Step 5: Identify the Strategic Issues Facing the Organization

Step 5 in Bryson’s strategic planning process is to identify the strategic issues facing the organization. Ideally, this step includes describing the issue succinctly, pinpointing the factors that make that issue a “fundamental challenge,” and identifying the repercussions of failing to address that challenge. Bryson states that during this phase, an organization will determine a list of issues they face, will divide that list into the categories of strategic and operational, and finally will arrange the issues in a logical order, such as priority, logical, or temporal (Bryson, 2004).

The following approaches can be used during this step (as set forth by Bryson):
1) direct approach
2) goals approach
3) vision of success approach
4) indirect approach
5) oval mapping approach
6) issues tensions approach
7) systems analysis approach

Step 5 has many benefits, and is a critical step in the planning process. Identifying the strategic issues will help stakeholders determine what is most important to an organization and will help them see issues, not answers, which are often facilitated by lively debate or tension. Bryson (2004) notes that this step in the process often creates stress, anger and depression, and that decision makers sometimes want to quit the process at this point, or are afraid to continue. For this reason, it is of great importance that this step is approached cautiously and thoughtfully. This process is a highly involved one, and could be difficult to complete successfully via a wiki. Wikis do, however, provide a common space for individuals from all sides of the issue to brainstorm collectively, and at their own pace. In the case of library employees at San Jose State University, the group decided to utilize wiki technology for their strategic planning process precisely because of this reason. “The committee determined that the wiki’s informal, community-building capability was particularly appropriate for the group’s information and communication needs. Unlike the mediated intranet environment, a wiki offered a collective space for brainstorming” (Kendall, p. 3). The potential of a wiki to bring individuals together that might not normally be able to convene in one location to discuss the variety of factors and influences that a particular strategic issue has is a unique opportunity.
wallwisher.jpgBecause many of the approaches to identifying strategic issues are based heavily on visual representation, a similar online program could be used in conjunction with a wiki to facilitate step 5. Online post-it walls such as linoor wallwisher have the same collaborative fundamentals as a wiki, but provide a more hands-on feel, letting users create individual post-its, much as they would if they were participating in an oval mapping or SWOC process in-person.

Please continue to Step 6: Formulate Strategies to Manage these Issues.