Developing Strategies or Portfolios

A “strategy” or “portfolio” is a logical combination of actions designed to be implemented as a package. Usually in a management or policy context, there are several categories of possible management actions, and creating a strategy involves selecting one or more actions from each category and combining them to create a comprehensive strategy, normally with some kind of theme.

For example, to develop a plan for reducing emissions, a market-based strategy might define a range of market instruments for different sources; a regulatory strategy might establish updated standards, and a hybrid strategy might include a mix of the two.

Alternatively, the “theme” for strategies might also be oriented to specific standards (one strategy may be designed to achieve a 25% reduction in emissions vs. another that is designed to achieve a 50% reduction). This is particularly relevant when there is a continuum of environmental benefits from increasingly strict standards, rather than a clear threshold below which impacts are acceptable and above which they are not; in this case the decision process involves deciding how much to spend for incremental benefits. This is usefully explored through alternatives as it allows exploration of what would it take (in terms of money and other trade-offs) to get the incremental benefits.

In species at risk recovery planning, it might be useful to explore one recovery strategy that aims to maintain the current population of the species and another that aims to increase it (see Strategy Table example). Or, one strategy that achieves 95% probability of recovery, and another that achieves 75% probability.

For emissions management, themes might reflect increasingly stringent emission reduction targets, or increasing degrees of precaution: “50% reduction” vs. “20% reduction”, or it might reflect different approaches such as “50% reduction in all emission types” vs. “focus on priority contaminants”. This approach to creating and evaluating distinct and alternative strategies allows decision makers to explore the implications – for all objectives – of these different management choices before making firm policy commitments.

A Strategy Table or Portfolio Builder is a visual structuring tool used to develop strategies (or portfolios). The categories of alternatives are listed as column headings, with the possible actions within each category listed below. It is one of the most useful tools for developing creative alternatives when there are dozens of individual actions to choose from.

To develop portfolios:

Brainstorm a list of possible alternatives.

  • From this list, group similar alternatives into categories.
  • Start a table on a white board. Put the category names as column headings.
  • Enter the individual alternatives in the appropriate categories. At this point, you should start to consider how to frame the individual alternatives in a way that will allow you to create useful portfolio themes. It is usually useful to put “do nothing” or “status quo” as the first item in the column. Below this, enter distinctly different alternatives. The level of detail will depend on the context .
  • Define several distinct themes that represent either significantly different approaches to achieving the objectives or significantly different relative emphasis on different objectives.
  • Select (circle or otherwise highlight) the alternatives that are included in each portfolio and label the portfolio with its theme.

Key Ideas

  • A strategy is a combination of actions from several categories of possible management actions
  • Usually strategies are designed with a theme
  • Use a Strategy Table or Portfolio Builder to help develop strategies