1. What is Planning?
A plan is a determined course of action for achieving a specific objective. An individual may prepare a plan for his journey or tour or for a family function. Similarly, a business unit may prepare a plan to achieve a particular objective. It is called a business plan which includes production plan, sales plan, and so on. A business unit prepares a master plan for the whole unit. Such master plan is again divided into departmental plans for actual execution. Planning is a process of thanking to action. It is a means to achieve well defined objectives. Business plan and business planning move together.
Planning is the primary function of management and occupies the first position in the management process. It is the starting point of the whole management process as other management functions are related to planning function. Planning, in simple words, means to decide the objectives clearly and to prepare a plan. Thereafter to take suitable steps for the execution of the plan. Planning function is performed by managers at all levels. It is deciding the objective to be achieved and taking suitable follow-up steps for achieving the same.
Planning is, now, universally accepted as a key/passport to success, progress and prosperity in business as well as in all other aspects of life. It acts as a base of all purposeful human activities. The concept of planning is old enough. Planning was advocated by Confucius almost 2500 years ago. He said "A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door". Thus, planning is the centre around which all business activities move.
In planning, various business problems are studied, decisions are taken regarding the future course of action and business activities are adjusted accordingly. Thus, planning means deciding in advance the objectives to be achieved and preparing plans/programmes for achieving them. In other words, planning is the process of foreseeing desired objectives - anticipating problems and developing solutions. It serves as a core of the whole management process.
Planning bridges the gap from where we are to where we want to go. In the absence of planning, events are left to chance. A plan is to-day's projection for tomorrow's activity.
2. Definitions of Planning
- According to Koontz and O'Donnell, "Planning is deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who is to do it. Planning bridges the gap between where we are and where we want to go. It makes it possible for things to occur which would not otherwise happen”.
- According to George R Terry, "Planning is the selecting and relating of facts and the making and using of assumptions regarding the future in the visualization and formulation of purposed activities believed necessary to achieve desired results".
- According to Philip Kotler, "Planning is deciding in the present what to do in the future. It is the process whereby companies reconcile their resources with their objectives and opportunities".
3. Need of Planning
The need of planning is universally accepted in the business as well as in other aspects of life. The following points justify the need of business planning/planning in business:
- Planning is needed for survival and growth of a business unit in an orderly manner.
- Planning is needed in order to face new problems/difficulties developed due to growth of markets, market competition, changes in consumer expectations and so on.
- Planning is needed in order to face challenges created by changing environmental factors/forces.
- Planning is needed as it acts as a pre-requisite to good management. It is needed as it is the core of the whole management process.
- Planning is needed in order to achieve the objectives decided by the management. It is also needed as it ensures accuracy, economy and operational efficiency in busin6s management.
4. Importance of Planning in Business Management
The importance of planning as an element in the management process is universally accepted. It plays a positive role in the management of a business unit. Planning brings stability and prosperity to a business unit. It brings unity of purpose and diverts all efforts in one direction for the achievement of certain well defined objectives. Planning also improves the performance of a business unit. In fact, in the absence of planning there will be disorder, confusion, inefficiency, wastage of human efforts and material resources. Planning is rightly treated as the pre-requisite to efficient management. The fact that large majority of business units use planning as a tool of management indicates its utility and importance. Planning brings safety to business operations. It is the only way for survival in the competitive business world.
Planning is important as it is more than a mere theoretical exercise or paperwork. It has practical utility and creative value. Planning is also a rational and intelligent activity. It is, now, rightly treated as a highly professionalized aspect of business management.
Planning is important but planning alone is not adequate. It should be supplemented by suitable follow-up actions on the part of managers. Planning may not be able to solve all managerial problems, but it certainly helps the thoughtful managers in overcoming various managerial problems. A plan will remain on paper if suitable follow-up steps are not taken at different levels for its execution. Thus, planning is a means and not the end in itself
5. Advantages of Planning
- Facilitates quick achievement of objectives: Planning facilitates quick achievement of business objectives. In the planning process, the objectives to be achieved are clearly decided / finalised and plans are prepared and executed for achieving such well defined objectives. Planning ensures achievement of objectives in an orderly and quick manner.
