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Change in Chewable Bites: Applying Strategic Management at EEOC

Author(s): Evan J. Kemp, Jr., Robert J. Funk and Douglas C. Eadie


Source: Public Administration Review, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 1993), pp. 129-134
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
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The appetite for strategic planning in public and non-
profit sectors has steadily grown over the past decade,
as an increasingly challenging and unruly environment
has overwhelmed traditional planning approaches.
Buffeted by the winds of change, public and nonprofit
leaders and managers have had to face the limitations
Applying Strategic Management at of traditional long-range planning, with its assumption
that the present can merely-and mechanistically-be
EEOC projected into the future.

During this period, strategic planning has evolved


into a more powerful tool for managing systematic
Evan J. Kemp, Jr., U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity
change in public and nonprofit organizations (Bryson,
Commission
1989). One major variation on the strategic planning
Robert J. Funk, U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity
theme-"strategic management"-corrects the early pre-
Commission
occupation with strategy formulation by paying meticu-
Douglas C. Eadie, Strategic Development Consulting, Inc.
lous attention to the implementation of strategies
(Olsen and Eadie, 1982). Another variation-"strategic
issue management" -enables public and nonprofit
How can strategic management be successfully applied
organizations to concentrate on particular "change chal-
in large, complex government agencies? Evan Kemp,
lenges" while continuing to carry out their day-to-day
Robert Funk, and Douglas Eadie offer a description of
business (Eadie, 1991, 1989, 1987).
experiences with strategic management in the U.S.
The promise of strategic management as a powerful
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although
tool for change management has not been widely real-
afinal assessment of their efforts is years away, they are
ized, however. Weighty plans continue to join their
pleased with the initial success of the process and high-
predecessors on groaning shelves, little consulted after
light those factors which seemed important in the short
their publication. These documents have virtually no
run.
impact on business-as-usual and the managers who
have spent hundreds of hours producing them grow
skeptical and even cynical about the usefulness of plan-
ning.

Over the past year, the U.S. Equal Employment


Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has demonstrated that
strategic management can be a powerful tool for mak-
ing change in a large, complex organization and for car-
rying out its mission in a challenging environment. In
sharing EEOC's successful experience in designing and
carrying out its Strategic Management Program, this arti-
cle should provide public and nonprofit organizations
with a practical, affordable model that can easily be
adapted to their unique needs and circumstances.

Public A&ninistration Review . March/April 1993, Vol. 53, No. 2 129

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EEOC at a Glance
The EEOC Strategic Management Program began to
EEOC was created by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis
of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. EEOC enforces take shape in early 1991, when tuvo senior managers
Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal
Pay Act, and the recently passed Americans With Disabilities researched the literature, identified major models
Act (ADA). Executive Order 12067 of 1978 directs EEOC to
provide oversight and coordination of all federal equal available to EEOC, and recommended a general
employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.
EEOC is also the appellate authority for federal sector com-
plaints of employment discrimination. coute of action.

The commission is composed of five members appointed


by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year * A consultant would be retained to assist in preparing
staggered terms. The President designates a chairman and a and implementing the design-to serve as technical
vice chairman from the five commissioners. The chairman is adviser and coach, but not as chief planner.
the chief executive officer of the agency. The commission * Strong emphasis would be on action-both in the
makes equal employment opportunity policy and approves all near-term and longer range-rather than the produc-
litigation. tion of paper.

EEOC's approximately $200 million budget supports about * The effort would be practical and affordable, build-
2,800 staff, the majority of whom are located in 23 district, 16 ing incrementally on existing planning and manage-
area, and 11 local offices throughout the country. EEOC staff ment practices, rather than attempting grandiose,
investigate employment discrimination charges or complaints one-fell-swoop reform.
and conduct commission-initiated investigations. If EEOC
finds reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination * The effort would be flexible, capable of adapting to
the changes in agency's circumstances and needs
occurred, staff members attempt to conciliate the charges or
over time.
complaints. When conciliation is not achieved, the commis-
sion may file lawsuits in federal district court against private * EEOC staff would participate actively in both the
employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies, design and implementation of the program, starting
and under ADEA, against state and local governments. at the executive level and expanding participation as
rapidly as feasible.

