Planning in Management: Definition, Features, Importance, Types, Methods, and Process

What is Planning?

Planning is the predetermination of objectives and courses of action to be taken to achieve defined goals effectively and efficiently. It is an intellectual process that is concerned with deciding in advance what is to be done, how it is to be done when it is to be done, and who is to do it.

Planning is the primary function of management. It focuses on future courses of action. It specifies the objectives to be achieved in the future and selects the best course of action to achieve defined objectives.

It involves many activities like analyzing and deciding about technical, personnel, financial, and other elements essential to implement the predetermined course of action.

To achieve the planned objectives an effective plan is required. All managers need to be effective planners. Whether the organization they work for sells products or services, operates in the private or public sector, or is profit-oriented or not is immaterial. Each of these types of organizations needs planning.

Planning is the intellectual process that clearly defines 5W and 1H i.e. what, where, when, who, why, and how to take any action in order to achieve planned goals. A manager defines goals and takes necessary steps to ensure that these goals can be achieved in an efficient manner. Planning reflects vision, foresight, and wisdom. Thus, it is a blueprint of action and operation.

Some popular definitions of planning include:

  • Rickey W. Griffin – Planning is setting of organization’s goals and deciding how best to achieve them.
  • Richard Steers – Planning is the process by which managers define goals and take necessary steps to ensure that these goals are achieved.
  • Mary Coulter – Planning involves defining the organization’s goals, establishing an overall strategy for achieving those goals, and developing a comprehensive set of plans to integrate and coordinate organizational works.

Thus, planning is deciding in advance what is to be done and how it is to be done to achieve the desired objectives. It enables managers to achieve great things by envisioning a pathway from concept to reality.

It is essential for every organization to grab opportunities created by the changing environment to sustain itself in business. Also, it helps to face probable threats that may arise in the future.

Characteristics of Planning

The major characteristics or features of planning are:

Characteristics of Planning

Planning is Goal Oriented

The goal of planning is to achieve specific goals. It specifies a key line of action for achieving objectives. All divisions of an organization’s activities should be focused on the execution of plans. Plans will be worthless if they do not provide some constructive suggestions for achieving objectives.

Primary Function

Planning is management’s first and most basic function. It is critical to the coordination of all other management functions. Other management tasks such as organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling are all dependent on it in some way.

Related: Organizing Function of Management

In other words, it sets the framework for other functions of management. A manager can think of implementing other functions only after determining strategic plans.

Pervasive Activity

It is a prevalent behavior among managers at all levels. It isn’t only about upper-level management. Rather, planning is based on the nature and scope of the project. Strategic plans are created by top-level management, departmental plans are created by middle-level management and day-to-day operational plans are created by first-line management.


It is ready to take action in the future. Its primary goal is to prepare for potential unknown circumstances. Forecasting is something it looks forward to. Forecasting allows management to foresee future events and scenarios.

Forecasting is a scientific technique that is used to properly predict future courses of action. As a result, it offers rules and recommendations, as well as a foundation for future operations.

Continuous Activity

It is a continual process that lasts as long as the organization exists. Because of the ever-changing work contexts, it’s a never-ending process. When an organizational goal is met, a new strategy is devised to meet the organization’s future goals.

According to the changing climate, the business environment will change. As a result, strategies must be updated in order to react to the changing business environment.

Intellectual Work

Planning is a mental activity. It necessitates creativity, forethought, knowledge, and objective judgment. Before forming a plan, a manager must consider the numerous alternative courses of action and their implications.

To effectively fulfill organizational objectives, a manager must choose the optimal course of action. In order to build a successful plan, he must be experienced and intelligent in order to choose the finest alternative.


Plans must be drawn in such a way that they can be changed in any situation. A design that works well today may be difficult to replicate in the future. Many environmental elements may have an impact on it.

Related: What is Quality of Work Life?

Both internal and external elements play a role in these environmental parameters. As a result, plans should be able to be modified and revised in response to changing circumstances.

Efficiency and Economy

One of the most important aspects of planning is the cost-benefit analysis. It aims to improve the business’s operational efficiency by choosing the best course of action. Sound planning aids in achieving organizational goals with the least amount of work and expense.

It explains exactly where we are and how we must go to our destination. Predetermined goals can be reached efficiently and effectively with minimal expense and effort if each and every activity is performed precisely and in line with the plan.

Planning is Actionable

Last but not least, a plan must be able to be implemented. It should not be limited to work on paper. Only when it has been implemented can the findings be acquired. The plan should be written in such a way that it can be properly implemented. As a result, overly ambitious and unworkable plans must be avoided.

Also Read: Staffing Function of Management

Importance of Planning

Organizations do have objectives and goals that are for what they are established. Planning is the most crucial for both organizational goal achievement and management.

For the achievement of the desired organizational goal, it needs to have an effective plan that creates a clear road on how to successfully achieve it. In fact, making a plan is a crucial task before taking any action or establishing an organization.

When a better plan is made, the results are likely to be achieved at the least cost and time. An effective plan’s importance can be pointed out below:

  • Helps to make a clear focus on the goal.
  • It reduces future uncertainty.
  • Effective control.
  • Innovation and creativity.
  • Effective utilization of resources.
  • Promotes organizational efficiency.
  • Saves time and effort.
  • The economy is in operation.
  • Coordination.
  • Reduces the chances of business failure.

Steps in the Planning Process

So far we understand that planning is a continual process, it needs to be created, implemented, and when the first goal is achieved, another plan is being acquired. Its process includes defining what action is to be achieved and how.

