Using a Systems Approach to Strategic Planning

The Carnevale Strategic Planning Method

Carnevale Associates, LLC (CALLC) uses a “systems approach” to the formulation, implementation and evaluation of programs.   This systems approach is one that CALLC first adopted when working with ONDCP in the 1990s to build its first, congressionally-approved and celebrated, Performance Measures of Effectiveness (PME) system (Simeone, Carnevale, and Millar; 2005).  Building upon this model, our team of experts can assist key stakeholders throughout the process from the initial concept through implementation.

A Systems Approach to Performance-Based Management

Community refers to the stakeholders who have an interest in solving a particular problem.  They gather in response to the problem and seek a solution to the problem.  The Community of stakeholders includes both those who would benefit from a successful strategy and those who would serve as the change agents responsible for its implementation.  Usually the Community of stakeholders includes at least representatives from government organizations, non-government organizations, consumer groups, special interest groups, and those knowledgeable of the means to turn ideas into action.  Members of the Community work together to develop the Strategy.

Strategy (often referred to as “the plan”) is the mechanism that allows measurable Goals and Objectives to be pursued; it is an organizational tool that enables desires to become actionable items.  It is important to remember that by definition the Strategy is first and foremost a plan or guide, designed specifically to facilitate decision-making by program managers.  Whenever an entity proposes a program, policy and program makers within the federal drug control agency community and external stakeholders should examine its relevance to the Strategy.

Budget refers to the resources necessary to implement the Strategy. This usually reflects government resources, but it can also include non-government resources such as regulations, policies and procedures, and laws.  Resources are intended to procure programs and activities that are evidence-based.  It requires the cooperation of many non-traditional stakeholders who also bring resources to the table to finance similar evidence-based programs, hopefully in support of its strategic goals and objectives. Budget resources should be well aligned with the Strategy.

Evaluation provides the feedback mechanism necessary to inform Community stakeholders of their progress in achieving the Goals and Objectives made explicit by Strategy.  Evaluation involves the use of Performance Targets and Performance Measures as part of an accountability mechanism.  Evaluation should be an ongoing process that supports ongoing improvement.

The CALLC team makes extensive use of a number of tools in its approach to developing Strategic Plans.  CALLC often uses Logic models to depict the rationale underlying the existence of a program.  The Logic Model indicates how various elements are expected to interact, the goods or services they produce, and how they should generate the desired results.  Logic Models are therefore tools for planning, describing, managing, communicating, and evaluating a program or intervention. They represent the relationships between program activities and program outcomes, state the assumptions that underlie expectations that a program will work, and frame the context in which the program operates (Millar, Simeone and Carnevale, 2001). CALLC has found that the process of building a logic model allows group consensus to be attained on the selection of Performance Targets and Measures fairly quickly. Ordinary language can be an ineffective means of communicating information on causal relationships, particularly those that are imbedded within more complex structures.

Logic models are also used to develop Action Plans that are used to focus working group participants on a particular task while still drawing on their broad subject matter expertise.   In building action plans, working group participants are usually able to shed their home organization’s primary interests and instead draw on their program knowledge and expertise to identify logical solutions to cross-cutting policy objectives.

CALLC has had extensive involvement in the development of national, state, and local strategic plans targeted to address public health, behavioral health, homeland security, law enforcement, judicial , and overall government efficiency.  Regardless of the project, our mission is the same: bring practical and research-based policy solutions to clients facing real-time challenges.

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P.O. Box 84085 | Gaithersburg, MD 20883 Phone: 301.977.3600 | Email Us