Purpose of Strategic Planning

Kotler and Kotler (2000) summarise the purpose of strategic planning as “to achieve greater visibility, enlarge… offerings, develop a broader audience, and raise income”. In Davies’s study, however, museum managers commented that “strategic management for local authority museums is almost meaningless. The only strategies are short-term, i. e. to survive from one year to the next” (Davies, 1993, p. 54).

Longer-term planning is needed to make the lasting survival of the service possible. Public services and local authorities are not immune to this change in focus from mainly internal concerns to those of an external nature and must develop appropriate strategies to cope with the new environment.

They need to accept a greater degree of risk than previously deemed “safe”, as to not make the change would involve a greater risk that the service would fail. Hatton (1992, p.145), in discussing the “Strategic Gap Concept” defines many museums as being in a negative, “renewal” category, where the “answer is a complete rebuild of the structure, a retrenchment of all activities that do not contribute directly to viability”.

Whilst growing evidence of “entropy” in the Museums Service structure is acknowledged, re-thinking the structure completely also requires appreciation of the opportunity costs of not making the “brave” decisions required. Osborne and Brown (2005, p. 64) stress the need for Public Sector Organisations to take a proactive approach to change as change is endemic.

Bamford and Forrester (2003), raise Strickland’s 1998 question: “To what extent does the environment drive changes within a system… and to what extent is the system in control of its own change processes? ” Whilst the Museum Service has had little control over the external environment, the Project Team are determined to drive the change within the Council, by building internal consensus and will and by winning the trust and power to have decision-making powers devolved. Options Appraisal Osborne and Brown (2005, p.94) reference the argument of Robertson and Seneviratne (1995) that the public sector differs from the private because of its multiple and often conflicting constituencies.

There is an ingrained and inflexible institutional culture, variable accountabilities and highly formalised procedures which all conspire to create a longer chain of implementation. As a result, the Project Team needed to identify and create options for change management which might most effectively circumvent much of the bureaucracy, whilst simultaneously building the required support.

Osborne and Brown (2005, p. 138) discuss the growing importance of relationships and networking due to “the increasing complexity and open-endedness of many organizational goals, and because of the desire to share risks in an uncertain market”. Thus, innovation is achieved through collaboration and is currently considered a more effective means of achieving competitive advantage. Innovation and the ability to be prepared for change can be crucial factors in seizing and sustaining competitive advantage (Osborne and Brown 2005).

A combination of the visionary with the practical (evidence-based reporting, building consensus and a realistic approach to delivery) will inform the business plan, continuing to maximise the opportunity to win over both “hearts and minds” and successfully manage the implementation of the strategy. Taking the proactive decision to do things differently, rather than passively following the standard route could be said to confirm Burnes’s (2006) contention that it is the exercise of choice which is important.

Making this particular choice early has enabled them to discuss future strategy from a position of relative strength. As a result of this early establishment of faith, a greater devolution of power and decision-making will be entrusted to the Project Team in the future. Davies showed that, when developing their strategic plans, council museums services consulted elected members in 57% of cases, but only consulted visitors in 30%, with other stakeholders accounting for less than 5% of contributions (Davies 1993, p. 58).

This demonstrates evidence of a communications gap resulting in a serious shortfall of research evidence. Analytical instruments such as SWOT and PEST, were “never” employed in 34% and 89% of cases (Davies 1993, p. 60). Kotler and Kotler (2000) advocate the need for museums to be clear about their strengths and weaknesses, whilst Osborne and Brown (2005, p. 20) believe that PEST analyses are essential tools to help managers “confront and engage” with the challenges involved. Both methods are pragmatic instruments which assist managers to make unbiased assessments.

In order to gather data “rich” in content and diversity, the Project Team consulted widely from the start and analysed its current position objectively using the SWOT and PEST tools. This enabled them to deliver a number of possible options for appraisal, develop a robust assessment procedure, and thus present meaningful evidence and recommendations to the Committee for approval (see Tables 2 and 3). By (2005) notes that Planned Change is not appropriate for environments “where more directive approaches are required” such as the current “situation of crisis, which requires major and rapid change”.

Emergent model proponents would argue that successful strategy depends less on detailed planning and projections than on comprehending in-depth the complex issues involved, after which the available range of options can be identified and debated (Bamford and Forrester, 2003). Burnes (1996) also makes the point that the preferred approach of an organisation to change may be determined by its culture and that, where the theory runs counter to that culture, its implementation will be either ignored or made ineffective. Hatton (1992, p.

146) concurs that it may be some time before the hierarchies “which undoubtedly restrict flexibility and prevent innovation and change” are banished. Osborne and Brown (2005, p. 64) identify the conflict between NPM and traditional administrative bureaucracy. The competing demands question the purpose of the services themselves and lead to new types of governance being required that are more able to respond to change. By taking a less conventional approach to developing strategy, the Project Team are making a radical choice not to take the usual target-driven path for approval and work up the corporate approval ladder.

Instead, by taking a “softer” approach to build support and create resonance they are making a creative, proactive choice that in the long run could be more effective. Hutton (2007) argues against the target-led NPM and for policies to take into account the less tangible values of culture itself and quality of visitor experience. He suggests that in forgetting what and who publicly funded institutions are for, there is a question of legitimacy. By attempting to answer “what is needed? ” rather than “what can we afford?

” the Project Team have taken a refreshing and responsive approach to forming key long-term strategic proposals. Given that a radical solution was needed, the Project Team actually took an Emergent approach to achieving large-scale service change. A more incremental development approach protects the service and the Council from financial and cultural risks inherent in the abrupt discontinuity often associated with innovation (Osborne and Brown 2005). Although they did not follow a formal change management theory, the strategy seems to follow the “Eight-Stage Process” recommended by Kotter (see Table 4).