- Brings unity of purpose and direction: Planning brings unity of purpose and direction before the entire organisation as it is for achieving certain well defined goals. Planning diverts all resources in one direction for achieving well defined objectives.
- Ensures full utilisation of resources: Planning ensures effective/maximum utilisation of available human and material resources. It eliminates wastages of all kinds (of material resources and human efforts) and this ensures fuller utilisation of available resources.
- Avoids inconsistency in efforts: Planning avoids inconsistency in efforts and also avoids possible frictions and duplications. It ensures economy in business operations.
- Raises competitive capacity/strength: Planning raises competitive potentialities of a business unit. It enables a business unit to stand with confidence in a competitive market. It keeps ready solutions for possible problems and enables a business unit to function with confidence.
- Promotes managerial efficiency: Planning promotes managerial efficiency. It covers all managerial functions and helps management to execute future programmes in a systematic manner. It makes managerial direction and control effective.
- Avoids hasty decisions and actions: Due to planning, hasty decisions and haphazard actions by managers are avoided. It also encourages systematic thinking by the managers. Planning facilitates effective delegation of authority, removes communication gaps and thereby raises overall efficiency. It even encourages innovative thinking among managers.
- Ensures effective control on the Organisation: Planning ensures effective control on the whole organisation. It fixes targets in clear terms and draws plans and programmes for achieving them. This facilitates effective control on the functioning of the business unit.
- Acts as an insurance against future uncertainties: Planning acts as an insurance against future uncertainties. It takes care of all business uncertainties. In fact, in planning, future problems and situations are studied in advance and alternative solutions are kept ready. This enables management to face any type of critical situation with ease and confidence.
- Facilitates other managerial functions: Planning facilitates other managerial functions. It is the basic managerial function and other managerial functions such as organising, etc. move as per the plans prepared. It acts as a motivating force behind other managerial functions.
- Improves motivation: Planning facilitates participation of managers and workers in the normal functioning of an enterprise. It develops team spirit and raises morale and motivation of employees. Workers know what is expected from them. This ensures high degree of efficiency from them. Planning also provides training to managers. It serves as a tool for manpower development in an Organisation.
- Planning ensures survival, stability and progress of a business unit.
- Ensures uniform decision-making.
- Acts as a key to solve problems and challenges faced by a business unit.
- Sets performance standards for functional departments.
- Planning enables a business unit to adjust itself with ever changing business environment.
6. Limitations of Planning
- Time-consuming and costly: It is argued that planning is a lengthy process as it involves collection of data, forecast, research and analysis. Similarly, planning is essentially the job of highly paid experts. As a result, planning is a time-consuming and costly activity. Only large firms can undertake planning due to heavy cost and lengthy procedure involved in it.
- Ineffective due to environmental changes: Business environment changes frequently and plans are required to be adjusted as per the changes in the situation through suitable modifications. However, such revision/modification creates a number of problems. Such adjustments in the operational plan are always costly, time-consuming.
- Dangers of unreliable data: Planning needs accurate data from internal and external sources. The quality of planning depends on such accurate feedback. If the information supplied by various departments is unreliable, the planning process will be adversely affected. Planning based on incomplete information may prove to be even dangerous. In brief, plans based on unreliable data are not useful /effective. Securing reliable information is always difficult and this brings deficiencies in the entire planning process.
- Encroachment on individual freedom and initiative: Planning is a centralized process. At the lower levels, plans are to be executed as per the directives issued. This affects individual freedom and initiative at the lower levels. Employees at the lower levels act as instruments for the execution of plan prepared by the top level managers. People are asked to become cogs in the machine with little scope for initiative or independent thinking.
- Delays actions: Planning is a lengthy process. As a result, the actions to be taken for execution are delayed. Planning is not useful when quick decisions and actions are required.
- Unsuitable to small firms: Small firms prefer to function without long term comprehensive planning as they find planning rather costly and time-consuming. They prefer to face the situations as they come. Similarly, quick decisions and prompt actions are necessary in the case of certain business activities. Here, long term planning is not suitable.
- Limited practical value: It is argued that planning is too theoretical and has limited practical utility. Planning takes long time for preparation and the situation changes when such plans are ready for execution. Planning for example, is not suitable in the case of speculative business. It is also not useful for taking quick benefits of business opportunities. In brief, planning has limited practical value.