By the end of March 1991, a consultant had been selected


Getting the Program Started and the first or design phase of the Strategic Management
President Bush named Evan J. Kemp, Jr. Chairman of the Program had begun.
EEOC in March 1990. The new chairman, who had served as
an EEOC commissioner since 1987, recognized that the coming
decade would be a time of both opportunity and challenge for From Strategic Planing to
the EEOC. Since 1982, the efforts to enhance case manage- Strategic Management
ment, strengthen administrative systems, and make fuller use of
technology have resulted in a significantly stronger, better man- The basic purpose of the strategic planning process is
aged law enforcement agency. Sobering challenges-severely twofold: first, to ensure that an organization has a clear
constrained resources coupled with growing demands for ser- vision, mission, and set of broad directions to guide its efforts;
vice and for productivity improvement, all in the context of second, to enable the organization to respond effectively to
uncertain public understanding and support-demanded that environmental change on an ongoing basis. A strategic orga-
EEOC strengthen its strategic management capability. nization, within the context of its vision and mission and
while carrying out its day-to-day business, invests in respond-
The EEOC Strategic Management Program began to take
ing to opportunities and to threats as a means of maintaining a
shape in early 1991, when two senior managers-one at EEOC
healthy balance with its environment. (Bryson, 1989; Conley
headquarters and the other from a field office-researched the
and Eadie 1990; Eadie, 1991). A vision is a picture of the
strategic planning and management literature, identified the
desired future of an organization, in terms of its impact on the
major models available to EEOC, and recommended a general
environment, the major roles it plays, and its image. A mis-
course of action. Based on this spadework, the agency's chief
sion is a straightforward description of the current organiza-
of staff and director of the Office of Program Operations
tion, in terms of its broad goals, customers and clients, prod-
reached agreement on a set of broad rules to guide the agen-
ucts and services, and the functions it performs in delivering
cy's foray into strategic management.
the products and services. With its vision and mission in
* The EEOC would proceed with its strategic manage- place, an organization can proceed with the basic steps in
ment initiative only after the development of a strategic management.
detailed design spelling out the outcomes to be pro-
* The foundation step is a scan of the external and
duced, the process and structure for producing them,
internal environment. Externally, the organization
and the costs that would be incurred.
examines economic, demographic, social, cultural,

130 Public Adminson Review * March/April 1993, Vol. 53, No. 2

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2. Enhance the public's understanding the EEOC's val-
ues, vision, mission, and strategic directions.
I Phase would involve u selection; strategy
3. Strengthen accountability and performance manage-
formulation and implementation. ment throughout the agency by upgrading the annual
operational planning and budgeting process.
legislative, political, and technological trends and
conditions that are pertinent to its vision and mis- 4. Build an internal culture that fosters commitment to
sion. Internally, the organization assesses its strengths the agency's values and vision and motivates high
and weaknesses in terms of human, financial, and quality performance.
technological resources and its performance against 5. Ensure that the creative management of innovation
stated goals. and change becomes a well-established EEOC pro-
* Based on this scan-and in light of the vision and cess.

mission-an organization identifies the strategic


issues-"change challenges"-that are in the form of Program Process
threats and opportunities.
The Strategic Management Program was to proceed in two
* Then, action strategies are fashioned to address the phases after the design phase was completed. Phase II was to
strategic issues that appear to demand attention first, involve setting broad strategic directions and identifying
because of their potential impact on the organization. change challenges. The culminating event of the second
The "strategic issue management" process differs in severalphase was to be a two-day strategic retreat involving the agen-
major aspects from the traditional strategic planning of acy's headquarters and field directors and several senior staff
decade ago. Much more attention is being paid to the creative members. The planned outcomes were: explore EEOC's val-
involvement of people in fashioning strategies. These strate- ues and vision; examine the external and internal environ-
gies are widely "owned" and, hence, more likely to be imple- ments; identify strategic issues facing the EEOC; and consider
mented. Furthermore, the management of implementation significant
is enhancements in the agency's operational plan-
now accorded as much attention as the formulation of strate- ning/budgeting and information resources management sys-
gies (Gluck, 1985; Kanter, 1989; Tichy, 1983). tems.

