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7.1 Link Planning With Decisionmaking
7.2 Develop Skills for Strategic Planning
7.3 Allow Adequate Time and Budget
7.4 Establish Action Teams for Implementation
7.5 Keep Records
7.6 Provide for Management Review
7.7 Reward the Planners

This chapter contains recommendations to help your forestry agency orient itself for effective planning. The actions you take to organize, manage, and train for strategic planning have long-lasting impacts not only on the planning, but also on the agency itself. When strategic planning works well, it usually implies changes in how decisions should be made, how performance should be assessed, and how the different parts of your agency should relate to each other.

Strategic planning does not succeed without strong support for it at the top levels of your agency. Especially in the short term, some management factors are unchangeable. You are dealing with an institutional culture of philosophies, attitudes, and management styles that may be slow to change. But other management factors can be added or modified through re-organization, training, and other administrative means.

7.1 Link Planning With Decisionmaking

Unfortunately, many agency officials regard strategic planning as "just one more requirement." This often happens when the demands for planning are imposed from above or outside, e.g., by planning ministries, budget authorities, executive commissions, and international organizations. Many forestry agencies engage in strategic planning mainly to comply with these requirements, and only secondarily because they want it for self-improvement.

The typical result is that the planning is separated from decisionmaking. Strategic planning becomes a low-priority task handed to a planning group with little or no real influence in the agency. This not only frustrates your agency's personnel, but also angers the interest groups you invite to participate in the planning. They feel betrayed when they discover they have been wasting their time in an exercise that has no real importance. This can be worse for your agency's public relations than no outside participation at all.

Thus the only valid organizational model is one that fully integrates strategic planning with administrative decisionmaking. In this model, the planning crosses all administrative and functional units. The planning is not the responsibility of isolated specialists called "planners," but rather of every professional and technical person in the agency. The planning team reports directly to the agency's highest administrator, not to the head of a division for planning.

However, it is easy to understand why agency directors may resist this. At times, the recommendations of a strategic plan for forest use and conservation may conflict with national policy. This can be the case of good intentions but poor execution, e.g., due to an ineffective planning leader. Just as importantly, agency directors worry about how the results of strategic planning will limit their power. In practical terms, it is almost always difficult to get an authoritarian director to fully support strategic planning. On the other hand, your planning team must work hard to win the confidence of your agency's top managers by:

· Having your agency's director assume a lead role in the design of the planning;

· Learning exactly what your director wants from the planning, and working hard to insure that these needs can be met;

· Scheduling frequent informal sessions so that your director is well informed of progress and problems during all phases of the planning; and

· Finding ways to give credit to your director for accomplishments that emerge from the planning.

The wise planning team accepts the responsibility for failures in the planning, but generously attributes its successes to your agency's director. To the extent that your director feels rewarded, he or she will be more likely to endorse the planning and to implement its recommendations. Conversely, no director can embrace a strategic plan that threatens his or her authority. Your challenge is to create the right psychological and administrative setting for the strategic planning to reward rather than threaten your agency's leaders (Worksheet 40). This is frequently the single most important thing you can do to promote the integration of strategic planning with decisionmaking.

7.2 Develop Skills for Strategic Planning

Strategic planning demands a wide range of abilities. Your planning team and advisory committees require people who see planning problems from different viewpoints, and who have several different kinds of skills (Box 43).

In a typical forestry agency, a few key people may have several of these skills. Not all of these skills have to be supplied from within your agency. In fact, you often create good will by inviting outside individuals to join your planning team. The amount of external participation is determined by: (1) the capacity of your agency to maintain oversight and control over the process; and (2) your ability to choose outside members who get along with each other and with your agency. In the final analysis, it is impossible to select for skills without also considering personalities.

Many of the necessary skills can be enhanced through training, although usually not solely for the purpose of strategic planning. Skills in leadership, communication, and conflict negotiation are useful in almost all contexts. Very likely, they are already among your agency's priorities for management development. Worksheet 41 helps you think about the skills you must have in your planning team.

Box 43. Planning Relies on Several Kinds of Skills....

