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Taking Command of Change:
A Practical Guide for Applying the Strategic Development Process
in State Historic Preservation Offices

Doug Eadie, President
Doug Eadie Presents!, Frisco, Texas
Web Edition 2003
(originally published in 1995 by the National Park Service and
The National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers)

Taking Command
of Change
Table of Contents
Executive Summary
1. Overview
2. Creating a Strategic Framework
3. External and Internal Environments
4. Issue Identification and Selection
5. Strategy Formulation
6. Launching a Strategic Development Process
7. You Can Do It!
8. Sources of Information on Strategic Development

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Our common lot, whatever our station and role in life – professor, legal counsel, or historic preservationist – is to CHANGE, sometimes at a glacier’s pace, sometimes breathtakingly fast. Change is inevitable, and attempts to maintain the status quo inevitably fail – often leading to disillusionment and even bitterness. The pertinent question is not whether we will change; rather, it is what role we will play in the change process. Will we play a positive and proactive role, creatively shaping, guiding, and managing the change process, or will we circle the wagons, defending the past to the last man (or woman)?

The pertinent question is not whether we will change; rather, it is what role we will play in the change process.

Put simply, do we choose to be leader or inevitable victim? This is not to say that any person or organization can be in full control of her or its destiny; there are always forces beyond our ken and influence. But, still, we do have a clear choice as we relate to the world around us. We can choose to understand what is going on in the wider world and its implications for us, attempt to influence those events, and, when warranted, take the lead in adjusting to that changing world. Personal and organizational growth and development are signs that we have made the proactive, rather than defensive, choice.

The psychologist Rollo May has defined the creative process as facing the changing world squarely, and mustering the courage to grow, rather than retreating into nostalgia. In my opinion, courageous, active creation is the essence of being STRATEGIC. But have no doubt: being strategic requires considerable courage and is not for the faint-hearted. This is the reason, as Scott Peck has observed, that the path of creative growth is truly "the road less traveled." In choosing to travel the strategic path of creative, directed growth and development, you will choose to travel with few companions, to encounter a number of obstacles, and to find your way with few guideposts.


From the perspective of the proverbial trench, talk of courageous, creative growth likely sounds a trifle academic, if not downright Pollyannish. We have met day-to-day life, thank you, and it is not very romantic or inspiring. For a starter, please understand that the steady expansion of our workload appears inversely related to the resources we are granted. The paper inexorably flows in to be processed – pound after pound; mountains of documentation must be created and stored away or posted to a bureaucratic carnivore hungrily awaiting its arrival; phones never stop ringing; every deadline is immediate; one crisis after another leaves no breathing room. And to add insult to injury, our stalwart efforts are often taken for granted. Forget pie-in-the-sky; we just want to survive another day without burning out!

There are those who believe that periodically fleeing the trench is the only antidote to sagging spirits and fatigue; they seek the consolation of group therapy, where shared misery brings momentary comfort, or the intense bonding that comes with scaling cliffs or shooting rapids together. The trouble with escape is that Monday always comes. The trench is always there waiting for our return – unchanged and threatening to chew up our new-found gusto by Friday. So the real challenge is to stand our ground and to make enduring changes in the trench itself. Is this Pollyanna speaking? No way!

Fortunately, the rapidly developing field of public/nonprofit leadership and management offers practical tools that we can use to guide change and development in our SHPO Office while also managing the store. And by far the most powerful is a contemporary variation on the broad strategic planning theme that I call the STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. I will explore the process generally in this Overview and then look at each of its key components in detail in subsequent sections.


The only problem with traditional strategic long-range planning is that it never worked! What basically happened in the process is that an organization’s current divisions or operating programs fashioned three, five, or ten-year goal statements in the context of a succinct, usually inspiring, mission statement, and then each division or program projected detailed plans into the future.

So, everything already going on in the organization was projected into the future for some arbitrary period, usually three, five or ten years. All of these not-so-petite strategic plans from the various programs or divisions were then compiled into one big (bloated!) strategic plan, all four to six pounds of which were eventually handsomely bound and put on the shelf. Where, by the way, it typically stayed, little if ever consulted as organizational life moved forward.

Never in the history of mankind has so much energy and paper produced so few practical results as in the realm of traditional strategic long-range planning, while deforesting much of America, to boot! There is a simple explanation. In a complex, rapidly changing world, we have only the vaguest – and often erroneous – idea of what our future holds beyond a year or two, and even then we do a lot of guessing. And so if we are asked to produce detailed projections of our current programs into an unknown future, we naturally take a mechanistic approach (as in 5 percent per year growth); at least our mechanistic projections look orderly and not capricious. Naturally, these compiled projections of the unprojectable are quickly forgotten once shelved; at best, the process was the product.

The Strategic Development Process evolved in reaction to the deficiencies of the traditional approach. Its hallmarks, by contrast, are:

  • SELECTIVITY – Not tackling everything at once.
  • FLEXIBILITY – Adapting to continuous change.
  • CHANGE – Not merely repeating the present.
  • ACTION – Getting things done, not just writing about them.

Successfully traveling the strategic development road requires that you make a distinction between two broad streams of organizational activity – two large agendas – which must be kept apart, and which your SHPO Office must plan and manage separately. If the two are mixed up, creative, significant change is highly unlikely to survive the press of day-to-day events.