A manager is responsible to create an effective plan, he should create an effective plan, otherwise desired goals can not be achieved. An effective plan has 8 essential steps, they are:

Related: Decision-Making Process

Identification of Opportunity

In order to set an effective plan, a manager should do a SWOT analysis. He should have full knowledge of what weaknesses and strengths his organization has and what opportunities and threats are in the market. In fact, it is the pre-step before setting the desired goal.

Set a Goal

Once the SWOT analysis is done, the next task of the manager is to set a goal or objective that he seeks to achieve at the end of the planning process. While setting a goal, the goal should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, rational, and time-bound.

He should avoid over-ambitiousness and impracticability while setting a goal. In addition, the goal should be to match the organization’s resources.

Determine Premises

Basically, plans are formulated on the basis of assumptions that would likely happen in the future which are known as premises. The future is forecasted before making a plan.

Premises include a capital requirement, anticipated sales, employee morale, employee motivation, organizational resources, market condition, government policy, etc. These issues directly or indirectly affect the plan’s implementation.

Identification of Alternatives

In this step, the manager’s task is to identify the alternatives as there may be various alternatives available. The manager must use his knowledge and experience in identifying alternatives, here, his goal should be availing potential alternatives for better evaluation.

Evaluation of Alternatives

This is the most important task of the manager in the whole planning process. He must study and evaluate each and every alternative that has been identified in the previous step.

The alternative evaluation is done on the basis of their potentialities, chances of achieving, cost-effective, organizational goals, resources, implementation factors, etc. After evaluating, here, the manager must come to a position to select the best one.

Select the Best Alternative

In this step, the manager chooses the best alternative from the above-evaluated alternatives. While choosing, the manager again must use his experience and knowledge and think of how such an alternative to aid in goal achievement. However, the alternative which provides the least cost, least effort, and reasonable profit is selected.

Develop a Supportive Plan

It seems difficult to implement the main plan only. Just suppose, you are going to organize a seminar, guess what – nobody knows you are going to organize a seminar, you need to inform your audiences you may opt for advertising, sponsoring, contacting your near friends, etc. these are your supportive plans to make your main plan successful i.e. seminar.

The manager has to do the same, in this course, different budgets, schedules, rules, and policies are formed.

Implement the Plan

In this step, now the plan has come into work. Once a plan is made, it must be implemented, if not there is no meaning in setting it.

The manager should ensure the effective implementation of the plan. For this, he should make contact with his subordinates, instruct them on how to implement, provide the necessary resources or rights to implement effectively, and supervise and control timely to make sure the implementation is going as it should be.

Related: How To Implement Change in the Workplace?

Review the Plan

Reviewing the implemented plan is necessary to know the actual performance. This is the last step in the planning process, as it is the last, it is equally important as the other steps. The manager must oversee the performance of the plan, take corrective action when the plan does not perform well, and make the plan devoted to the achievement of the desired goals.

Methods of Planning in Management

There are five key methods of planning in management. They are:

Top-Down Planning

Top-down planning is a traditional approach where senior management sets goals and objectives, and then communicates them down the organizational hierarchy. The decisions are made at the top level and flow downward, guiding the actions and activities of lower-level employees.

Bottom-Up Planning

In contrast to top-down planning, bottom-up planning involves gathering input and ideas from employees at various levels of the organization. Frontline employees and middle managers contribute their insights and suggestions, which are then consolidated and integrated into the overall planning process.

Composite Planning

Composite planning combines elements of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. It aims to strike a balance by involving input from different levels of the organization. Senior management provides the overarching strategic direction, while middle managers and employees contribute their perspectives and expertise to refine and implement the plans.

Team Method Planning

Team method planning emphasizes collaboration and participation. Cross-functional teams or project teams are formed to collectively develop plans and strategies. This method promotes diversity of thought, encourages open communication, and leverages the collective knowledge and skills of team members.

Management by Objectives (MBO)

MBO is a goal-oriented planning method that involves setting specific objectives for individuals and teams. These objectives are aligned with the overall organizational goals and are regularly reviewed and evaluated. MBO emphasizes employee participation in goal-setting, clarifies expectations, and provides a framework for performance management and accountability.

Types of Planning in Management

The followings are the major types of plans that are common in the workplace.

Also Read: Controlling Function of Management

Corporate Plan

The corporate plan is a high-level and long-term strategic plan developed by top-level management. It outlines the organization’s overall mission, vision, and objectives, along with the strategies and actions needed to achieve them. This plan provides a roadmap for the entire organization, guiding decision-making and resource allocation.

Tactical Plan

Tactical plans bridge the gap between the strategic corporate plan and the day-to-day operations. They are medium-term plans that focus on specific functional areas or departments within the organization. Tactical plans define the responsibilities, resources, and timelines required to support the strategic objectives.

Operational Plan

Operational plans are detailed, short-term plans that lay out the specific actions and tasks needed to implement tactical plans. They are developed by middle-level managers and frontline supervisors, outlining how the day-to-day activities will be carried out to achieve the tactical objectives.

Single-Use Plan

Single-use plans are time-limited and created to address a specific, one-time event or project. These plans are not intended for ongoing use and are typically designed to handle unique situations, such as organizing a company event or launching a new product.

Standing-Use Plan

Standing-use plans, also known as standing plans, are designed to be used repeatedly to address recurring situations or activities. Examples include policies, procedures, and standard operating guidelines. These plans provide consistency and efficiency in handling routine tasks.

Specific Plan

As the name suggests, specific plans are highly detailed and precise. They leave little room for interpretation and cover a narrow scope of activities or objectives. Specific plans are essential for achieving precise outcomes or addressing well-defined issues.

Flexible Plan

A flexible plan is adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances. It allows for adjustments and modifications based on real-time feedback and unexpected developments. Organizations use flexible plans when they anticipate uncertainties and need the ability to alter course if conditions change.

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