The specific focus of this study is that of the implementation of the service planning process in the Irish health services in the context of significant organisational change. Service planning in the health sector is seen as part of the strategic planning ethos emphasised in the government's Strategic Management Initiative (1994) and of course the National Health Strategy Quality and Fairness – a Health System for You (2001). It was introduced (following the enactment of the 1996 Health (Amendment) Act No 3) in the health care services in Ireland to function as „a strategic management tool?. The Act was not explicit on the content or on the aim of service plans. This legislation and its implementation in the Irish health services is evaluated to ascertain its function as to whether it serves as a controlling rather than an enabling mechanism for strategic planning in the Irish healthcare system. The shortcomings of this control system are considered and in identifying alternative mechanisms of management control, comparison with the control mechanism introducing implementation of service (business) planning in the Canadian health care system is made.