Perhaps most important, it is now widely recognized that it Phase III would involve issues selection; strategy formula-
makes sense to use the strategic management process as a tion and implementation. During Phase III, in-house task
vehicle for confirming and rethinking broad strategic direc- forces would be organized to fashion action strategies to
tions (vision mission) and for effecting change in response address
to a limited number of strategic issues selected by the
selected change challenges (opportunities and threats). strategic management team and to manage implementation of
Detailed comprehensive planning encompassing all organiza- the action strategies.
tional functions is best handled through the annual opera-
tional planning/budget preparation process, which is ideallyProgram Structure
suited to incremental adjustments in programs and activities.
The purpose of a formal program management and coordi-
nation structure was to ensure that this large-scale change pro-
cess was not overwhelmed by the demands of day-to-day
Phase I: Detailed Design
business. Three elements served this purpose quite effective-
The EEOC Strategic Management Program Design was ly.
developed in April and May 1991. During the design process,
Executive Leadership. Chairman Kemp was involved
the program consultant's work was directed by the strategic
through chairing the strategic management team, and his chief
management team, consisting of the chairman, the chief of
of staff was officially designated officer-in-charge of the pro-
staff, the headquarters office directors, and representative field
executives. The basic responsibility of the team was to deter- gram, serving in this capacity as the program's chief operating
mine the program's objectives and broad technical approach officer and immediate supervisor of the program coordinator.
and to validate the program process and structure to be imple- Policy Leadersbip. The strategic management team contin-
mented. The program consultant's recommendations were ued to. provide policy oversight to the program by reviewing
based on a thorough review of EEOC plans, planning experi-program plans and policies and task forces' recommendations,
ence and practices, and internal culture, and on the intensiveand by monitoring progress in fashioning and implementing
sessions with the team members. strategies.

Technical Leadersbip. A program coordinator's position


Program Objectives
was created to provide detailed operational direction to the
The EEOC Strategic Management Program was driven by program-developing detailed program plans, guiding and
the following five principal objectives: monitoring the work of program task forces, and staffing the
strategic management team. During Phase II, this position was
1. Identify significant change challenges facing the
EEOC and fashion action strategies to address the shared by the two senior managers who had participated in
challenges. the original design effort. In Phase III, the position was
shared by a senior staff person in the Office of the Chairman

Change in Chewable Bites: Applying Strategic Management at EEOC 131

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and the head of the Executive Secretariat. A Technical
Coordinating Committee, chaired by the chief of staff andPartcipant
con- in the work seion were impressed
sisting of the program coordinator and heads of the task
forces, was established to provide detailed operational guid-
ance to the program and to resolve design and operational
by the agency's accomplishments over the past decade,
issues as they arose.
as reported by the internal environmental scan group,

Phase II: Broad Strategic Directions but uxre sobered by the grim resource picture.

and Issue Identification ty issues," as "reasonable, fair, and objective," and as "highly
responsible and free of red tape."

