Strategic management of population programs

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Bernhart, Michael H. (1992)
  • Subject: Health Monitoring&Evaluation,ICT Policy and Strategies,Agricultural Knowledge&Information Systems,Educational Sciences,Enterprise Development&Reform

Formal strategic planning and management appear to contribute to organizational effectiveness. The author surveys the literature on strategic management in private/for-profit organizations and applies lessons from that literature to population programs. Few would argue that population programs would not benefit from strategic planning and management, but it would be inadvisable to initiate the process when the organization is faced with a short-term crisis; during or immediately before a change in leadership; or when implementation is unlikely. Public sector programs seem to have the latitude to manage strategically. Models available for adoption include life-cycle models, strategic issues management, stakeholder analysis, and portfolio analysis. The model selected may be a function of: (1) who will use it (life-cycle/evolutionary models may be well-suited to the planning needs of donors); (2) the presence of challenges to the survival of the program or to key components of it (stakeholder analysis would find ready application in those circumstances); and (3) the relative success and stability of the program (portfolio analysis may help a program balance its activities in a stable environment whereas strategic issues management is useful in responding to a dynamic environment.) It is important to marshall top-level support, designatewho will do the leg work, analyze the organization's history and current situation, assess internal strengths and weaknesses and external threats and opportunities, and summarize critical issues facing the program. Then a strategy may be developed. Among the available approaches are: (1) scenario developments (useful for a program that senses a need to change its approach to clients); (2) critical issues analysis (useful for refining successful programs); and (3) a goal approach (useful for programs with diffuse, ill-defined objectives). There are no short-cuts, it is argued. A strategic plan typically contains: (1) a mission statement that describes the social need to be addressed, what is unique about the organization, what its values are, and who the principal stakeholders are; (2) a statement of the population to be served and goals for service delivery and quality standards; (3) a service delivery strategy; (4) a financial strategy; (5) a marketing strategy; and (6) support strategies. Most organizations will find that there is no ideal structure - all require tradeoffs - and that attention should focus on eliminating patently dysfunctional aspects of the structure.
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