John M. Bryson
University of Minnesota
A "disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it" (Bryson 1988, p. 5). Strategic planning consists of a set of concepts, procedures, and tools developed primarily, but far from exclusively, in the private sector. This history has been amply documented by others (Ansoff 1980; Bracker 1980; Quinn 1980; Mintzberg 1994). The experience of the last fifteen years, and a growing body of literature, however, indicate that strategic planning approaches either developed in the private sector, or else strongly influenced by them, can help public organizations, as well as communities or other entities, deal in effective ways with their dramatically changing environments.
That does not mean, however, that all approaches to what might be called corporate-style strategic planning are equally applicable to the public sector. This entry, therefore, will compare and contrast six approaches to corporate strategic planning (actually eight approaches grouped into six categories), discuss their applicability to the public sector, and identify the most important contingencies governing their use.
Remember that corporate strategic planning typically focuses on an organization and what it should do to improve its performance and not on a community, or on a function, such as transportation or health care within a community, or marketing or personnel within an organization. Most of what follows focuses primarily on organizations and how they might plan to improve their performance. But applications to communities and functions will be discussed as well.