4.1 Key 1: Choose Your Planning Teams Wisely
4.2 Key 2: Avoid "Wish Lists"
4.3 Key 3: Dig Down to the Roots of Problems
4.4 Key 4: Put Out Fires While They are Small
4.5 Key 5: Keep It Short and Simple
4.6 Key 6: Coordinate Top-Down and Bottom-Up Efforts
4.7 Key 7: Emphasize Review and Adjustment
4.8 Key 8: Stop Controlling, Start Empowering
4.9 Key 9: Prepare to Negotiate
4.10 Key 10: Prepare to Deal With a Difficult Administrative Culture
In CH 3, you covered the entire planning process in just a few pages. We believe that most users of these guidelines are generally familiar with that process. But nearly everyone is searching for ways to make it more effective. How do you get the best possible results from planning? We respond to this in the metaphor of keys that unlock different doors. The more doors you can unlock, the greater will be your planning benefits. Ten keys are presented and discussed hereafter:
1. Choose Your Planning Teams Wisely
2. Avoid "Wish Lists"
3. Dig Dawn to the Roots of Problems
4. Put Out Fires While They are Small
5. Keep It Short and Simple
6. Coordinate Top-Down and Bottom-Up Efforts
7. Emphasize Review and Adjustment
8. Stop Controlling, Start Empowering
9. Prepare to Negotiate
10. Prepare to Deal With a Difficult Administrative Culture
The usefulness of planning can never be better than the knowledge, judgment, and interactions of the people who comprise your planning team. These people are expected to create a shared definition of the causes and consequences of complex problems. They propose, debate, and eventually select goals and strategies for improvement. The talents to do this successfully include:
1. Knowledge of the issues. Planning has to be in the hands of people who have reasonable knowledge about what is happening, and why. But knowledge is more than technical information. It also includes social, political, economic, and ethical types of knowledge.
2. Open and constructive communications. This refers to the ability to listen to, understand, and respect a variety of philosophical positions on complex issues. Different people have their own "knowledge" (see preceding point), and all of it can be valid in different ways.
3. Dedication. This is the desire to achieve a "greater good" beyond the individual good of any single department, project, or person. Every person in a planning group has special interests that he or she supports and opposes. But it is not every person who is able to subordinate his or her personal interests for the sake of the country as a whole.
4. Creativeness. If old ways work, then there is no need for planning. If old ways work, then improvement goals will be achieved without any extra effort. Clearly, this is never the case. Planning is always about innovation. Planning must have a creative flavor to it, or it will not transcend old ways.
The planning leader is expected to have all of these qualities, plus more! The leader has to command the trust and respect of each person in the planning group. The leader is the chief negotiator, and the person responsible for recommending among difficult choices. The leader should be the individual most able to put the country's interests ahead of personal interests.
It is much easier to describe these people than to find them. We offer the following suggestions:
· The planning leader does not have to be from within the agency. He or she can be a religious leader, professor, consultant, or anyone who demonstrates leadership qualities. Importantly, the planning leader ultimately reports to the agency director, and there must be mutual respect between the two of them.
· A principal means to promote collaboration and partnerships is to select team members from other agencies, the NGOs, and private industries. In many countries, the agency director already calls upon a steering committee comprising representatives of these organizations. Members of this steering committee are good candidates for the planning team.
· Good planning teams comprise some persons who are left-brained, and others who are right-brained thinkers. Traditionally, most foresters and agency managers are left-brained people with strengths in linear, analytical, and quantitative skills. Yet a talent in strategic planning is intuition, and the capacity to "feel" problems and solutions. A good planning team needs people from the humanities and arts, indigenous leaders, and others who see the world differently from the mainstream of agency managers. And the planning team needs women, not just men. This mixture in the team will increase the range of problems and solutions. It will put an emphasis on selecting team leaders who know how to obtain the greatest benefits from the team's diversity.
Sometimes planners make expensive "wish lists" of vehicles, buildings, training, and the like. This is not the purpose of planning, and it does not meet the strategic aspect of what planning is supposed to accomplish.
A LESSON IN WHAT NOT TO DO: THE "WISH LIST"
In a country that may be like yours, a large international organization funded a planning exercise to promote the sustainable management of agriculture, forests, wildlife, fisheries, and national parks. Each agency and NGO contributed to the planning in a bottom-up way by submitting its own ideas about what was needed. All of these proposals were taken to an inter-agency planning committee.
But in this exercise, there was no coordination of ideas and proposals. Only a few of the proposals were based on improvement goals and objectives. Even worse, the planning leader had no authority or negotiating skills to sort the proposals by priority. In the end, the "plan" was nothing more than a disconnected, long, and expensive list of project proposals. This is a costly lesson in what not to do.
The essence of strategic planning is to escape the year-to-year crisis management that afflicts every organization, and to look for solutions that dig deeper. Planning teams can help with this. In strategic planning, you are not trying to solve individual problems one by one. Rather, you are examining complex systems of problems, and this requires digging to the roots (Box 21 and Worksheet 29).
Box 21. The Fruits of the Tree Are Explained by Conditions at the Roots
The fruits of a tree are bitter - or do not develop at all - if there are serious problems at the roots. In planning, you have to dig down to root causes.
As every forester knows, to prevent fires can be less costly than to put them out after they start. And for fires that have started, it is easier to put them out while they are small than after they grow big and dangerous.
