vision can tap into the organization’s creative process, how new sources of value are generated most naturally in the organization. This is the journey from vision to reality
  • 6. Building learning communities
    • when our own deep questions and aspirations connect with an organization’s essence, community develops.
    • Attunement to new learning communities, networks of relationships based on common aims and shared meaning, becomes both a strategy and an outcome for leaders
    • “Communities grow from people pursuing questions that have heart and meaning to them,”
    • When this is done, learning communities arise as a by-product.
    • It is important that this “social space” be created consciously and be maintained
    • also important to realize that the creation of learning communities is a natural process that does not need to be controlled or manipulated-indeed, attempts to control it can easily backfire.
  • 7. Working with the other
    • The shadow side of community is clique or even cult, when people gravitate toward people like themselves and with whom they mostly agree, excluding others.
    • embracing diversity becomes a key guiding idea for leaders
    • Margaret Wheatly study of internet communities: “The more I look at these, the more they seem like anticommunities … On the Internet there is zero cost of exit. If people get tired of each other or turn off to what others are saying, they can simply disconnect. That’s it. The result is ‘communities’ where everyone mostly agrees with one another. It’s made me realize that real community is something that can only happen when we are stuck with one another.”
      • note: wow, that was a prescient observation
    • Building relationships across boundaries between very different types of organizations is becoming a key strategy for influencing larger systems as well
    • The imperative to build more diverse and inclusive communities will only grow in an increasingly networked world
    • traditional approaches to dealing with diversity put people into categories.
    • “The real issues here are much more personal, and more developmental, than the way most corporations have been looking at diversity. It is about our ability to understand and appreciate how [others] think, communicate, and relate. It’s about living together.”
  • 8. Developing learning infrastructures
    • When organizations create or redefine management roles to support reflection or systems thinking, they create learning infrastructures.
    • Learning infrastructures do not leave learning to chance.
    • We have learned the most about learning infrastructures from the U.S. Army. For the Army, learning infrastructure includes:
      • Training and Formal Education
      • Practice
      • Research
      • Doctrine
    • The Army’s continual investment in learning infrastructure rests on a deep conviction in learning the lessons from history
    • Of the U.S. Army’s many types of infrastructures, the one most common in other organizations is formal education and training
    • Yet, without the other three-practice, research, and doctrine-training is likely to be neither well-focused nor effectively translated into work practices.
    • Perhaps the real reason learning infrastructures remain largely unappreciated is that most managers still focus narrowly on achieving near-term results, not building capacity for future results.
    • “We have lots of infrastructures for decision making, but none for learning.”
    • organizations that make even modest progress in developing capacity to understand and work with complexity will have real advantage
  • Different ways that people describe learning-oriented organizational culture:
    • “the adaptive enterprise”
    • “understanding how work really gets done and how collaboration evolves knowledge networks”
    • “managing knowledge in a culture that promotes learning”
    • “aspiration” and “inquiry and dialogue skills”
    • “learning to become a learning organization”
  • you don’t have to call it anything. The culture starts to change [through] just being present with people
  • Watching the inevitable journey of faddishness and post-faddishness of “the learning organization,” I have formed one conclusion. People need to find their own language for describing the intent of their efforts in ways that work in their own context
  • It is the reality we create, not how we label it, that matter

Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM)

An executive perspective on employee benefits: A McKinsey Survey (2006)

  • 88 percent of respondents name human-resources concerns-particularly attracting and retaining talent plus meeting responsibilities to employees-as the main reasons for offering benefits
  • Despite this motivation, many companies haven’t learned what their employees really want from benefit programs, and few actually measure performance
  • 43% of respondents state that their companies understood employee benefit preferences only “somewhat” or “not at all”
  • Nearly 6 out of 10 who say their companies don’t measure performance admit that they’ve never even considered it
  • When executives better understand employee benefit preferences, execs are more likely to say the company receives an adequate ROI
  • Companies could make more effective use of the benefits they offer
  • 50 is a critical age for employees to begin planning their transition
  • To balance cost and value, many have turned to consumer-directed health plans which seek to reduce costs by giving customers more responsibility for managing their own health care spending

Family-Friendly Human Resource Policy, Kim, Wiggins (2011)

