To better understand the need for strategic planning in the fire service, let's look at some very basic topics. First, it is critical to develop an understanding of strategic planning. Once we understand what it is, we will know why planning should be accomplished and what the penalties are for...
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To better understand the need for strategic planning in the fire service, let's look at some very basic topics. First, it is critical to develop an understanding of strategic planning. Once we understand what it is, we will know why planning should be accomplished and what the penalties are for not planning.
In their 2003 textbook Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases (published by McGraw-Hill/Irwin), Arthur A. Thompson Jr. and A.J. Strickland III present a straightforward view of just what strategic planning is, as well as the constituent parts of the process. "The tasks of crafting, implementing, and executing…strategies are the heart and soul of managing a business enterprise." They are suggesting that strategy represents a path that has been consciously chosen for an organization's journey into the future.
Just what are the parts of the strategic planning process? Thompson and Strickland (2003) suggest that there are five essential tasks that are critical to developing effective business strategies. They are:
- Form a strategic view of where the organization is headed to provide long-term direction
- Set objectives
- Craft a strategy to achieve the desired outcomes
- Implement and execute the chosen strategy efficiently and effectively
- Evaluate performance and initiate corrective adjustments in vision, long-term direction, objectives, strategy or execution in light of experience, changing conditions, new ideas and new opportunities
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has spent years developing community strategic planning courses. In its 1994 "Strategic Analysis of Community Risk Reduction," the USFA defines strategy as a process that is tied to the goals or mission of an organization. Strategic analysis is the use of the planning process to craft a vision, mission statement, goals and objectives with which an organization can strive to reach the future in an orderly manner, the USFA says.
There are many different ways to look at the concept of strategic planning. In his 2001 textbook Strategic Market Management (John Wiley and Sons Inc.), David A. Aaker speaks to the fact that, "the process of developing and implementing strategies has been described over the years by various terms, including budgeting, long-range planning, strategic planning and strategic market management." Strategic planning's focus is on anticipating growth and managing complexity, Aaker writes.
It is important to look at the many parts of the process that must be used to create an effective strategic plan. My 1996 textbook Strategic Planning and Fire Protection (International Society of Fire Service Instructors) speaks to the fact that, "strategic planning is a concept with deep roots in the corporate world." Further, strategy is portrayed as a means of reaching a goal or set of goals. Before any organization can begin to plan for the future, it must have a solid base in the present. This will require the development of an organizational structure that lends itself to measurement.
Thompson and Strickland lay out a five-step approach:
- Develop a strategic vision
- Set objectives
- Create a strategy that allows the organization to achieve its objectives.
- Implement and execute the strategy
- Evaluate, monitor and initiate corrections
These seem simple, but are they really? It is never easy to craft a vision. Many believe that the first step is to create a mission statement, but Thompson and Strickland suggest that a strategic vision is more important: "A strategic vision generally has much greater direction-setting and strategy-making value." In our 1998 textbook Management in the Fire Service, third edition (National Fire Protection Association), Irwin Rausch and I state that, "At the highest organizational level, the long-range goals of an organization are often referred to as 'vision.' "