Orchestrated Planning

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

= concept used by Henry Mintzberg in the context of the role of the public sector in climate change


Henry Mintzberg et al.:

"In the public sector, especially in large national governments (compared with municipal ones, closer to local concerns), we find an inclination to favor orchestrated planning. Government climate change initiatives tend to be centrally conceived, analytically driven, and strategically deliberate. Because governments often need to legislate before acting—in other words, to formulate before implementing—their policy-making processes are inclined to be deliberate, explicit, and prospective.

Orchestrated planning is thus usually enacted in government in top-down fashion: to pledge, plan, and police, from the political leadership to the civil service, and then sometimes out to the broader society, as in the example of carbon pricing. This may rely on imposed controls of one kind or another—mandates, constraints, regulations, decrees—or else on incentives to encourage desired behaviors. Among our four government initiatives are state regulations and multilateral agreements as well as the decree concerning the forest cover of Bhutan.

Given the immensity of the climate change problem, it is not surprising that many concerned people call for this kind of orchestrated planning. As inspiring examples, they can perhaps point to the 1961-72 Apollo project, which landed human beings on the Moon for the first time, and the Marshall Plan, that gave American economic assistance to Europe after World War II. But Leviathan societies are not currently favored, at least in Western contexts, and the experience of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 and subsequently ignored by most of the world, illustrates the obstacles facing state planners.

Yet some efforts related to the global climate have succeeded, even beyond expectations, albeit with a narrower scope. The 1989 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer called for industrialized nations to stabilize and then reduce the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) production and consumption that was causing the problem. Although it is now widely and justifiably heralded as a breakthrough, in 1989 scientists and many signatories knew that its initial provisions were insufficient. Thus the treaty was designed to be flexible, to allow more ambitious targets as new science came to light. In other words, here, and perhaps more often than is widely recognized, the Protocol facilitated emergent learning alongside the centralized planning of the public sector.

In this case, however, the political and economic stakes were lower and the ideological differences less stark than they are for climate change today. The Kyoto Protocol attempted to address this problem in one fell swoop, with a comprehensive accord—a deliberate strategy, immaculately conceived. Its failure suggests that relying on governments alone to take the lead in combating climate change may be wishful thinking. The world is a rather messy place for those who believe that problems can be worked out by clever analysis in sterile offices." (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2246/bc715c531f724b404a4fcdd53f25504ee9b6.pdf)


Grounded Engagement in the Plural Sector

Henrty Mintzberg:

"The plural sector includes those formal and informal associations that are neither publicly owned by government nor privately owned by investors. Some are owned by members, such as cooperatives, while others are owned by no one, such as the Sierra Club and the Girl Scouts. A decade ago, in his book Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken put the number of such efforts at more than one million worldwide.

Plural sector associations tend to favor grounded engagement over orchestrated planning, although the philanthropists and foundations that support some of them may not always be sympathetic to this tendency, let alone understand it. Here strategies often emerge from the experiences of learning, which means that all kinds of people can be strategists. Think of this as thousands of flowers blooming, thanks to all kinds of social entrepreneurs. And just as flowers bloom in local fields, so too do social initiatives tend to appear in local communities, usually in response to local concerns, even if some eventually develop into global institutions, such as in the case of Greenpeace.

The success of these initiatives usually require intensive commitment, personal as well as communal. When this is present, change can be abrupt and sizable, as was the case with the antifur movement which became a global phenomenon in the 1980s and changed the habits of many toward wearing fur coats. The potential of the plural sector to drive change in society should therefore not be underestimated, even though such change can be unpredictable.

Autonomous Venturing in the Private Sector

Henry Mintzberg:

"Businesses, as independent enterprises in the marketplace, are most inclined to favor autonomous venturing. This can be especially true for those businesses led by creative entrepreneurs, who develop new products, services, and technologies that address societal needs, such as in the examples of Tesla and Pulled Oats, discussed earlier.

Private sector mindsets about climate change have been shifting over the years. What was initially considered by many executives as unrelated to business later became viewed by some as threat to business, and is now more widely seen as a font of opportunities for business—as in the example of Philips. In a 2017 survey conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group, 90 percent of executives saw sustainability as a priority for their business13. Of course, many smaller companies are also so engaged, for example in developing new types of solar panels, software to manage energy distribution, and carbon-trapping building materials. Governments can provide incentives to stimulate such venturing, but never with the assurance of what will result.

Strategy here tends to combine the characteristics that we have described in the other two sectors. Large established corporations may naturally favor top-down, deliberate strategies, while entrepreneurial ones may be more inclined to adapt on the fly, as Musk has done repeatedly at Tesla. He has taken the company from luxury car manufacturer to mass producer of batteries and provider of electrical infrastructure. That novel ideas can emerge anywhere in such enterprises, as well as in large corporations for that matter, suggests the presence, indeed a natural combination, of deliberate and emergent strategies in the private sector—in other words, a kind of top-down bottom-up hybridity within enterprises."


  • Mintzberg, H., Etzion, D. & Mantere, S. Worldly strategy for the global climate. Stanford Social

Innovation Review, 16(4): 42-47.