July Strategic Work Session


External and Internal Scans
The culminating event of Phase II was an intensive two-day
strategic work session in July 1991, where some 80 executive Using a creative visual presentation, the external environ-
and senior managers participated actively in exploring the mental scan group identified several significant trends for
agency's values and vision, examining environmental trends work-session participants, including the continuing population
and conditions, assessing agency strengths and weaknesses, shift westward and southward, growing representation of
identifying several change challenges facing the agency, and women and minorities in the civilian labor force, specifically
reviewing recommended enhancements in the agency's opera- Hispanic participation, and above-average participation of
tional planning and information resources management sys- women and minorities in the fastest growing industries.
tems. Participants in the work session were impressed by the
Five working groups, involving over 50 of the participants agency's accomplishments over the past decade, as reported
in the work session, had worked for several weeks to prepare by the internal environmental scan group, but were sobered
for their presentations. These working groups were the val- by the grim resource picture. For example, the EEOC has
ues/vision group, involving the EEOC chairman, chief of staff, been very successful in reducing the pending case inventory-
and office directors; the external and internal environmental by 31.9 percent from 1987 to 1990; in increasing charges
scan groups; the budget process enhancements group; and the resolved in the same year received-from 21 percent of all
information resources management planning group. charges in 1987 to 41 percent in 1990; and in increasing suits
filed-by 136 percent from 1984 to 1990.

Values/Vision The resource picture was painted in somber hues, however.


For example, the gap between the number of full-time equiva-
The EEOC values statement expresses the core beliefs that
lent employees required and requested, based on workload
transcend-and guide-agency policies, plans, and operations
projections, and the actual number authorized has been dramat-
and ultimately give meaning to the agency's efforts. These
ic: 2,970 of a requested 3,198 in 1989; 2,853 of a requested
core beliefs are:
3,050 in 1990; and 2,796 of a requested 3,050 in 1991. Agency
1. The strength of our democracy rests on a foundation discretionary funds declined significantly from 1987 to 1990,
of equal employment opportunity that allows women and the number of investigators declined by 16.9 percent from
and men to realize their full potential in their work. 1988 to 1991. Meanwhile, growing service demand-most
2. The identification and elimination of discriminatory notably the Americans with Disabilities Act-is expected to lead
practices in employment is of paramount importance to a 36.1 percentage growth in pending inventory by 1993 if
to the preservation of our democratic society. agency resources are not expanded.

3. The opportunity to compete for jobs in an atmo-


Brainstorming Change Challenges
sphere free of bias is a basic right of all persons in
our society. Approximately two-thirds of the two-day work session was
devoted to the work of six break-out groups which-with the
4. The public interest as defined by Congress and the
values/vision and environmental scan presentations as a back-
courts fundamentally defines our role as a law
drop-identified a number of change challenges that appeared
enforcement agency.
to merit agency attention during the coming year. Led by
5. The public is entitled to high quality, timely service. carefully selected and prepared facilitators representing both
headquarters and the field, the break-out sessions were char-
The work-session participants envisioned the agency's
acterized by active, frank, and often provocative discussion.
long-range future in terms of its impact on American society
Participants were encouraged to raise any issues that struck
and its public image. The vision statement, for example, fore-
them as important, no matter how controversial the issues
sees an American workplace that "offers persons the opportu-
might be, and the participants responded enthusiastically.
nity to realize their full potential in their work, free of the con-
straints of discrimination," and that is "stronger because of the The break-out group that considered law enforcement
diversity of its workforce." It also foresees an EEOC that is operations, for example, observed that EEOC has become
viewed by the Amnerican public as, for example, "accessible somewhat
to mechanistic in its approach to case processing and
organizations with an interest in equal employment opportuni- that "high productivity demands are incongruent with quality

132 Public Adminitaon Review * March/April 1993, Vol. 53, No. 2

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heads of the six working groups spent much of August analyz-
The ADA taskforce was to be responsibleforfasb- ing the information generated at the work session and prepar-
ing a comprehensive report for the chairman's and strategic
management team's review.
ioning a comprehensive, agency-wide strategyforADA
Based on this report, Chairman Kemp, with the advice and
implementation and effective enforcement of the law. counsel of the strategic management team, identified the fol-
lowing seven strategic challenges facing the agency:

investigations and litigation. Investigators are not expected to 1. Refining and strengthening agency law enforcement
investigate; they process cases." The group referred to this operations systems with regard to quality, effective-
approach as the "process lock step." ness, and efficiency.

