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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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Once a SHPO Office planning team has selected the issues that will be tackled NOW, it will make good sense to put together task forces to accomplish the detailed action strategy formulation that comes next. Task forces are an effective planning tool when:

Since strategic issues significantly impact the whole SHPO Office and since they tend to cut across programs and organizational divisions, task forces with diverse membership are essential. An added benefit of task forces is that they enhance internal communication and build a stronger internal culture.

Stakeholders can bring critical experience, expertise, and knowledge to the strategy formulation process, and their involvement can be a means to strengthen ties, as well as building stakeholder commitment to implementation of task force recommendations.

Choosing the right task force leaders will help to ensure that their work is accomplished n a full and timely fashion. In making the appointments, look for the following characteristics:

  • A strong understanding of, and commitment to, the strategy formulation process.

  • Well developed planning and facilitation skills.

  • The ability to relate well to peers.

  • Openness to new ideas.

  • An inclination to pay meticulous attention to detail.


Since strategic issues can be very different, the strategies to address them can also differ significantly, as can the methods to produce the strategies. For example, a task force whose charge is to design the statewide historic preservation planning process will be producing a very different product than a task force whose charge is to fashion a strategy to improve a relationship with a particular stakeholder, or a strategy to obtain a new grant. These obvious differences mean that, if task forces are to hit the ground running, and to maintain their momentum, they must receive clear, detailed guidance about the job they are to perform: the precise nature of their strategic product; the methods they are to employ; and the deadlines they are to meet.


A critical supplement to a task force charge is the constraints that will govern their work. The SHPO Office planning team might, for example, decide that the only acceptable strategy involving new expenditures will clearly identify a new funding source and will include a detailed plan for tapping it. Or the team may decide that certain subjects are off-limits, perhaps because of their political sensitivity. Whatever the constraints, by stating them at the onset, valuable time will be saved and needless emotion avoided.


To ensure that the task force process moves forward as planned, it is important that a staff person be assigned to oversee and coordinate the task force process (see Section 6 for more detail) and that the SHPO Office planning team regularly reviews progress.


In addition to reviewing their charge at their first organizational meeting, it is important that each SHPO task force fashion a detailed workplan to meet the deadlines that have been assigned. The workplan should clearly identify and schedule the tasks to be accomplished, and should assign specific jobs to each task force member.


The precise method that a SHPO Office task force employs is carrying out its strategy formulation charge must be tailored to the particular issues being addressed. However, the great majority of task forces will produce on primary product – a set of what we might call "CHANGE INITIATIVES" to address the issue assigned to the task force. A Change Initiative can be thought of as a specific action strategy aimed at accomplishing specific targets and will consist of:

  • A statement of the need (or sub-issue) being addressed.

  • The specific targets to be achieved by the Initiative.

  • The action plan to achieve the targets.

  • The resources required.

For example, our task force, which is addressing the issue of improving the relationship with the head of the department in which the SHPO Office is located, has identified as a key sub-issue (a need), the department head’s lack of understanding about the SHPO Office’s basic mission and functions. Our specific CHANGE INITIATIVE to address this specific sub-issue (or need) will be to stage an in-depth briefing for the department head. Our action plan will include such steps as preparing written and oral presentations, rehearsing as a team, making sure that time is set aside on the department head’s calendar, and the like.

The task force process to produce Change Initiatives will flow along the following lines in most cases:

  • Early in the task force process, each task force must gain an in-depth familiarity with its particular issue, via a detailed second-stage environmental scan, the objective of which is to surface specific sub-issues (or needs/problems) that comprise the major issue. The more complex the major issue, the more sub-issues you can expect to find, and the more important this first scanning step will be.

  • A variety of information techniques might be employed to create a more powerful scan of the issue. The task force might combine review of documentation with interviews and perhaps even surveys of opinion.

  • The detailed issue scan and the analysis of sub-issues will inevitably surface a number of potential Change Initiatives, and the primary task force job is to select a limited number of such Initiatives and to fashion action plans to achieve them. There is no science to rely on in doing this job. Rather, a rough cost/benefit analysis can be employed to decide which Change Initiatives that APPEAR TO BE FEASIBLE -- TECHNICALLY, FINANCIALLY, AND POLITICALLY -– will provide the SHPO Office with the fullest return on its investment of precious time and other resources.

  • One of the most important constraints in selecting Change Initiatives is the resources that are required to implement the Initiatives. How much can be done, and how quickly, obviously depends on the resources available – in time, in dollars, in technology, and sometimes even in political capital. Choice is the name of this game. When the strategic development process is taken seriously, it is about more than merely raising tantalizing possibilities or composing endless wish lists. Rather, it is about choice and investment – the choice to invest very scarce resources in achieving a particular outcomes and carrying out specific courses of action.


Since the stakes involved in the work of the various strategic development task forces are so high to the SHPO Office, it is imperative that the SHPO Office planning team keep close tabs on the task force process. The team can be used to provide technical guidance, reviewing interim task force reports and giving directions relative to needed revision, and to resolve operational issues that may arise as the task force effort proceeds.


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