Holistic Approach to Strategy, Policy Development, and Planning — Part 2
Overview of the System of Systems
Geology is the foundation of every place. Not only is it the oldest of the systems in historical terms, but it has the most enduring effect on all the other systems. It determines the minerals that are found and the living ecosystem that can emerge from them. Water flow is intricately linked to the shape and nature of geology and can determine how arid or humid a place is. It determined the movement, distribution and quality of water as well as possibilities of the water as a resource in a place.
Hydrology makes a place liveable and able to grow. It moves on the surface and underground. It nourishes all life. It is formed by its geologically framing and it turns makes possible the nature of biological inhabitation. Flora and fauna will emerge differently based on water patterns and dimensions.
Biology is about understanding life — its structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution. Biology is unique to places based on the formation of geological aspects and the resulting hydrological processes. And it continues to be dependent on these two lower systems for life to flourishing. Mineral depleted soils are a slow threat to live and water an immediate threat.
There three natural systems provide the ground and potential for human systems to form and evolve. First the patterns of human settlement and land use through time, followed eventually by economic patterns of trade and exchange among different places and peoples, which in term create and elevate a culture which reflects a way of life based on its history of settlement and economic potential.
Settlements initially spring up based on biological sources of life. Where was food easily accessible in terms of game, fish or harvestable produce? Eventually where was fertile soil for agriculture and fertile water for aquaculture. As well as the harvest and growth of materials for use in settlements to build, cloth and shelter the humans and their goods. The original settlement sprung up where it was easy to find these and not in places it required more work to access them. The use of land is often dictated by particular biological patterns and lays the foundation for economic patterns. Fish processing is near water. Cattle lots are near rail lines. Biology shapes and guides settlement and land use decisions early on for communities.
Economics becomes paramount when trading became necessary. What is trades is often related to the natural resources that make trading profitable. Neighboring tribes become markets and marketplaces for multiple tribes sprang up. Markets today still center around the economic transactions that emerge from what is available in that place based on natural ecosystems.
Cultural patterns come from and are shaped by what is considered wealth producing for communities. Tribes and regions which depend on fish, will have fish totems, rituals, festivals and may war over challenges to important features of the economic and cultural artifacts. Places are easily identified because of their cultural characteristics. The landmarks in a community are cultural defined and you often can see all the way back to the natural conditions of the place that made such settlement patterns, and economic ventures likely and predictive of the culture. This is often most clear for First Nations and original peoples to a place.
Levels of Planning & Policy Approaches
The matrix above represents the four levels, therefore approaches, that agencies and entities can take for planning and policy development. Starting at the bottom does not facilitate climbing to the top and, in fact, most groups tends to get stuck at level two — integrated planning. A shift of mind and framework for planning is required and more effective when all begins at the top and then cascades into the subsequent levels. As this cascading happens, the lower levels are redefined along with the nature of work.
Understanding Planning Levels from the Bottom Up
Category Planning: If one begins at the bottom, it is possible to see the additive nature of each level as you move up. For example, resource planning (the purpose of all planning is leveraging resources whether human or physical) by category (e. g. forest management) leads to a silo-ed effect. Silos then leads to competing for scarce budget allocations and, at the same time, redundancies. Less obvious is the contribution to boom bust” cycles since the thinking is tied to the forces that effect that category independently and not the system as a whole.
Integrated Planning: Most agencies and organizations have become aware of this wasteful category based process, feeling it especially during an economic downturn. As a result there is a new and renewed energy in doing what is called integrative or integrated planning and policy development. Matrix organizations are created. Cross functional task forces and projects are created. Steering Committees with representatives from across the various functions are called together. Synergies are explored. Priorities are set. Trade-offs are made.
As a result partnerships are made where conversations can continue. Causal connections that are impacting one another, particularly in the sequence of work, become more apparent. Shared languages are built so that communication is more precise and easy. But there is also a lot of time, effort and money in the coordination of such efforts whether short term or permanent. And nothing is really changed for the long term. And more importantly nothing is seen more systemically.