- No guarantee of expected results: Planning is for achieving certain well defined objectives. However, there is no guarantee that the objectives will be achieved within the specific time limit by using planning as a tool. Actual performance may not be as per the expectation due to various reasons. Thus planning has an element of uncertainty. Planning leads to probable results and not the expected results. It gives benefits but may not be exactly as per the expectation. Thus, there is no guarantee that planning will give 100 per cent positive/expected results.
- Generates frustration: At the lower levels, plans are imposed on the employees. No consideration is given to their difficulties, views and opinions. The targets may be too ambitious and the employees may not be able to achieve them in spite of best efforts. This leads to frustration among employees at lower levels.
- Involves huge paper work: Planning involves huge paper work in the preparation of master plan and departmental plans.
- Danger of overdoing: Sometimes, planners overload the work. Elaborate reports are prepared without practical utility.
The advantages of planning are more important/significant while its limitations are few and also not of serious nature. Moreover, these limitations can be minimized. The practical utility of planning is universally accepted. It is not fair to give up the concept of planning due to certain limitations. The better alternative is to make it more effective, purposeful and result oriented.
7. Steps in Planning Process
Planning is a lengthy process which moves gradually and step by step approach is usually adopted. These steps are like stations in the journey of planning process. Usual steps in the planning process are as briefly explained below:
- Classifying the problems: The planning process starts with clear understanding and classifying business problems faced by a business unit. Identification of problems or opportunities by managers justifies the need for action. It is like the diagnosis of the health problem of a patient by his doctor. Planners have to understand the problems of the Organisation first and, then, prepare a plan to deal with the problems in the light of the prevailing business environment.
- Determining the objectives: In this second stage in the planning process, the planners decide the overall objectives to be achieved. Planning is always for achieving certain well defined objectives and naturally objectives must be spelt out precisely. Objectives act as pillars of the entire planning process. Business objectives may be decided in terms of profit, sales, production or market reputation. Objectives may be defined in quantitative or qualitative terms.
- Collecting complete information and data: The planners have to collect information relating to problems facing the business unit. Such information is necessary and useful for analyzing the problems in depth and also for accuracy in planning. Information can be collected from internal and external sources. Reliable, updated and adequate data make planning process result-oriented.
- Analyzing and classifying the information: At this stage, the information collected is analyzed and interpreted systematically for drawing specific conclusions. This facilitates purposeful use of information, while preparing alternative plans. Irrelevant information can be discarded through such analysis.
- Establishing planning premises: Planning premises are various assumptions and predictions about the future business situation. Such premises act as background for planning activities. The planning premises are expected to supply relevant facts, information and data on the basis of which forecasts are prepared and future trends are indicated. Planning premises reduce uncertainties in the planning process. Planning premises are three in number viz., (a) Controllable permises, (b) Semi-controllable permises, and (c) Uncontrollable premises.
- Determining alternative plans: Here, the planners prepare and keep ready alternative plans suitable for use under different situations. The best among the available alternative plans is used for actual execution. The preparation of alternative plans is essential as one plan is normally not adequate under all types of situations. It is a type of stand-by arrangement useful for meeting any emergency situation.
- Selecting operating plan and preparing derivative plans: After study of the business environment and the alternative plans available, the planners select the best plan for actual execution. This decision is a delicate one and must be made with proper care. After the selection of operating plan, the planners have to prepare derivative plans. Such plans are related to different departments/activities and constitute sub-sections of the operating plan. The division of overall plan into derivative plans is necessary for effective execution.
- Arranging timing and sequence of operations: Timing involves fixation of starting and finishing time for each job or piece of work. Sequence of operations ensures proper flow of work. This step in planning process is important as it brings coordination in the activities of different departments. The timings and sequence of operations must be communicated to concerned departments, managers and staff for implementation of the plan.
- Securing participation of employees: Planning needs willing participation of all employees and departments. For this, information regarding the operative plan should be given to employees well in advance. Here, the internal communication system should be used extensively. For such participation, employees should be associated with the planning process.
- Follow-up of the proposed plan: The purpose of follow-up is to make periodical review of the execution process. It is useful for understanding actual progress and deficiencies in the process of execution of the plan. This also facilitates adoption of suitable remedial measures as and when required.