There are two additional approaches to strategic planning that may be of interest to SAAs and to state and local public safety and criminal justice agencies. The two approaches, organic planning and appreciative inquiry, are less commonly used than standard strategic planning, but may be useful in special situations.
“Organic” (Self-Organizing) Planning
Traditional strategic planning processes are sometimes considered “mechanistic” or “linear,” i.e., they are rather general-to-specific or cause-and-effect in nature.
Another view of planning is similar to the development of an organism, i.e., an “organic,” self-organizing process. Self-organizing requires continual reference to common values, dialoguing around these values, and continued shared reflection around the systems current processes.
Organic (Self-Organizing) Planning Process Overview
1. Clarify and articulate the organization’s cultural values. Use dialogue and storyboarding techniques.
2. Articulate the group’s vision for the organization. Use dialogue and storyboarding techniques.
3. On an ongoing basis, dialogue about what processes are needed to arrive at the vision and what the group is going to do now about those processes.
4. Continually remind all participants that this type of naturalistic planning is never really “over with,” and that, rather, the group needs to learn to conduct its own values clarification, dialogue/reflection, and process updates.
5. Be very, very patient.
6. Focus on learning and less on method.
7. Ask the group to reflect on how the organization will portray its strategic plans to stakeholders, etc., who often expect the “mechanistic, linear” plan formats.
Appreciative inquiry (AI) is based on the assertion that what we define as problems may often be the result of personal perspectives and perceptions of phenomena. For example, if a certain priority is viewed as a problem, then the ability to effectively address the priority and continue to develop in our lives and work can be constrained.
AI is a philosophy so a variety of models, tools and techniques can be derived from it. For example, one AI-based approach to strategic planning includes identification of the best times during the best situations in the past in an organization, wishing and thinking about what worked best then, visioning what future the organization wants, and building from what worked best in order to work toward the vision. The approach has revolutionized many practices, including strategic planning and organization development. AI is done as a continuous four-step process as described at the link below.
Appreciative Inquiry Process
1. Discovery Phase. The core task in this phase is to appreciate the best of "what is" by focusing on peak moments of community excellence – when people experienced the community in its most alive and effective state. Participants seek to understand the unique conditions that made the high points possible. They deliberately choose not to analyze deficits, but rather systematically seek to isolate and learn from even the smallest victories. In the discovery phase, people share stories of exceptional accomplishments, discuss the core life-giving conditions of their community and deliberate upon the aspects of their history that they most value and want to enhance in the future.
2. Dream Phase. In the dream phase, people challenge the status quo by envisioning more valued and vital futures. This phase is both practical, in that it is grounded in the community's history, and generative, in that it seeks to expand the community's potential. Appreciative inquiry is different from other planning methods because its images of the future emerge from grounded examples of the positive past. Participants think great thoughts and create great possibilities for their community, then turn those thoughts into provocative propositions for themselves.
3. Design Phase. Participants create a strategy to carry out their provocative propositions. They do so by building a social architecture for their community that might, for example, re-define approaches to leadership, governance, participation or capacity building. As they compose strategies to achieve their provocative propositions, local people incorporate the qualities of community life that they want to protect, and the relationships that they want to achieve.
4. Destiny Phase. The final phase involves the delivery of new images of the future and is sustained by nurturing a collective sense of destiny. It is a time of continuous learning, adjustment and improvisation in the service of shared community ideals. The momentum and potential for innovation is high by this stage of the process. Because they share positive images of the future, everyone in a community re-aligns their work and co-creates the future.
Appreciative inquiry is a continual cycle. The destiny phase leads naturally to new discoveries of community strengths, beginning the process anew.