Introduction to Planning

Managers need to proactively plan the future of their companies.  They must identify threats and opportunities in advance and decide how to respond.  Even better if a company can actively manipulate the future to the company’s advantage.

It is just as important to communicate these plans throughout the company. Any manager’s subordinates need to know what is expected of them and what to do to meet these expectations. 

Planning also precedes all other management functions, in that the objectives for all group activities are set through planning. Planning is a manager’s most essential task.

Purpose of planning

Planning is the activity a manager performs when he deliberately reflects on the future goals of an organisation, or any part thereof, the resources and activities needed to achieve these goals, and the drafting and implementation of a plan to achieve these goals.

Planning needs to cross the gap between the present and the future:

  1. Firstly a manager must determine the characteristics of the current situation the organisation finds itself in.
  2. The next step is to anticipate how the company will be affected in future and to determine what changes are needed to be successful going forward. 
  3. Thirdly, managers has to identify what is needed in terms of resources and actions to move from the current situation to the beneficial future. 

A plan will be effective only if its goal is achieved at an acceptable cost. In this case, costs are expressed not only in terms of money but also in terms of time, production and the degree of individual and group compliance.

 The Importance of planning

The environment an organization functions in, is constantly changing in economic, technological, social and political terms. If an organisation does not stay up to date and plan for the future, it will eventually become out of touch with his environment and it will no longer survive.

An organisation must know where they want to go and determine what actions is needed to get them there.  It is possible to use manpower, equipment, resources, facilities and capital much more effectively if needs are determined beforehand.

Planning simplifies management tasks.  It enables coordinated and integrated actions for subordinates. It is also a prerequisite for exercising control, because the standards for successful implementation is already set in the planning process.

The planning principles is not only relevant when managers plan for groups of people.  The same principles apply equally to the planning of an employee’s own work.

Obstacles for Planning

So, if planning is so important, why do people often avoid it?  There are many reasons why planning is difficult and therefor neglected (adapted from Allen, 1964):

  • Planning is intangible and must be carried out largely on conceptual level.
  • Planning requires careful and analytical thinking and is therefor seen as difficult and frustrating.
  • A manager usually plans on behalf of others and does not necessarily have the same passion for the goal.
  • Plans are set for different periods of duration, and often do not deliver results that can serve as interim motivation for the manager.
  • The uncertainty of the future is another factor that complicates and obstructs planning.
  • There may be insufficient knowledge about planning and planning techniques
  • A manager is usually well trained for the operational work he has to perform, and this operational work is also more exact and tangible. Therefore, managers tend to give preference to their operational work at the expense of planning.

Five Dimensions of planning

There are five dimensions of planning. The dimensions are term, nature, scope, frequency and subject.

Dimensions of planning
Dimensions of planning. Adapted from Crown (1990; p.134)

Planning by management level

Just as managers at different levels in the management hierarchy of the company have different responsibilities in terms of management, they also have different responsibilities in terms of planning.  They will also spend different percentages of their time planning.

  • Top executives are involved in planning for the business as a whole. They work with greater uncertainty, and their plans are more long-term in nature.
  • Middle-level managers focuses on a particular function.  The term of their plans is shorter and the environment within which they function is more predictable.
  • Low-level management prepares short-term plans. They plan daily activities and their plans tend to be repetitive. The environment within which they are planning is also much clearer.
Planning by level of management
Planning by level of management (Kroon,1990; p.132)

References

Hannes Kruger, Management training manual.  Written for the Meat Board, Chapter 2