1. LEADERSHIP. The leader generally has few controls over the people in the planning team or its advisory committees. These groups usually function on the basis of good will and voluntary collaboration. The team leader must be able to generate commitment and motivation so that everyone works cooperatively and efficiently.

2. PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE IN FOREST MANAGEMENT. Not everyone in the planning team has to be a forester, wildlife biologist, or other specialist in natural resources. Nor is it essential that the team leader have this background. However, you cannot undertake a credible planning exercise without professional competence in these technical areas.

3. COMMUNICATIONS. Planning is intensive in communications, especially speaking and writing skills. You want team members who are articulate and confident in their speaking abilities. Good planning reports are written by persons who know how to be brief, focused, and understood by people who are not forestry specialists.

4. PARTICIPATION METHODS. Your planning team must be able to apply different techniques of participation by citizens and interest groups. This requires team members who can define interest groups, and who can choose among alternative methods to interact with them (CH 5).

5. CONFLICT NEGOTIATION. You need team members who are good at developing options and compromises when people disagree over goals and strategies in "Trees and forests for whom and for what." The best negotiators are trustworthy, competent, and dynamic (CH 6).

7.3 Allow Adequate Time and Budget

Most forestry agencies have engaged in strategic planning in the past, but often not with a participatory emphasis. When the planning is highly participatory, it requires considerably more time and budget than an "in-house" exercise. Two of the most common flaws are: (1) to underestimate how much time and money will be required, and (2) to forget that strategic planning is a never-ending process that requires never-ending support.

You need to budget both time and money for pre-planning discussions, reconnaissance visits to the field, meetings with your agency's regional and district supervisors, meetings with interest groups and government agencies, selection of advisory committees, special fact-finding analyses, media releases, and publication activities. You are almost certain to have expenditures for travel, contracts, and report production and distribution (Box 44).

Box 44. Example of a Budget for Strategic Planning, XYZ Forestry Department

By Activity:

1. Fact-finding in several forest communities, South Region (March-May)

· Contracted services: B. Gutierrez @$800/month for 3.0 months
· Travel: (i) Use of pick-up truck @$500/month for 3.0 months (reimbursed to Save the People Foundation); (ii) per diem for Gutierrez @$20/day for 90 days
· Communications: -
· Facilities: -
· Supplies: $50 (paper, photocopies, miscellaneous)

2. Inter-agency workshop on special analyses to support the planning (early March)

· Contracted services: Lozada Public Relations Inc. @$800 to provide workshop coordinator
· Travel: Per diems for 6 regional directors and 4 district officers @$35/day for 3 days (per person, staying at Hotel Santa Cruz)
· Communications: -
· Facilities: Meeting rooms at Hotel Santa Cruz @$150/day for 3 days (including lunches and coffee service)
· Supplies: (i) Photocopies of forestry documents for planning team and workshop participants (500 pages x 40 copies x $0.05/page); (ii) photo film and developing @$60
· Allowances for interest group contributors at consultative meetings

Continue in this way for each activity through all the planning stages.

Overhead and Administration:

1. Agency Personnel (opportunity costs)

· G. Morales (Team Leader) @$1400/month for 30.0 months
· T. Carranza (Director, XYZ Forestry Dept.) @$2000/month for 4.0 months
· A. Marcos (Public Affairs) @$ 1200/month for 2.0 months
· J. Salazar (Environmental Affairs) @1400/month for 2.0 months
· Others @ Average $700/month for 30.0 person-months (in aggregate)
· Support staff

2. Equipment and Accessories

· 2 slide projectors @$350 each
· Computer software (for graphics) @$300

3. Other

· Printing contract (for final report), Rojas Publishing @$4000
· Training contract (on negotiating conflicts), Gomez Associates @ $2500

4. Contingency Allowance (__ percent of the sum of all items above)

Your estimates for a time chart and budget are helped if you divide the planning into its component parts. The total planning is broken down into a series of stages, each of which has action steps and an assigned schedule (see Worksheets 30, 31, and 32). You strive to realistically estimate what it will cost to accomplish each of the action steps, as well as to cover administration and overhead. Finally, you include generous contingencies to allow for the effects of: "If anything can go wrong, it will."