  • Running the shop is the bread-and-butter agenda of every organization, and immediate rewards and punishments are doled out in this arena. Controlling your budget, taking calls, getting ready for the upcoming state review board meeting, processing National Register nominations, reviewing Section 106 reports – these are typical operational activities.

  • This agenda has to do with selecting major change and development targets – above and beyond our current activities, and implementing strategies intended to achieve the targets. Building a new partnership with your state tourism department to increase heritage tourism would be such a target.

    Making sure that organizational matters are handled on the appropriate agenda is an art involving high stakes. You will know you are in trouble if a strategic question appears as the seventh item on the Monday morning staff meeting agenda. And you should expect that it will be a real challenge to find the time for, and to devote significant attention to, the strategic development agenda, in the face of day-to-day pressures. Let us now look briefly at the key elements of the process.


    In a nutshell, the strategic development process is all about:


    The key concepts in the Strategic Development Process are: VISION, GAP, SELECTIVITY, INVESTMENT, AND CHANGE (Figure 1). What basically happens is that a SHPO Office decides, year-to-year, what new things it will do, above and beyond its current operations, in order to move closer to its vision. The SHPO Office’s current operations should be described in detail in its operational plan/budget, and the annual budget process is a tried and true tool for updating and refining current operations.


    The Strategic Development Process consists of the following major elements (see Figure 2):
    • CLARIFYING OUR STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK – Updating our vision for the future, and our mission.

    • SCANNING OUR EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT – Identifying pertinent conditions and trends in the world around us and assessing their implications.

    • ASSESSING OUR INTERNAL RESOURCES – Understanding where we are strong and where we are weak in terms of our financial, human, and other resources and our program performance.

    • IDENTIFYING OUR STRATEGIC ISSUES – Putting our finger on the critical "change challenges" in the form of opportunities to be grasped and barriers and problems to be overcome.

    • SELECTING OUR STRATEGIC ISSUES – Deciding which issues must be address this year and which can be left for later attention.

    • FASHIONING CHANGE INITIATIVES – Developing detailed action plans to deal with the selected issues.

    • MANAGING CHANGE – Putting in place the structure and process to ensure implementation of the strategies.


    Be forewarned: the serious strategic development journey is meant for the stout-hearted. Pain-free panaceas promising bright futures at no cost are the stuff of dreams and the business of hucksters. In your – the real – world, you will add the Strategic Development Process to an already filled agenda; you will be hard put to find the time and the energy for a major new initiative. And while there will be long-term benefits, the short-term costs will be all-too-obvious and hard to bear.

    As you start on your way, keep the following travel tips in mind:

    We all naturally wear our functional "hats" when we are on SHPO Office business; we are involved in historic resource surveys, responding to public inquiries, processing National Register nominations, and the other activities that comprise the bulk of our day. But if our office is to travel the strategic development road successfully, and over the long run to guide and manage change effectively, then we must learn to behave as SHPO OFFICE GENERAL MANAGERS when we are engaged in the Strategic Development Process. This means that we must come to the table ready and able to make the welfare of the SHPO Office as a whole our preeminent mission. We must come to the table as an advocate of the SHPO Office, not of our particular program area or professional interest.

    Make sure that you have put in place a strong-enough carapace and accompanying process to protect your change efforts from the incursions of day-to-day operations. Experience has taught all of us that anything out of the ordinary, especially if it entails some pain and suffering, will be an easy victim of organizational routines, which are familiar and are the basis for all immediate rewards.

    The Strategic Development Process will not work in traditional bottom-up fashion, with SHPO Office units or divisions sending documents upward for review and action. Virtually every step in the process, from clarifying values and vision to overseeing implementation of change initiatives, benefits from intensive team participation. Team members bring diverse perspectives, experiences, skills, knowledge, and ideas to the strategic development process. It would make no sense to entrust truly strategic matters, involving high stakes, to one or two staff members, no matter how capable they are. And through intensive team participation, we not only generate new ideas that would not have come from any one individual, we also build the esprit de corps and feelings of ownership that will fuel the implementation of change.

    Effective strategic development efforts are based on a detailed and realistic understanding of the world around us. Preconceived notions are a cardinal sin in the strategic realm! Avoiding the extremes of cockeyed optimism and grim pessimism, the effective strategist spends a lot of time openly listening, looking, and trying to understand. Pet notions of the way we want the world to be give way to the facts when we are being strategic.

    Although "entrepreneurialism" has become somewhat of a buzz-word of late, its essential characteristics are critical to effective strategic development. When we are behaving in an entrepreneurial fashion, we are:

    • Not only open to new opportunities for diversification and growth in services, products, and revenues, we actively pursue them.
    • We are always on the lookout for new customers and for ways to better satisfy the customers we have. Take note: SHPO Offices have customers, and the better we define our relationships to these customers, the more secure our future is likely to be.
    The weakest possible approach to the wider world is to see the SHPO Office as our turf because we spend our workaday lives here and we are the professionals in our fields. In today’s world, the public and nonprofit organization that learns to share and expand ownership stands a far better chance of enhancing its political influence and diversifying and growing its resources than does its more exclusionary brethren. Expanding ownership means essentially two things: convincing outside individuals and organizations that they have an important stake in our SHPO Office; and ensuring that, as owners, they will play a meaningful role in setting SHPO Office directions. Every SHPO Office is surrounded by potential owners, if we only look. An excellent example would be a board or commission that can be turned into a more active participant in our strategic direction setting.


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