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7 the success of the GPRA "depends on strong leadership prac- Conversely, a lack of good information was regarded as a tices that devolve decision-making authority with account- serious problem by large agencies, but not so serious by ability, create incentives, build expertise, and integrate man- small agencies. Large agencies cited the "fish-bowl" envi- agement reforms" (6). ronment of public agencies as a problem and also changing state policies. Other obstacles cited by respondents included: STRATEGIC PLANNING IN PUBLIC-SECTOR · Operating pressures, TRANSPORTATION · A short-term orientation inside and outside the agency In the mid-1980s, the University Research and Training ("fire-fighting"), Program of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration · The annual budget process, and (UMTA) (currently the FTA) funded a project that examined · An inability to enter new markets or alter the agency's strategic planning in small- and medium-size transit agen- external environment. cies (7). The study report included a discussion of strategic planning and its benefits, a survey of 104 transit agencies, The study also found that small agencies in particular have and a case study of a small transit system in Missouri (South- difficulty in regard to strategic planning. In general, these dif- east Missouri Transportation Services, Inc.). ficulties had to do with inadequate resources, including staff, expertise, data, and the money needed to hire outside exper- tise. Three key conclusions emerged from the study: The author observed that the crux of strategic planning is to create a process that answers three basic questions (7, p. 5): 1. The need to reinterpret the concept of strategic planning. 2. The importance of organizational readiness. 1. Where are we? 3. The need to mold strategic planning to the specific 2. Where do we want to go? context of the organization. 3. How can we get there? In regard to the need to reinterpret the concept of strate- In the survey of transit properties, the following percent- gic planning, the study noted that conducting a comprehen- ages of respondents answered that they conduct a formal sive and formal strategic planning process (the "classical" strategic planning process: strategic planning model) may be beyond the capability of most transit agencies. Moreover, it may be more than is nec- · Small systems (fewer than 50 vehicles) 42% essary. Five strategies are suggested in regard to this issue: · Medium systems (5099 vehicles) 68% · Big systems (100500 vehicles) 62% 1. The formality of the process needs to be de-emphasized. · Large systems (more than 500 vehicles) 93% 2. The level of data and analysis should be kept in rea- sonable relationship to the capabilities of the agency. The average for the four sizes was 59%. 3. The cost of the process should be kept in some reason- able relationship with the likely benefits. However, when responses were analyzed more closely, it 4. There needs to be a better understanding that long- was noted that more than half (57%) were actually referring range planning is not the same as strategic planning. to long-range service and capital plans as required by the fed- Long-range planning may be necessary and useful; how- eral UMTA, short-range service plans, or to the annual bud- ever, it does not fulfill the same purposes. geting process. In short, there appeared to be a great deal of 5. Strategic planning might best be performed by seg- confusion as to what actually constitutes strategic planning. menting it. Rather than implementing a single, rigid process, it might be more effective if it is kept more flex- The study identified the following managerial tools used ible and if it uses various tools for specific purposes by transit agencies that might become part of a strategic plan- (e.g., special strategic studies). ning process: The second conclusion was the importance of organiza- · Strategic-type special studies (e.g., performance audits), tional readiness; some organizations may just not be ready to · Performance indicators, undertake strategic planning. Key factors in whether an orga- · Management by objectives, and nization is ready include organizational sophistication and · Strategy retreats. stamina, the flexibility and commitment of management, and the skills and expertise of the participants. It found that there were a number of obstacles to con- ducting strategic planning in agencies, and that these obsta- Finally, in regard to adapting strategic planning to the orga- cles differed according to the size of the agency. For exam- nizational context, management is encouraged to be realistic ple, inadequate staff resources was regarded as a significant about the capabilities of the agency, set priorities and clearly obstacle by small agencies, but much less so by large ones. define objectives for the process, design a process that reflects
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8 these considerations, and build on what already exists in the · Upper management must be seriously committed to and agency. participate in the strategic planning process. · The development of a mission, goals, and objectives In 1985, an article was published about a case study of the should be based on a careful analysis of the environ- development of a strategic management process in the Penn- ment (both internal and external) and should emphasize sylvania Department of Transportation (8). This study made a marketing perspective. Objectives should be stated in clear the importance of not just developing a strategic plan but ways that are measurable. of also creating a management process to implement and man- · There should be linkages between strategic planning, age the plan. There were several factors that distinguished this program planning, and budgeting, and between achieve- effort from typical strategic planning processes at the time. ment of strategic planning objectives and personnel For example, several key structural changes were made. A appraisals and compensation. strategic management committee made up of the agency's · Indicators should be developed that measure the effi- six top managers was formed to direct and manage the change ciency and effectiveness of transit services. process. Seven substantive subcommittees were also formed · Good communication is a crucial ingredient of an effec- to help manage the effort. Organization-wide planning was tive strategic planning and implementation process. centralized and program and project planning were decentral- · "Strategy champions" with appropriate responsibilities ized. A concept of "business groups" was used to create a new and incentives are needed for successful implementation. way of thinking about the primary products and services pro- · Environmental change should be regularly monitored. vided by the agency (as opposed to the more traditional way · The process should be flexible, iterative, and continuous. of thinking about the functions performed). Four-year plans · Based on the case studies, there are clearly different were developed for each of the agency's operating districts. ways that strategic planning can be conducted in terms Finally, the strategic planning process was tightly linked to of levels of detail and formality, how the process is the budget process to ensure that the agency's resources were organized, who participates, and the degree of analysis and documentation. being aligned with the plans. All of these actions served to institutionalize the strategic planning process throughout the The report ends with a recommended strategic planning agency. framework that includes the following seven steps: In 1988, the same year that Bryson published his book on 1. Organize management team and planning staff. strategic planning in the public sector, the UMTA published 2. Undertake an environmental or situation audit. A Guide to Strategic Planning for Transit Properties (9). 3. Establish mission, goals, and objectives. Considered by some in the transit industry to be a classic text, 4. Develop broad strategies. this report provided an early guide or framework for strate- 5. Establish programs and budgets. gic planning in transit. 6. Monitor program results--measure. 7. Monitor the environment. The authors define strategic planning as "the analysis of environmental change, the formulation of organizational In 1990, the NCHRP published Strategic Planning and objectives, and the establishment of priorities for resource Management Guidelines for Transportation Agencies (10). allocation" (9, p. 1). The report goes on to describe why it is This study looked at the current environment for strategic important to do strategic planning, and presents several case planning and management in a variety of publicly funded studies as examples of how to do it effectively. (The case transportation agencies, provided a definition of strategic man- studies were AlamedaContra Costa Transit, NJ Transit, Port agement and its components, and recommended guidelines for Authority of Allegheny County Transit, Seattle Metro, and successfully institutionalizing strategic management. the Utah Transit Authority.) In addition, the report discusses the following key differences between planning in the public The report distinguished strategic management from other and private sectors (9, pp. 34): traditional management practices by noting that the tradi- tional practices ask "How do we keep doing what we are · The private sector is primarily driven by the financial doing, only do it better?' Strategic management focuses instead bottom line, whereas public agencies generally have on an overall vision of where the organization should be multiple and often ambiguous goals and a variety of key heading, i.e., what it plans to accomplish and how it can get stakeholders. it accomplished. It provides for the involvement of the entire · Public agencies are more often subject to public scrutiny organization in managing its people, processes, and products and political pressures. toward successful accomplishment of its goals and objec- · Mandates in the public sector are often legislated and tives" (10, p. 1). are not up to management prerogative. The report went on to delineate the following minimum Key conclusions of the study were: components of a strategic management process (10, p. 2):