As the planning moves into implementation stages, you will have an increasingly informed view of time and budget requirements. This will enable you to make periodic revisions as you go along.

7.4 Establish Action Teams for Implementation

How do you monitor the implementation of your improvement goals? Many management experts recommend small action teams of about 3-5 persons per team. The leader of the action team is the person who proposed the improvement goal. The others in the team have authority, knowledge, etc., to be able to influence the achievement of this goal.

Normally, an action team does not require the formality of a committee structure. It is better to think of the action teams as working groups, not committees. Depending on the goal, an action team may include persons from outside the forestry agency. This can be a particularly effective way of building partnerships with your interest groups.

The leader of each action team defines the roles the team members. This refers to both individual and collective responsibilities in observing progress, resolving difficulties, and reporting to your agency's director. Each action team should meet according to a schedule. Worksheet 42 gives you a format for recording each team's membership, role, and meeting schedule. Once or twice a year, your agency's director should gather the leaders of the action teams to inquire:

· What progress are you making?
· What are examples of recent improvements?
· What problems are you encountering?
· What are you doing to resolve these problems?

These periodic evaluations demonstrate the director's interest in seeing that the planning goals are achieved. In addition, they give the leaders of the action teams an opportunity to interact and coordinate with each other. The evaluation sessions may form part of a larger management review (see section 7.6).

7.5 Keep Records

In order to determine whether you are meeting your goals, you need to keep a record of observations. That is, you set up and maintain an information system. Depending on the context, this can be as simple as a notebook, or as complex as a computerized data base. Your records are your means to monitor progress and problems, and your way to report them within your agency. You want to insure that each action team has a useful record-keeping system, and that this system is periodically updated for adaptability and relevance.

7.6 Provide for Management Review

Your agency's director, working through the leader of your planning team, needs to apply management oversight to keep the planning on track. Management reviews are important during the planning itself, and in the implementation which follows. The management reviews are a form of monitoring and evaluation to keep current with planning successes and failures. In its simplest form, a management review asks: What works? What needs improvement? How can the needed improvements be achieved? Worksheet 43 presents a framework for the management review.

Frequently, the most effective management reviews are confidential interviews, and often with people who are not leaders of the action teams. In this way, you are able to obtain candid evaluations from a variety of people, both inside and outside of your agency. Also, some agencies use bulletin boards or suggestion boxes (Box 45). However, you need to validate all of this information in order to disregard erroneous information from people who are uninformed, who are engaged in personal rivalries, or who in other ways are unable to provide objective comment.

Box 45. On Using Bulletin Boards and Suggestion Boxes

Some agencies use bulletin boards or suggestion boxes to encourage people to submit opinions and recommendations. This demonstrates that comments are welcome. Suggestions can be signed or anonymous. Many of the suggestions will have the form: "We should do more to ________" Other submissions will be complaints. The capable administrator is able to find a constructive use for all of these comments.

The suggestions have to be acknowledged within two or three days. This indicates to team members and advisory committees that their ideas are taken seriously. However, the agency cannot place too much emphasis on this approach because it can lead to unrealistic expectations. Many of the institutional features about strategic planning take years to change. When a recommendation cannot be addressed in the short term, the appropriate response is: "We are holding your suggestion for later consideration."

7.7 Reward the Planners

At the end of the process that never ends, you need to acknowledge the people who contribute to it. This gives added attention and value to the planning, and it motivates the planners to do even better in the future. You must decide which individuals to recognize:

· The team members whose work had the greatest positive impact for the agency;

· All team members, and all members of advisory committees, irrespective of their actual contributions; and

· Individuals who were neither team members nor on advisory committees, but who significantly contributed to the success of the planning.

Most public agencies are limited in the types of recognition they are able to provide. What matters most is the way that the recognition is presented. Some of the options are: (1) a banquet or dinner sponsored by your agency; (2) certificates of recognition; (3) coverage in the news media; (4) travel to a conference; and (5) added vacation time. Sometimes you should simply ask the team members what they would like. A professional group seldom asks for extravagant rewards.

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