  • The balance between work and family plays a pivotal but evolving role in human resource policy
  • Compensation policy long has focused on family-oriented values by promising increased capacity to provide for a family in exchange for higher work performance.
  • Now, employees are voicing concerns about matters such as quality time with family
  • Employers are responding by implementing more benefits to achieve a better work–family balance
  • Results suggest that implementation policies are keeping pace with employee satisfaction. However, levels of employee satisfaction varies widely depending on demographic characteristics
  • Saltzstein, Ting, and Saltzstein argued that a traditional “work–family dichotomy” was a product of male-dominated work environments that were supported by female-dominant home environments
  • workforce demographic changes eroded this dichotomy
  • benefits related to work and family balance now are necessary for effective human resource management
  • policies geared specifically toward work–family balance have highlighted new tensions even as they have relieved others
  • increasing numbers of unmarried and single Americans suggest a growing population whose preferences may not be addressed by workplace policies focusing on work–family balance and who may perceive inequity
  • The need to ensure that human resource policy responds to the spectrum of American demographic changes only will intensify as a major policy challenge in the coming decades
  • Research probing the relationship between work and family has found both positive and negative spillover effects with respect to employee retention, job satisfaction, employee morale, and productivity
  • family-supportive and family friendly benefits are closely related to employee work attitudes and turnover intention
  • employee performance and productivity are bolstered by support from supervisors and coworkers in managing work, personal, and family life, as well as by a workplace culture that generally supports personal and family life
  • three key factors affect family friendly policies: global competition, renewed interest in personal lives and family values, and an aging workforce
  • the changing the nature of what constitutes a family is a major challenge from the perspectives of both employers and employees
  • marital status might no longer be a handy and meaningful indicator for understanding employees’ lives
  • about one-third of the workforce has children under the age of 18 and that childless and single employees feel excluded from the benefits of family-friendly policies
  • family-friendly policies need to be redesigned as worker-friendly policies
  • adequate development of benefits and incentives requires fostering a singles-friendly environment and including the perspectives of employees who do not live in traditional family structures.
  • family care responsibilities, particularly the care of children and elderly adults, have increased as a result of the aging workforce and the increasing number of single parents
  • employees who experience higher levels of social support through work–life programs also experience enhanced family life satisfaction
  • enhanced technologies now blur “lines between when people are at work and when they are not”
  • lack of workplace flexibility and rigid work schedules have negative impacts on employee work attitudes and job satisfaction
  • employees who can control their own work schedule may have greater capacity to balance family responsibilities and work obligations
  • a positive and significant relationship exists between flexible work schedules and job satisfaction
  • employees perceive alternative schedules as increasing their productivity and the quality of their service
  • employees who believe that their organizations support family obligations have greater satisfaction with work–family balance
  • larger organizations offer more work–family benefits, and organizations with more women are likely to provide employees with more family-friendly programs
  • the number of women in the workplace influences family-friendly programs, as roles and responsibilities for work and family have changed for both men and women
  • female employees’ satisfaction with family-friendly policies in the public sector is stronger than male employees’ satisfaction
  • demographic changes require continual reevaluation
  • availability of work–life benefits in an organization correlated positively with employees’ organizational commitment and negatively with their turnover intention
  • public employees’ intention to leave their jobs was significantly influenced by their satisfaction with both family-friendly policies and traditional economic benefits
  • older public employees tend to be satisfied with most family-friendly policies—with the exception of alternative work schedules
  • younger workers are more dissatisfied with family-friendly policies
  • This gap between age cohorts is meaningful because equity is a fundamental value in the design and implementation of policies and programs to promote employee well-being
  • There are some differences between male workers’ and female workers’ satisfaction with family-friendly policies. Women workers are less satisfi ed with family-friendly policies, especially child care policies (This finding differs from Ezra and Deckman’s 1996 study)
  • satisfaction with child care and telework/telecommuting policies is unexpectedly low for both male and female
  • Senior executives significantly more satisfied with child care, work–life programs, and telework/telecommuting than nonsupervisory workers. May show greater satisfaction because they have greater access
  • relationship between race and satisfaction with family-friendly policies showed some inconsistency.
  • racial minorities were more likely to be satisfied with child care, work–life programs, and telework/telecommuting program
  • no significant effect of race on satisfaction with alternative work schedules
  • family-friendly policies can be further developed to provide employees better incentives and to improve job satisfaction and organizational commitment, factors that are closely related to employee productivity and performance
  • To better utilize family-friendly policies in the workplace, many scholars have argued that organizational culture is more important to employees motivation than benefits
  • organization’s culture should be open and supportive of employee work–life programs.
  • organizational culture barriers should be carefully identified and confronted
  • It is also suggested that employers account for different employee expectations based on life-cycle stages
  • older employees’ increased concern for telework/telecommuting shows that technology improvements have brought innovative work culture into the public sector
  • creating flexible workplaces, including flexible time and alternative work schedules, is a good strategy to motivate employees
  • flexible time policies and alternative work schedules can be good motivators that increase employees’ performance without increasing costs.
  • This implication demonstrates the need for ongoing discussion of employee effectiveness and efficiency based on extrinsic motivations versus intrinsic motivation
  • consideration should be given to the effects of perceived inequity on productivity and turnover intention among employees in lower pay grades.
  • To promote equitable access among employees, communication about employee benefits and incentives must be planned and executed carefully in order to offer a rich array of work–life benefits to meet diverse needs.
  • more systemic education of employees is needed on the nature, content, and value of benefits, as employees may not be aware of the full value of the benefit package
  • family-friendly policies still serve a valued role in the public sector but may need to be updated to keep pace with increasingly diverse employee expectations
Written on October 29, 2017