What is Planning?
Planning is the predetermination of objectives and course 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 that may help you to understand easily:
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:
Planning is Goal Oriented
Planning focuses on achieving defined objectives. It clearly defines a major course of action to achieve goals. The exercises of all divisions of an organization need to concentrate on the implementation of plans. Plans will become worthless if they do not contribute some positive guidelines for the achievement of objectives.
Planning is the initial function of management. It plays a pivotal role in coordinating all other functions of management. In a real sense, the implementation of other management functions like organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling depends upon planning.
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.
It is a pervasive activity of all levels of managers. It is not only related to top-level management. Rather planning depends upon the nature and scope of work.
For example, top-level management prepares strategic plans, middle-level management prepares departmental plans, and first-line management prepares day-to-day operational plans.
Also, see Planning Process: 9 Steps for an effective plan
Planning is prepared for the future course of action. Its main motive is to meet future uncertain events. It looks forward through forecasting. Management anticipates future events and situations through forecasting.
In order to anticipate future courses of action accurately, the scientific technique of forecasting is used. Thus, it provides guidelines, suggestions, and develops a framework for future operation.
Planning is the continuous process up to the existence of the organization. It is a never-ending process because of the ever-changing business environments.
When an organizational objective is achieved, a new plan is made to achieve the future objectives of the organization. The business environment will be changed according to the changing environment. Thus, plans must be up to date to adapt to the changing environment of the business.
Planning is mental work. It needs imagination, foresight, intelligence, and fair judgment. A manager has to think about the various alternative courses of action and their impact before formulating a plan.
A manager has to select the best course of action to achieve organization objectives effectively. To select the best option he must be experienced and intelligent so as to formulate an effective plan.
Plans must be sketched in such a practice that they are adaptable in any event. A plan of today may be difficult to implement in a similar manner in the future.
It may be affected by many environmental factors. These environmental factors involve both internal and external. Thus, there should be a provision of modification and revision of plans on the basis of changing environments.
Efficiency and Economy
Cost-benefit is one of the important elements of planning. It strives to increase the working effectiveness of the business by determining the way of action.
Sound planning helps to achieve the organizational objectives through minimum effort and cost. It clearly defines where we are and how we have to reach our destination. Thus, if each and every function is to be done accurately in accordance with the plan, predetermined goals can be achieved efficiently and effectively with minimum cost and effort.
Planning is Actionable
Last but not least, a plan must be actionable. It should not be limited to paper works. Its results can be obtained only after implementation. The plan should be formulated in such a manner that it can be implemented properly. Thus, over-ambitious and impracticable plans must be avoided.