Success, failure, and conformance: An alternative approach to planning evaluation

E. Talen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Understanding why planning succeeds should be one of the main occupations of planning theoretical and empirical inquiry. Yet developing a clearer understanding of planning success seems an implausible task because (1) there is no definition of what planning success is; (2) there is no empirical knowledge of when - in what circumstances - planning has in fact succeeded; and (3) there is no method for measuring planning success, especially methods which are able to measure the implementation of plans specifically. In this paper I argue that planning scholars need to focus more attention on developing a body of theory about why planning succeeds, originating from a specific object-oriented view of planning. I argue that too much attention has been paid to theories of planning failure, whereas planning success, apart from anecdotal accounts has not been systematically or rigorously explored. What is needed is a more explicit, measurable, meaning of planning success and to facilitate this I propose the use of a conformance view of evaluation. Toward this goal I present an approach to the investigation of success in planning in which all aspects of measuring planning success are tied into one analytical process. I then give a specific example of how implementation success can be evaluated in a conformance approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-587
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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