Planning Under Pressure – The Strategic Choice Approach (3rd ed.)

Jon Coaffee (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 June 2006



Coaffee, J. (2006), "Planning Under Pressure – The Strategic Choice Approach (3rd ed.)", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 412-412.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Within the field of spatial planning and more broadly across the public‐sector, ideas relating complexity theory to practice have been a relatively recent addition to the literature. In essence, this has developed as a response to the need for complex solutions to deal with complex problems in an increasingly connected and fluid world. Since its publication – first in 1987, once again in 1997, and now for the third time in 2005, Planning Under Pressure has advocated the necessity for a strategic approach to be taken to both decision‐making and learning. In this sense, this book differs from many other books in the strategic management field in that it advocates a predominantly practical as opposed to conceptual approach. Such a grounded outlook is facilitated by the clarity of the text, associated diagrams, and by the embedding of numerous cases‐study examples. In particular and in this regard, Chapter 13 – “Learning from others”, is a new and welcome addition to the third edition and details how 15 contributors drawn from the private, public, academic and community sectors have used the strategic choice approach as a form of action learning.

The advocated strategic choice approach is a method that has matured and gained increased academic and operational currency over the last two decades. This edition has been revised to take account of new realities (such as the increased use of technology and ICT), theoretical discussions in the broader field (most notably in this edition around localism/localisation) and shift to public policy being developed at multiple integrated spatial scales.

The power of this particular text is that it does not prescribe ways of intervening or making strategic choices, but rather facilitates individuals and organisations to critically reflect upon intra and inter‐organisational pressures, as well as internal and external challenges, and to select or “customise” approaches from a “tool‐box” or menu to fit context and purpose. There is no model or one size fits all rationality – rather a carefully crafted checklist is produced. The strength of this book is also its multi‐disciplinary applicability. Although the tile of the book and many of the practical examples are drawn from what might widely be called spatial planning – its application is across the public sector. This book remains essential text for policy‐makers and academics alike and can meaningfully contribute to the search for joined up solutions to joined‐up problems, so characteristic of the contemporary multi‐scalar world.

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