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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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Scanning the external environment basically involves the identification and analysis of conditions, trends, and stakeholders that are pertinent to a SHPO Office’s vision, mission, and current strategies. A SHPO Office’s external environment is the source of many of its strategic issues, including threats, barriers to achieving its vision fully, and opportunities in the form of new customers and resources.

Although a retreat is an effective vehicle for taking an intensive, point-in-time look at the external environment, the extent and pace of change these days demands that external environmental scanning become a regular, on-going feature of a SHPO Office’s management process. In this regard, certain key questions must be answered:

  • What information will we regularly collect in the external scan?

  • Who will collect it, how will it be collected, who will analyze it, and how will the analysis be factored into our strategic and operational planning process?
Environmental conditions and trends can be sweeping – such as national and state legislative, political, social, economic, demographic, and technological information. And they can be particular, such as military base closures, local natural disasters, archaeological discoveries, responses to citizen opinion surveys, and detailed historic resource inventories. As SHPOs approach the external environmental scanning task, they must beware of two common pitfalls:

  • It is all to easy to see the trees while missing the forest – to focus so heavily on detailed assessments of needs and resources in the immediate environment that major negative or positive developments in the wider environment are missed.

  • And there is always the clear and present danger of paralysis by analysis – spending so much time and energy in reviewing voluminous documentation that is generated by the scanning process that a SHPO Office fails to take timely action to avert threats of capitalize on opportunities.
The Texas Historical Commission planning team’s external scan saw at the national level:
  • stable federal funding,

  • increased federal support and demand for public outreach, public education, and multi-cultural programs,

  • the introduction of more stringent federal guidelines,

  • a stronger federal emphasis on planning and increasing demand for technical assistance,

  • growing Native American advocacy in Congress,

  • growing diversity of political ideologies, sometimes resulting in political polarization,

  • an aging population,

  • a decaying infrastructure, and

  • strengthening of the private property rights lobby, which will greatly challenge the preservation movement’s gains in the past decade, among other factors.

Pertinent conditions and trends noted by the Alaska planning team included:
  • multi-culturalism,

  • oil revenue decline,

  • a strong and growing interest in tourism,

  • a continuing interest in development and resulting conflict with environmentalists,

  • Alaska’s small and transient population, a growing interest in and demand for fossil and prehistoric artifacts,

  • a renewal of the Smithsonian Institution presence in Alaska,

  • increasing volunteerism,

  • fluctuating interest in historic preservation,

  • a polarized political movement, and

  • little money to enforce existing preservation legislation.

The Alaska team identified as major implications of its external scan the need to pay more attention to:
  • diversifying revenue sources,

  • building new consituencies,

  • keeping up-to-date with technology,

  • image,

  • integrated staff work,

  • volunteer management,

  • marketing historic preservation, and

  • external partnerships, among other concerns.



Figure 6





It would be all too easy for a SHPO Office planning team to take an overly statistical approach to scanning, viewing the job as basically the collection of all kinds of interesting and useful facts and figures describing the world around them. The fact is that the stakeholder organizations and institutions in a SHPO Office’s environment are just as – if not more – important than conditions and trends, and in these challenging times, building and maintaining successful relationships with key stakeholders is critical to SHPO Office survival. A stakeholder is any organizational entity in a SHPO Office’s environment that is capable of exerting significant influence on the SHPO (Figure 6). In order to select the stakeholders that merit closest attention and to fashion strategies to manage relationships with these stakeholders effectively, a SHPO Office must:

  • Understand the stakes involved in each relationship – resources? partnership? political support? authority? legitimacy?

  • Understand the stakeholder in terms of its values, vision, mission, plans, strategies, capability, and its expectations of, and opinions about, the SHPO Office.

Some SHPO Office stakeholders are associated with such high stakes that the SHPO Office will have no choice but to pay continuous, careful attention to building and maintaining a close, positive relationship, or at least fashioning counter strategies to deal with a hostile stakeholder. Other SHPO Office statkeholders will receive close attention on an ad hoc basis, as particular issues come and go.

A good starting point in stakeholder analysis – best accomplished in a retreat setting – is to identify all of the stakeholders that come to mind, in free-flowing fashion, then select the ones obviously involving the highest stakes. For each of these selected stakeholders, the planning team can then identify what is at stake in the relationship and assess the status of the relationship. A stakeholder analysis done by one of the six "Managing for the Year 2000" SHPO Offices in its strategic development retreat is provided in Figure 7.



What Do We Want from Stakeholders?
What Do They Want from Us?


We Want: They Want:
Financial and political influence


Historic preservation advocacy
Competence, professionalism from staff

Staff to facilitate their governance

To be informed about important issues

Relationship Assessment

  • Influence in the legislature, both politically and financially, has been limited.

  • Current system does not promot governance, but rather a passive "show-and-tell" approach.

  • Mutual trust and confidence between board and staff must be strengthened.


We Want:

Informed contacts at the local level

Assistance with programs

Historic preservation advocates

Volunteers willing to learn and understand complex issues

They Want:

Sources of funding for their projects

Technical support

Us to be able at any given moment to address their problems

Us to provide leadership and professionalism on their terms

Us to come in and "save the day" when it is sometimes not possible

Relationship Assessment

  • Some volunteer groups offer the THC valuable assistance, but there is a need for improved relationships with other groups.