This simple principle in fire management carries over into all strategic planning. Good strategic planning anticipates and avoids problems that will become bigger if nothing is done early. This directs attention to detection and warning systems, especially the quality of communications across agencies and with interest groups.
We have seen planning teams struggle to produce documents of many hundred pages on forest use and conservation. This is unfortunate. Long documents take too much time to read and check. Moreover, they are costly to reproduce and distribute. This partly explains why so few copies get to where they are needed.
It is always better to keep it short and simple (KISS). Especially where you have computer software to help, you can present a strategy for forest use and conservation in a few key tables and charts.
When a plan is elaborated in hundreds of pages, it can be impossible for evaluators to go back later to see what has been accomplished. But when you use tables to summarize missions, goals, objectives, actions, and negotiation issues, anyone can refer to this "plan at a glance." This is particularly useful for checking progress and problems. Contrary to popular opinion, a short but tightly integrated plan is a greater achievement than a long but falsely "comprehensive" one.
The improvement goals in an agency's central office can be irrelevant in a region or district. The central office is preoccupied with policy, while the subordinate levels are busy with operations. Moreover, the forests and issues in any one region are not the same as those in other regions. Planning needs to accommodate these realities. To make multi-level planning work well, the administrative issues that need resolution are:
· the scope and content of planning authority at each level;
· the bottom-up and top-down process to reconcile goals and objectives at different levels; and
· the process to adjust budgets, personnel, and other resources to carry out the planned actions at each level (Box 22).
Box 22. Multi-Level Coordination
The need for multi-level coordination is particularly important in view of policies to promote local initiatives. This refers to community forests, agroforestry on small farms. micro-enterprises for forest products, and the like. Any central office faces practical limits when it tries to oversee actions at the grass roots. The alternative is greater decentralization, but within a policy framework coordinated at the top.
Source: Mark Mitchell et al., 1985, Agriculture and Policy, Ithaca Press, London, p. 45.
Two foundations of good strategic planning are persistence and flexibility. Most planning groups in forestry deserve praise for persistence, but not for flexibility. Even when circumstances change dramatically, planning teams often do not adapt to them.
Nobody can predict what these changes will be, but everybody can be certain that they will occur. This makes it all the more imperative to rely on planning as an instrument of management. This does not happen if "the plan" is put on the shelf for five years. For planning to be self-correcting, it has to be adjusted through regular reviews of progress and problems. Without reviews, there is no feedback. Without feedback, the potential benefits of planning cannot be realized.
The people who gain and lose from changes in how forests are protected and managed are the interest groups. These are the "clients" that the agency serves-farmers, communities, NGOs, private enterprises, and others. Strategic planning succeeds or fails in relation to how well the forestry agency learns who these people are, what they want, and how to enable them to become partners to government in forest protection and management.
Forestry agencies are almost never effective at controlling. For example, consider the ingenious ways people find to avoid required reforestation, required permission to cut trees, required marketing procedures, and so on. Governments have neither the information nor the enforcement capacity to implement top-down controls. This is becoming even more obvious where public budgets are shrinking.
On the other hand, only governments are able to provide the kinds of infrastructure that allow bottom-up developments to occur. This infrastructure is the government's comparative advantage, and it includes:
· definition and enforcement of a workable system of property rights for forests, trees, and the lands associated with them;
· services for the country that are not provided privately (such as information collection and analysis, ecosystem protection, biodiversity conservation, research, extension, conflict negotiation, and strategic planning itself);
· policy frameworks that contribute to a more equitable distribution of the goods and services provided by forests; and
· withdrawal from direct production and marketing of forest goods and services in order to make room for private and community efforts.
Through its planning, a forestry agency has the opportunity to propose, test, and evaluate strategies that encourage these things to happen. To empower others is a sharp departure from regulating them. It is not easy to achieve this reversal, but we maintain that it is always worth the effort.
We remind users of these guidelines that a main theme in strategic planning is: Trees and forests for whom and for what? The question is inherently political, and it can not be otherwise. Some planners disguise what they do as technical work. At functional levels, planning rests on technical methods. But to pursue some goals and not others is to make political choices that favor some interest groups over others. This is why planning experts attach immense importance to conflict negotiation.
The wider is the participation in planning, the greater is the probability that two or more people will clash over missions, goals, and strategic actions. As every agency director knows, to seek increased participation is to expose the agency to disagreements. But at the same time, to exclude or narrow the participation is to risk that the planning will be irrelevant and unacceptable (i.e., no one will "own" it). So which do you choose? Most planning teams should choose participation - but carefully, selectively, and anticipating that they will need to negotiate.
The administrative culture of an organization is defined by its communications (open or closed), working relationships (friendly or hostile), team interactions (many or few), and rewards for performance (high or low). Especially in low-trust societies, administrative cultures are dominated by authoritarian managers who are not open to sharing their power or decisionmaking. Decisions are made behind the director's closed door, and special friends get special favors.
That style of management leads to apathy and cynicism. There are few rewards for genuinely good work, and it seems that "nothing ever gets better." To strive for improvement and innovation is perceived as both needless and risky. So how do you carry out good strategic planning in a bad administrative culture?
The situation is never hopeless. There are always some highly motivated people in even the worst of administrative cultures. These are people who truly want improvements, and who are willing to work for them. Each of these individuals has some area of responsibility where a few positive improvements can be achieved through strategic thinking and action. They are the change agents and the heroes of the agency, even if there are too few of them. They are the ones who remind us: "Even a very long journey begins with a single step."