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31 CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSIONS This synthesis project was designed to address a number of Although specific planning practices varied greatly key questions in regard to strategic planning and manage- from agency to agency, there were a number of fairly ment in the transit industry. These questions, and a summary common steps in their overall planning processes. These of information gathered to answer them with the conclusions include: reached, follow. Creating an organizational vision and a vision statement. Do the transit agencies have a formal plan or other ele- Developing a mission statement and goals and ments of strategic management? Based on a random objectives. survey, strategic planning and management is conducted Identifying the organization's core values. in some form by more than 80% of the agencies sam- Conducting a "stakeholder" analysis (i.e., who are pled. Consistent with previous studies (as well as with the important stakeholders and what are their inter- intuition), it is conducted to a greater degree by large ests or needs?). agencies than by medium and smaller ones (100%, 90%, Assessing the organization's external and internal and 74% of those surveyed, respectively). environments to identify strengths, weaknesses, This level of strategic planning and management rep- opportunities, and threats (a SWOT analysis). resents a significant increase from a study done in 1986, Identifying the key strategic issues facing the which found that well under one-half of the respondents organization and formulating strategies to manage were conducting what would normally be considered as these issues. true ("classic") strategic planning. It also suggests a sig- Developing an effective process for implementing nificant increase from a 1990 study (NCHRP Report and managing the strategic initiatives. 331) that found that not many publicly funded trans- Evaluating progress and making necessary mid- portation agencies "seem to have a strong interest in or course corrections. understanding of strategic management." Two key implementation strategies were used in Although strategic planning and management are regard to strategic plan implementation. One was to quite prevalent among the agencies surveyed, there is a make sure that the strategic plan was linked to the oper- wide spectrum of planning methods used and planning ating budget and capital programming processes. This documents that are produced. Only one agency reported helped to ensure that the resources necessary to support that it did not have a specific plan document, but instead the plan would be available. The other key strategy was looked at various planning processes and related deliv- to link the plan to performance measures that created erables. However, each of the other agencies produced accountability for implementation and that allowed some kind of formal strategic planning document. Com- progress toward plan achievement to be tracked. One mon components of these documents included a vision strategy used by several agencies was to link strategic and/or mission statement, an internal and external envi- plan achievement with the chief executive officer's per- ronmental scan, the identification of strategic issues formance appraisal. and/or initiatives, action plans, and performance mea- What are the benefits of strategic planning and man- sures. A few agencies included a description of their agement? Strategic planning has demonstrated broad core values. usage and staying power for several decades. This indi- How were the plans developed and implemented? The cates that it is providing real value to organizations. strategic plans were generally developed by internal staff Moreover, if TCRP's New Paradigms project is correct over a period of several months. Consultants were some- (i.e., that fundamental change is needed in the transit times used, usually when an agency was first beginning industry in view of the substantial social, economic, and to undertake strategic planning, or more commonly as technological changes occurring in this country and facilitators at planning workshops or management beyond), it may be that strategic planning and manage- and/or board retreats. The most common length of time ment is not just important to transit organizations, but for the strategic planning process was 3 to 6 months. critical. Most of the agencies took less than 12 months to com- Survey respondents rated strategic planning as "very plete the process. useful" to their agencies (a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5). They

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32 cited numerous benefits, some general, some quite However, many agencies involved their boards in plan specific. Among the more general, respondents often development as well; for example, by involving them in remarked that the process was instrumental in creating a planning retreats or workshops. In some cases, the board new vision for the agency, or in helping to give the entire provided policy guidance or broad goals at the begin- agency a sense of direction. It helped several agencies ning of the process and then left development of the become more customer oriented. It also encouraged staff plan to management and staff. and agency boards to have a more long-range view in What are the linkages to other organizational processes? decision making and priority setting. Similarly, it has Most of the agencies (more than 75%) indicated that helped several agencies to organize and foster a shared they link their strategic plans to other key organizational understanding of organizational goals and objectives, processes, such as service planning, budgeting (operat- and enabled staff to work together more effectively. ing and capital), financial planning, information tech- Other internal benefits cited were that it allowed the nology planning, performance measurement, and orga- agency to establish budget priorities, redirect staffing nization development. However, there is substantial levels, and create more effective workflows. It was also variation in terms of how well they think their agencies used to restructure services to gain a more efficient use have accomplished this. of resources or to expand existing services. Are there any measures of plan effectiveness? Overall, Strategic planning provided many external benefits the agencies rated themselves between "fairly effec- as well. It increased external stakeholder (local govern- tive" and "very effective" in regard to implementing ment, the public, and local businesses) awareness and their strategic plans (a rating of 3.6 on a scale of 1 to 5). input, and resulted in greater stakeholder support. Also, One of the ways the agencies determine their effective- it was used in conjunction with funding concerns and ness is by linking their plans to performance measures decisions. Specifically, strategic plans were used to jus- and then monitoring and reporting performance monthly tify a need to increase funding by indicating that the or quarterly. agency would need more resources than they currently What lessons were learned? There were a number of have to meet the needs of the region. Finally, it helped lessons learned or keys to success cited by agencies in define an agency's core role and responsibilities to the terms of making their strategic planning more effective. community. Make the strategic planning process as participative What were the drivers for creating the strategic plans? as possible. Do not let the plan be developed by just The most common driver for undertaking strategic plan- the planning staff. Include not just internal staff ning was an internal decision by management. Almost but external stakeholders as well. A key method for as common was a decision by the