The break-out group that looked at headquarters-field rela- 2. Ensuring that the demands of ADA implementation
tions assessed the current working relationship as "paternalis- are fully met, while at the same time vigorously
tic," filled with tension, and characterized by poor communi- enforcing the other laws for which the commission is
cation. It noted that district directors have far too little responsible.
flexibility in managing their offices, while headquarters staff
3. Strengthening the headquarters-field working rela-
frequently engage in micro-management. The group called
tionship.
for a rethinking of the relationship-moving beyond what it
called the "cookie-cutter" approach-that would provide 4. Implementing an improved operational planning/
directors with the latitude to apply creative approaches that fit budget process that would insure greater manager
their unique situations. participation in the planning, development and exe-
The culture/climate working group noted that, despite a cution of the agency's operations and budget.
dedicated work force, EEOC faced a number of issues in this 5. Developing and implementing a comprehensive
area, including too much crisis management, distracted information resources management (IRM) plan and
employees, poor communication within headquarters and an integrated computer system for the agency.
between headquarters and the field, and a performance
appraisal system that is inflationary and raises false expecta- 6. Building an internal culture throughout the agency
tions regarding promotion. The break-out group looking at that reinforces and supports the agency's values,
external relations observed that EEOC was not widely seen as vision, and strategic directions.
a law enforcement agency and was popularly associated with 7. Strengthening the EEOC's public credibility as a law
unfair preferences and quotas.
enforcement agency.
A Successful Work Session The chairman and strategic management team agreed that,
The July 1991 strategic work session was highly successful during 1992, only four agency-wide task forces could realisti-
in terms of both content and process. The substantive objec-cally be charged with the responsibility to fashion detailed
implementation plans and to oversee the implementation.
tives were fully achieved, laying a solid foundation for strategy
formulation during Phase III, and participants found the time Two of the task forces were to address internal management
together enjoyable and productive. system building: the operational planning/budget process
enhancements task force and the information resource man-
A number of reasons accounted for the session's success
agement task force. The other two were to focus on the
beyond an agenda that responded to the agency's needs and
Agency's substantive "business." The ADA task force was to
expectations. Perhaps the most important was the feeling of
be responsible for fashioning a comprehensive, agency-wide
ownership that resulted from the active participation of the
strategy for ADA implementation and effective enforcement of
strategic management team members in designing the session
the law.
agenda and of some 50 senior managers of the working
groups in preparing presentations for the session. Although The law enforcement operation systems task force was to
meticulously structured, the six break-out groups facilitatedbe responsible for fashioning action strategies to address
active participation during the session and a strong feeling ofcharge processing, case management, and litigation systems in
ownership for the program. Another factor contributing to the the field offices; addressing questions related to product defi-
meeting's success was the use of an attractive off-site location
nition; quality standards; field office flexibility; and headquar-
and the creation of a casual atmosphere. ters support.

September was devoted to ensuring that the task force


Phase III: Strategy Formulation effort got off to a good start. Task force members represent-
ing headquarters and field offices were carefully selected to
Immediate Follow-Through
ensure a good mix of technical, geographical, and managerial
Chairman Kemp and the members of the strategic manage- perspectives. Task force members were thoroughly oriented
ment team recognized that the glow of the July work session on their duties and on the strategy formulation process. Each
would soon wear off, and that the program's continued task force met at length to develop a detailed game plan for
momentum would depend on decisive follow-through. accomplishing its mandate. By October 1, the task forces
Accordingly, the program coordinators, the consultant, and the
were off and running.

