There comes many instances when we knowingly or unknowingly indulged in the planning process. From managing our time to solving some complex problems, we plan. We plan for efficiency, we plan for security, we plan for success and we plan for survival. So, planning is that basic function.
To define, planning is a systematic process of establishing a need and then working out the best way to meet the need, within a strategic framework that enables us to identify priorities and determine operational principles. Planning is the process which involves analyzing the present and deciding the way to accomplish or deal with situations in the future. It is concerned with setting objectives, formulating targets, and communicating the information to accomplish them in a timely manner.
Through planning, we decide in prior, what is to be done, when to be done, how to be done and who is responsible to get the job done. For an organization and managers, planning is very important. An effective and timely planning helps to accomplish tasks on time, attain organizational goals, minimize the losses and stay ahead in competition.
There is a defined process of planning. Through this process, organizations achieve the organizational goals and objectives in the desired time frame. The steps of planning are as follows:
Step 1 Establishing Objectives
Objectives of a certain plan and reason behind it. Suppose, an organization is creating a marketing plan and thus the managers or team need to first establish the objectives of the marketing plan. A good objective leads to good direction and good execution of plan.
Step 2 Planning Premises
Internal and external resources, policies and requirements to accomplish the plan. This step deals with the availability of resources, expertise, competencies and capabilities. The cost involved, strategies, team and other resources required to accomplish the marketing campaign is to be evaluated in planning premises.
Step 3 Alternatives Identification
Alternatives based on the objectives and planning premises. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of one alternative over another.A particular marketing campaign can be accomplished through several ways such as advertising, television commercial, social media marketing and many more. Thus, the alternatives have to be identified.
Step 4 Evaluating Alternatives
Evaluate the available alternatives based on the factors that are crucial to the plan. Factors such as benefits, cost, risk, available resources are to be evaluated under each alternative. The organization should evaluate each of the alternatives based on benefits, cost, risk and several other factors associated with each marketing alternative.
Step 5 Selecting the best alternative
Based on the above evaluation, select the best course of action. That particular marketing strategy which is best fit based on the objective should be selected for implementation and achieving the outcomes.
Step 6 Formulating supporting Plans
The marketing campaign requires a certain cost, administrative activities may require to be adjusted to yield the best result from the campaign, sales plans in accordance with the marketing campaign need to be made. Thus, other supporting and complementary plans should be formulated along with the main plan.
Step 7 Implementation of Plans
Implementation involves executing the plan into action and achieving the outcome and objectives. After the completion of all these seven steps, it is equally important to evaluate the plan in a timely manner. Since planning is a dynamic process, it should be reviewed and analyzed in response to change.
Characteristics of Planning
Planning involves a dynamic process of analyzing and continuously evaluating situations and circumstances. It has several characteristics. Some of them are explained as below:
Primary function of Management
Without a proper and structured plan, starting any activity with a goal to accomplish it is impossible. So, planning is a primary function of any management. It is involved at every organizational level, departments, units and teams. It is a road map to accomplish activities that follow after planning such as organizing, leading, and controlling.
Planning requires critical analysis of the present and forecasting of the future activities. To formulate a plan, it involves logical thinking, evaluation of alternatives, contingency analysis, future orientation and imagination. To plan for tomorrow, we must also consider the past achievements, outcomes and mistakes to formulate an effective plan. The situation after covid is entirely different to what it was before. If a company has to make a plan to increase its sales, the same past plans may not work today. Therefore, it involves intellectual decision making.
Planning is goal oriented
Everyone makes a plan to achieve a certain outcome in a systematic manner in the given time frame. Organizations make plans to achieve the organization’s short term or long-term goal. It is done by identifying the resources required to accomplish the goals, duration to complete, evaluation of alternatives, cost that involves and also the risk.
Planning is Pervasive
Planning is required for every level of organization. Although all the levels are interrelated to each other, a same set of plans does not work for all. When the activities that are to be performed differ from department to department, person to person, there is a requirement of different individual plans. It is integral and required for all levels of organization although there is difference in the scope of the plan.
Planning is continuous
Planning involves making strategies and objectives for short-term or long-term. Since there is no specific duration defined for short and long-term. Therefore, plans can be made for a day, week, month, quarter, 6 months or years as per the requirement. When one plan is accomplished, planning or execution of another starts. Thus, it is an ongoing phenomenon.
Planning should be flexible
The dynamic nature of the time and circumstances requires the process of planning to be flexible. The organization and managers should perform the changes in plan to cope up with changes in the present or future variables. The flexibility can be performed through changes in objectives, goals or the process. Revision and change in the plan as per the requirement reduce the chances of failure and improve the probability of success.
Importance of Planning
- Planning provides a road map to reach certain outcomes and helps to clarify the focus on the goal.
- It helps to make informed decisions by evaluating the past performance and improves future performance.
- It helps organizations in survival and growth instinct; and remain ahead in the competitive environment.
- Involvement of projection and forecasting considering the future outlook reduces the risk and the uncertainty.
- It assists in accomplishing other management functions such as organizing, leading and controlling.
- Planning reduces the chances of repetition of works, wastage of resources and increases the efficiency of the organization.
Advantages of Planning
- Planning helps in better organization of the activities and utilization of resources.
- It guides employees, teams and departments to focus on the plans and its objectives. This increases the productivity of the employees and improves organizational efficiency.
- A clear formulation and communication of detailed plans helps in bringing better coordination between departments. It reduces duplication of the efforts.
- It facilitates delegation of powers. Delegation helps employees to become responsible and accountable for the outcomes of their decisions. This ultimately helps in employee development and decision making.
- Planning encourages creativity and innovation. Several alternatives and ideas are identified and analyzed, which results in creativity and innovation in task accomplishment.
Disadvantages of Planning
- Planning is time consuming. Several aspects are to be first discussed, evaluated and analyzed so as to decide and formulate a complete plan. The opportunity might be missed while focusing on planning.
- Planning is costly. Since time is a resource and resources are scarce for organizations, it is costly. In addition, any missed opportunity is always an opportunity loss for organizations.
- Planning is a type of future forecasting. However, the outcome at times may not be the same as the forecast. This can cause severe problems to the organization if the loss is huge or the return is not as expected.
- Organizations are always prone to the risk possessed by the external environment. The factors such as political, economic, social, natural, technological and legal can always pose a significant threat to the organization. These factors can only be minimized with planning and cannot be eliminated.