  • There may be unrealistic expectations on both sides.

  • Poor communication often exacerbates existing problems.


Many SHPO Offices are part of a wider department, commission, or division, rather than stand-alone organizations. In these instances, it is important that the chief executive officer and executive management team (typically, the department or division heads, often including the State Historic Preservation Officer) of the SHPO Office’s parent organization receive very special attention in the stakeholder assessment process, because the stakes are exceedingly high. It is critical that the SHPO Office have a clear understanding of the parent’s vision, mission, and strategic directions and how the SHPO Office fits into these directions. The SHPO Office also needs to know how well the parent understands its directions and programs and the parent’s opinion of the SHPO Office.

An assessment of the SHPO Office relationship with the parent organization’s chief executive officer is an especially important part of the SHPO Office-parent relationship analysis. This entails gaining a detailed understanding of the chief executive’s vision, aspirations, and strategies, of his or her decision-making and management style, and of his or her understanding of, and attitudes toward, the SHPO Office. The more detailed the SHPO Office’s knowledge in this regard, the more likely the SHPO Office-chief executive relationship will be productive, positive, and mutually beneficial.

Policy bodies closely associated with the SHPO Office – be they governance boards and commissions (linked to the SHPO Office directly or to its parent organization) or advisory bodies of one kind or another) – also deserve very special attention in the stakeholder analysis process. Volunteers serving on such policy bodies can be a tremendouse resource to a SHPO Office if they are well supported and the SHPO Office-policy body relationship is meticulously managed by the SHPO Office. For example, policy bodies can provide experience, expertise, knowledge, and varied perspectives in the planning and policy formulation process. They can also be important in building political networks, enhancing public understanding and support, and generating financial resources.

Despite their tremendous potential, policy bodies are often woefully underutilized by staff. Frequently, they are treated as passive audiences for finished staff work, whose only real job is to react to documentation that is placed before them or to absorb show-and-tell briefings. Of course, at the tail-end of a process, when the document is basically finished, by definition there is nothing of importance left for the policy body to do; its only function is the trivial one of thumbing through someone else’s work. When this passive model is in effect, not only will a policy body’s work fall far short of its potential, the body’s members are likely over time to become so bored and frustrated that they on occasion act as enemies, rather than as friends, of the SHPO Office and its programs. Figure 8 identifies characteristics of effective boards.

Figure 8





A major challenge for SHPO Offices commited to realizing the full potential of their policy bodies is to identify opportunities for these bodies to become creatively and meaningfully engaged in shaping strategic directions and establishing policies PROACTIVELY – early in the planning and program development process, rather than at its conclusion. Another challenge is to help their policy bodies to understand clearly their leadership roles and responsibilities and to assist them in designing processes and structures that will facilitate their playing these roles effectively. For example, if a policy body is truly to play a creative and productive role in a strategic direction setting for a SHPO Office, then it must: (1) have a well defined job to do within a well defined strategic planning process; and (2) have a committee that focuses on planning so that in-depth participation is possible. Very seldom is it possible for a policy body as a whole to become involved in-depth in planning or any other governance function.


The internal assessment of strengths and weaknesses is one of the most difficult – and most critical – steps in the strategic development process, for both individuals and organizations. The barriers to effective assessment are not technical; above all else, they have to do with the human ego. How often have we been advised not to focus on the down side? There is plenty of bad news to go around, we are told, so let’s just concentrate on our vision and accentuate the positive! But this up-beat advice is dead-wrong. The fact is, if we are to select the appropriate strategic issues to address, and if we are to fashion strategies that are realistic (meaning implementable at a cost that we can afford), the we must have a detailed understanding of where our SHPO Office is strong, and where it is less so. Rigorous honesty in this regard is the preeminent virtue, wishful thinking the cardinal sin!

This is not to say that any SHPO Office is condemned to live within current resource constraints, or to suffer without recourse from debilitating weaknesses. The only objective is to understand exactly where the SHPO Office stands vis à vis specific resources; a SHPO Office can always decide to invest in correcting weaknesses and expanding particular resources.

The six "Managing for the Year 2000" SHPO Offices, in their one-and-one-half-day retreats, looked carefully at their strengths and weaknesses in the following major resource areas:

  • HUMAN: Policy body effectiveness; staff skills, training, experience, and expertise.

  • FINANCIAL: Stability and diversity of revenue sources, potential for revenue growth.

  • POLITICAL: The size of the shadow the SHPO Office casts on the political landscape; the extent of the SHPO Office’s clout with highest-priority statkeholders; the size and vitality of the SHPO Office’s network of friends and allies.

  • PROGRAM PERFORMANCE: SHPO Office performance against stated performance targets over the past year; evidence of customer satisfaction.

  • INTERNAL PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT: The SHPO Office’s use of contemporary planning and management techniques, such as team participation in the strategic planning and budget preparation processes and in SHPO performance monitoring; the employment of modern technology, such as computer-generated financial reports.

  • INTERNAL CULTURE: The effectiveness of internal communication; the level of collegiality and cooperation; the staff’s morale.


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