agency board. In a getting buy-in and commitment to the plan is to few cases, there was an external impetus, such as a state involve people in its development. law or a metropolitan government. Some specific rea- Strategic planning by itself is not enough. The sons cited for undertaking strategic planning included: broader concept of strategic management is needed A desire to link the operating budget, capital bud- to ensure that strategic plans, no matter how good get, and performance measures together. they are, get turned into action. A desire to drive change throughout the organi- One way to encourage strategic management is to zation. closely link the strategic planning process to other To help make a case for increased funding. important business processes such as budgeting, To focus on important issues facing the organiza- capital programming, and performance measure- tion in the coming year. ment. To be accomplished, the plan has to trans- To take a fresh look at how transit could develop late into necessary resources, and monitoring is in the region in order to attract new markets. essential to ensure that plan goals and objectives What organizational roles were involved? What was the are being achieved. role of the oversight board? Most (80%) of the agencies Defining the organization's core values can pro- have placed responsibility for strategic planning with vide a beneficial context for the development of specific departments. However, the organizational loca- goals and strategies. tion varied considerably. The most common location Make the plans and goals a stretch, but not so much (five agencies) was in the "executive office." Next most so that they are unattainable. common (three agencies) was in a strategic planning Methods and techniques from the field of orga- department (e.g., strategic organizational planning). Four nization development can be a useful adjunct to agencies had assigned the responsibility to more general the strategic planning and management process planning departments or to administrative units such as (e.g., process consultation, team building, lead- human resources. Three organizations did not have ership development, collaborative goal setting, and responsibility assigned to a specific department. employee feedback surveys). Approximately one-half of the agencies reported that It can be very helpful to designate strategy "cham- their strategic plans were approved by the agency board. pions" that are responsible and accountable for the

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33 implementation of specific plan strategies, and to strategies and action plans for achieving it. In regard to give them appropriate incentives for doing so. external stakeholders in general, it would be useful to Good communication is key. People need to know know more about when to involve them and the best what is being done, why, and what their role is. ways for doing so. Tailor the planning process to the agency conduct- One issue this project did not address is the relation- ing it. One size does not fit all. A small agency will ship of strategic plans to the Long-Range Transporta- not need the same level of effort as a large, more tion Plans and Transportation Development Programs complex one. Other factors to consider are the cul- that agencies develop in response to federal planning ture of the agency (e.g., formal or informal), the regulations. It is assumed that most of the agencies resources needed, and the time frame available. make some kind of linkage between the two plan- Recognize that change will be difficult and that it ning processes, but it is not clear how or to what extent will take time and effort. Buy-in from staff and they do so. Relatedly, it is not clear to what extent the agency board is critical for strategic planning to strategic plans address larger community issues such succeed. as sustainability, land use, and comprehensive regional A strategic plan is a living document that must be planning. More study of these relationships could be regularly updated. worthwhile. Are there any gaps in knowledge? Several possibilities There is a tendency in planning to assume, either for additional study are suggested here. In general, tran- explicitly or implicitly, that the future will be pretty sit agencies are better at developing plans than they are much like the past. There is a need for more planning at implementing them. Some agencies pointed out that that challenges the status quo, that "thinks outside the they were just getting started with strategic planning or box," particularly in this age of increasing uncertainty. were still in a learning phase. More study of effective One technique frequently used in the private sector as a strategies and techniques for turning strategic plans into strategic management tool is "scenario planning," a action could therefore be very beneficial. planning methodology that develops several plausible Correspondingly, a key to making strategic planning future scenarios and then develops strategies for what effective is derived from linking strategic plans and the organization will need to do to respond to them. In processes to other key organizational processes such as addition, strategies can be created that will help the budgeting, capital programming, and performance mea- organization realize a particular scenario. Research into sures. Most of the agencies surveyed are doing this, but ways to combine this planning technique with more tra- it is not clear without more analysis exactly what tech- ditional strategic planning in the transit industry may be niques are being used to do this or how effective they merited. have been. Similarly, only a few agencies have made Finally, the TCRP New Paradigms study has sug- the attempt to drive their strategic plans down to the gested that fundamental change in the transit industry level of individual employees, particularly by making will be necessary if the industry is to be successful in this a part of performance appraisals and/or compensa- view of the significant social, economic, and political tion decisions. More study on this could be helpful. One changes in the world. This will require more than just possibility would be the development of a comprehen- traditional strategic planning, which is often more a sive and integrated system or model that would combine matter of "doing things right" than a matter of "doing strategic planning, budgeting, capital planning, financial the right things." Research into methods for effectively planning, performance measurement, and organization doing what Mintzberg calls "strategic thinking" might development. be valuable in this respect. Although most agencies incorporate some kind of per- These ideas for further study also suggest a need for formance measures in their strategic planning process, training; for example, how to do scenario planning, or additional study of what specific performance measures creative and collaborative organizational "visioning." are most appropriate and effective might be helpful. There may be a need for training about strategic plan- Another area for research would be in regard to tech- ning in general. Such training is not available through niques for accelerating the strategic planning process the National Transit Institute and it is not clear where a and more effectively involving multiple and diverse transit agency would go to learn how to do effective stakeholders, particularly external stakeholders. One such strategic planning. One suggestion is to consider creat- technique is the "future search conference," a process ing a peer review team made up of transportation pro- that engages key stakeholders in a 2 to 3 day retreat that fessionals who have executed a successful strategic plan- creates a vision of a desired future and then develops ning process.