Strategic Objectives in Complex Planning Environments : Insights from a Swedish Case for Critical Infrastructure Protection

Abstract: Large-scale and long-term planning imposes extensive requirements on governance efforts regardless of whether it involves public organisations, private organisations, or both. The proportions of such planning entangle many actors and stakeholders as system components within and around a complex system. These system components and conditions in a complex planning environment introduce a diverse variety of strategic objectives into the planning. This study investigates how strategic objectives can affect the governance of complex planning systems, particularly in the context of national critical infrastructure protection. For this purpose, this thesis concentrates on a national planning procedure, STYREL, which Sweden has recently implemented for the case of power shortages. This case involves various actors from the national, regional and local levels who act on behalf of both public and private organisations in a planning process with four-year intervals, and it thus constitutes a relevant subject for this study. The investigation entailed the collection of evidence from documents and interviews. First, publicly available Swedish documents regarding the case provided an understanding of the planning. Second, interviews with decision-makers who are entrusted with this planning at municipalities and county administrative boards as well as with a few planners from power grid providers offered a deeper comprehension of both the proceedings in practice and the strategic objectives involved in this complex system for planning of critical infrastructure protection. Particularly, the findings resulted in several conceptual models that demonstrate these understandings in more detail. A soft system model visualises the problem situation and contains several elements, such as the system components, interrelations and conditions. Moreover, a multi-level planning model specifies sources of uncertainty in the planning and decision-making process that are associated with an insufficient alignment of strategic objectives in the STYREL case. These decompositions of the Swedish planning environment – both horizontal and vertical – further enabled this study to identify significant parameters of the systemic conditions and strategic objectives involved in such complex planning environments that challenge their governance. The findings of this study suggest that the Swedish process is not yet fully developed. The investigation particularly indicates that a better alignment of strategic objectives is necessary to ensure a selection of adequate goals and means that advances the future usability of the produced plan, which in turn would legitimate and strengthen this complex planning process for critical infrastructure protection.