Nature and Characteristics of Planning
1. Intellectual Process:
Planning is an intellectual and rational process. Planning is a mental exercise involving imagination, foresight and sound judgement. It requires a mental disposition of thinking before’ acting in the light of facts rather than guess. The quality of planning depends upon the abilities of the managers who are required to collect all relevant facts, analyse and interpret them in a correct way.
How far into the future a manager can see and with how much clarity he will depend on his intellectual calibre, are chalked out through planning process. In thinking of objectives, alternative courses of action and, above all, in making decision for choosing certain alternatives, the planner goes through an intellectual process.
All planning is linked up with certain goals and objectives. It follows, therefore, that every plan must contribute in some positive way to the accomplishment of group objectives. Planning has no meaning without being related to goals and objectives. It must bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to go at the minimum cost.
3. Primary Function:
Planning is said to be the most basic and primary function of management. It occupies first place and precedes all other functions of management which are designed to attain the goals set under planning. This is so because the manager decides upon the policies, procedures, programmes, projects, etc. before proceeding with the work. The other functions of management—organising, direction, co-ordination and control—can be performed only after the manager has formulated the necessary planning.
Planning pervades all managerial activities. It is the job of all managers in all types of organisation. It is undertaken at all segments and levels of the organisation—from the general manager to the foreman. Whatever be the nature of activity, management starts with planning. The character and breadth of planning will, of course, vary from one job to another—depending on the level of management.
There may be separate plans prepared in different levels in the organisation, but all the sub-plans must be united with the general plan so as to make up a comprehensive plan for operation at a time. So, uniformity must be there in all levels of planning to match the general plan.
To keep the enterprise as a going concern without any break, it is essential that planning must be a continuous process. So, the first plan must follow the second plan and the second plan the third and so on in never-ending series in quick succession.
Plans should not be made rigid. It should be as flexible as possible to accommodate all possible changes in the enterprise with a view to coping with the changing conditions in the market. In fact, planning is a dynamic activity.
The language of the work schedule or programme in the planning should be simple so that each and every part of it may easily be understood by the employees at different levels, specially at the lower level.
Precision is the soul of planning. This gives the planning exact, definite, and accurate meaning in its scope and content. Any mistake or error in planning is sure to upset other functions of management and, thus, precision is of utmost importance in every kind of planning.
Planning is neither poetry nor philosophy. It is based on facts and experience, and thereby realistic in nature. It represents a programme which is possible to execute with more or less existing resources.
11. Choice among Alternative Courses:
Planning involves selection of suitable course of action from several alternatives. If there is only one way of doing something there is no need of planning. Planning has to find out several alternatives, estimate the feasibility and profitability of the different alternatives, and to choose the best one out of them.
Planning is directed towards efficiency. A plan is a course of action that shows promise of optimizing return at the minimum expense of inputs. In planning, the manager evaluates the alternatives on the basis of efficiency. A good plan should not only attain optimum relationship between output and input but should also bring the greatest satisfaction to those who are responsible for its implementation.
The different departments may formulate different plans and programmes for their integration in the overall planning. But sectional plans cannot but be inter-dependent. For example, production planning depends upon sales planning—and vice versa.
Again, planning for purchase of raw materials, employment of labour, etc. cannot be an isolated act apart from sales planning and production planning. Planning is a structured process and different plans constitute a hierarchy. Different plans are inter-dependent and inter-related. Every lower-level plan serves as a means towards the end of higher plans.
Above all, no planning can proceed without forecasting—which means assessing the future and making provision for it. Planning is the synthesis of various forecasts—short-term or long-term, special or otherwise. They all merge into a single programme and act as a guide for the whole concern.
The Types of Plans
“Operational plans are about how things need to happen,” motivational leadership speaker Mack Story said at LinkedIn. “Guidelines of how to accomplish the mission are set.”
This type of planning typically describes the day-to-day running of the company. Operational plans are often described as single use plans or ongoing plans. Single use plans are created for events and activities with a single occurrence (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include policies for approaching problems, rules for specific regulations and procedures for a step-by-step process for accomplishing particular objectives.
“Strategic plans are all about why things need to happen,” Story said. “It’s big picture, long-term thinking. It starts at the highest level with defining a mission and casting a vision.”
Strategic planning includes a high-level overview of the entire business. It’s the foundational basis of the organization and will dictate long-term decisions. The scope of strategic planning can be anywhere from the next two years to the next 10 years. Important components of a strategic plan are vision, mission and values.
“Tactical plans are about what is going to happen,” Story said. “Basically at the tactical level, there are many focused, specific, and short-term plans, where the actual work is being done, that support the high-level strategic plans.”
Tactical planning supports strategic planning. It includes tactics that the organization plans to use to achieve what’s outlined in the strategic plan. Often, the scope is less than one year and breaks down the strategic plan into actionable chunks. Tactical planning is different from operational planning in that tactical plans ask specific questions about what needs to happen to accomplish a strategic goal; operational plans ask how the organization will generally do something to accomplish the company’s mission.