Change in Chewable Bites: Applying Strategic Management at EEOC 133

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ous to all participants throughout the effort that
Status of the Task Force Effort
Chairman Kemp and the office directors placed the pro-
Six months have passed since the Strategic Management gram high on their priority list.
Program task forces began their work, and, at this point, the
* A detailed design was fashioned for the effort that bal-
program is a growing concern-and a practical change engine
anced desired outcomes with structure and process and
for EEOC. Although the story is far from over, all four task
explicitly identified the resources required to carry out
forces are not only enthusiastically engaged in their tasks, but
the process. When the Strategic Management Program
they have had significant impact on the agency's operations.
got underway, the originators knew precisely what the
The ADA task force developed a comprehensive, detailed program should produce, how they would go about
action plan intended to ensure that EEOC is prepared to producing desired results, and what the effort would
implement fully the provisions of the new legislation by its cost. The required resources for the program were also
July 1992 effective date. The task force is now coordinating committed. There was no wishful thinking at work!
and monitoring such implementation steps as employee train-
* The program was carefully paced to avert overtaxing
ing and the production of a technical assistance manual.
agency's human resources. To be sure, there was a lot
The operational planning/budget task force has prepared of pressure and creative tension, especially as the July
EEOC's first budget manual, coordinated an intensive execu- work session drew near, but the program bites were
tive review of fiscal year 1992 operational plans, and devel- chewable.
oped a three-year phased budget decentralization plan that is
* The sense of ownership, created by the widespread
now being carried out.
employee participation, was a powerful force in main-
The information resources management task force has com- taining program momentum.
pleted several short-term enhancements in computer systems to
* The use of the program consultant as a design resource,
increase the agency's efficiency in carrying out its law enforce-
technical adviser, coach, and facilitator contributed to
ment operations. A comprehensive study of the agency's infor-
both staff ownership and to in-house capability building.
mation flow and data needs of the enforcement functions is
underway, as the first step of a long-term effort in building an
integrated information resources management system at EEOC.
Evan J. Kemp, Jr. was named chair of the U. S. Equal
The law enforcement systems task force is well on the way Employment Opportunity Commission by President Bush on
to the development of detailed recommendations for upgrad- March 8, 1989. He was first nominated as an EEOC
ing the bread-and-butter processes involved in carrying out Commissioner by President Reagan on March 10, 1987. Kemp
the basic law enforcement activities of the agency-intake, earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of
precharge inquiries and initial investigation, investigation, con- Virginia in 1964.
ciliation, and litigation. Fifty-three attack points-change tar-
RobertJ. Funk was named Chief of Staff of the U. S. Equal
gets-have been identified. Detailed strategies for implement-
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in November
ing the attack points are being fashioned.
1989. Funk serves as chair Evan J. Kemp, Jr.'s alter ego and is
The Strategic Management Program in EEOC is, indeed, responsible for directing and implementing the chair's goals
alive and well and proving to be an effective vehicle for man- and priorities. Funk received his bachelor of arts degree from
aging change in "chewable bites." the University of Michigan in 1972 and his juris doctor degree
from the University of California in 1976.

Douglas C. Eadie is founder and president of Strategic


In Conclusion Development Consulting, Inc., a Shaker Heights, Ohio firm
specializing in public and nonprofit board development,
What accounts for the apparent success of EEOC's Strategic
strategic management and executive team building. A Phi
Management Program so far? In retrospect, the following fac-
Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois with a mas-
tors loom largest:
ters in management from Case Western Reserve University,
* CEO and executive staff commitment and steadfast sup- Doug is the author of a book and more than 60 articles and
port were critical to the program's success. It was obvi- chapters on board leadership and strategic management.

References

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Eadie, D.C., 1987. "Strategic Issue Management: Building an Organization's Kanter, R. M., 1989. Wben Giants Learn to Dance. New York: Simon and
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, 1991. "Planning and Managing Strategically.' In R. Tichy, N. M., 1983. Managing Strategic Cbange. New York: John Wiley and
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134 Public Administion Review * Mah/April 1993, Vol. 53, No. 2

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